Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Slipping Time - Patriot Day at Plus 11 Years

As a nation, we turned the emotional corner last year following the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, and not just because "11" is not the round number that "10" is. It's quieter and amid more the usual bustle of American life.

As Dana Milbank notes, for example:
Washingtonians will have so much to do, in fact, that they may have little time to think about what else is happening Tuesday: the 11th anniversary of the killing of 3,000 people in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Nine-eleven just isn’t what it used to be. Residents of the capital will awaken to what is forecast to be another clear Tuesday morning, just like that one 11 years ago, and they will find that the day that changed the nation is becoming more and more ordinary.
Some decry this. Most do not. I saw something similar happen in Oklahoma City when we lived there in the years following the Murrah bombing. Time heals, although not always completely, nor without scars, but we do move on.
Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future. - Steve Miller Band
Should we pause? Yes. Freeze? No. But pause, yes. Forgive? Maybe, but... well, we should. Forget? No. Hell, no.

For the 5th anniversary of September 11th, as part of Project 2,996 hosted by D. Challenger Roe to give more than names, ages, and occupations to the pictures of the victims who died from the attacks of September 11, 2001, I wrote a memorial about one of the victims, Joe Leavey. A lightly edited version is below.

I am the same age today that he was that day 11 years ago. That can give a guy pause. One more thing to remember from that day, I guess, which turns out to be the same lesson as Oklahoma City: Don't take time for granted. So, in the spirit of pausing, please hold time for a moment to learn about and remember this one life and the others lost that day.

What Heaven is For

One of the stanzas of "Home on the Range" asks whether the glory of the stars in the heavens exceeds the glory of man. A conceit, to be sure, and one that many today would dismiss as that which is the worst about America. But it also reveals a sense of awe, rooted in humility, that often gets glossed in a self-absorbed culture of chatter and buzz. "Look what we can do" is not a phrase we hear much these days, four years after a financial crisis from which we haven't recovered, seven years after Katrina and a dozen years after invading Iraq, but, I suspect, it's a thought that Joe Leavey carried about him every day.

Lt. Joseph Leavey
FDNY Ladder 15
By all the accounts I have read, Mr. Leavey was intelligent, quick-witted, and personable, and it was not much of a surprise that he would rise in an engineering career to be a successful construction manager in the city. He loved buildings, or rather, he really loved to marvel at them, the World Trade Center and its huge dimensions in particular by taking countless pictures of the towers and taking his family with him to do it. And what better way to marvel at buildings than to create them? To know from the inside the necessary scientific and engineering knowledge, to see the teamwork and coordination of skills and material, to appreciate the host of individual efforts to bring the vision of a building into reality together brings a special kind of joy that comes when people are acting in the names of the best within them, where you can almost feel like you can hold the creation regardless its size. And while such feats could exist and could be appreciated for their own sake, here is where Mr. Leavey shows us how the notion held by the rugged individual on the prairie still exists, and if a conceit, it can be a healthy one.

He always wanted to be a firefighter and he gave up his high-paying position to became one, eventually rising to lieutenant. His wife Carole said that he was a people person who knew everyone in their town. People people love people. I can imagine the reasoning behind his becoming one of New York's Bravest being along the lines that after helping to create many buildings, recognizing that ultimately buildings are for people and concluding that buildings and people deserve to be protected and saved, the time had come to act on his love of buildings and his love of people.

Joseph Gerard Leavey, 45, stationed in the South St. Seaport with Ladder 15, was one of the first firefighters to arrive at the World Trade Center. Riding to defend his loves, he stepped into the breach of chaos to find that this time his reach exceeded his grasp. He grew up in Inwood, attended Good Shepherd School, Power Memorial High, and Manhattan College. He lived in Pelham with his wife, his son, and his daughter, with a stepdaughter who lived in Manhattan. May that he and all the heroes and innocents of that day have been greeted by the angels of heaven and led unto paradise. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.

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