Tuesday, August 19, 2008

September 11: Remember the Love

One mundane tasks for a start-up is creating company policies. Most companies take an ad hoc approach to commemorating September 11. On the first few anniversaries, many offices turned on televisions for staff to watch the ceremonies. And this seemed fitting.

But before last year’s sixth anniversary, The New York Times published an article in which many wondered if it was time to put 9/11 behind us. The sentiment was best captured by a psychologist who said, “Our society has a very low tolerance for grief—it’s exhausting and unrelenting, and we don’t want to hear about it.”

But a focus on the tragedy and grief ignores what should be the central takeaway of 9/11. Because to me, the enduring memory from 9/11 is about love.

On 9/11, we were humbled to learn that a good number of remarkable people are willing to put their lives at grave risk so that others, unknown to them, may live. As we later learned, these rescue workers were not fearless; they knew they were in grave danger. And still they went about saving the lives of people they had never met. And this takes more than courage; it takes love, and indeed there is no greater love. And many of the victims at the WTC and on Flight 93 lived for a desperate hour or more after their fate was sealed, with access to phones, and used the last precious minutes of their lives to call family and friends; all that mattered at the end of their lives was the love they created along the way.

After watching the towers fall from my office, I emerged to find New Yorkers treating one another with compassion and concern, which persisted for months. Steelworkers finished their regular jobs at 3 p.m. and marched downtown to cut the massive sheets of steel that would be the first step to a rescue and recovery operation. Other people formed a persistent mob on the West Side Highway, simply to cheer the vehicles leaving Ground Zero with workers who had put in a difficult day. Politicians spoke respectfully to one another. And Europe demonstrated its solidarity with a day of mourning, punctuated by three minutes of silence in which cars and buses stopped in the middle of highways, radio stations went quiet, and even pubs delayed opening.

As I thought about how our company should commemorate 9/11, I recalled the memorable words of firefighter Mike Moran at the Concert for New York in October 2001. Moran paid tribute to his fallen brother John and the dozens of colleagues, loved ones and neighbors he had lost. And in his most noteworthy line, he said, “They are not gone, because they are not forgotten.” And if we close our office 11 times a year for holidays, and for five half days to get a head start on these holidays, surely we could spare an hour or two to remember the love we witnessed on and after 9/11, so that those who were lost are not gone, are not forgotten?

And then last weekend I experienced the joy of Ronan Tynan in concert, singing with a children's choir. Tynan makes every song sound as though you are hearing it for the first time. As he introduced Bruce Springsteen's "Into the Fire," from the album "The Rising," which is the ultimate musical tribute to the loss experienced and gallantry witnessed on 9/11, I realized for the first time that Springsteen also beseeches us to remember the love of September 11, and the strength, faith, and hope as well, so that we may draw from it:

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

May your love give us love


And so our policy is set, for this year, and for as long as I run this company. From 8:46 am till 10:29 am EST, our employees will be asked to stop work and think about the remarkable manner in which so many people responded to the challenge of their lives, or the certain end of their lives, seven years ago. They can attend memorial ceremonies or watch them on television, or call or e-mail loved ones they’ve been meaning to catch up with. And I will ask them particularly to remember the 443 men and women who, as first responders, rushed to the World Trade Center and gave their lives. That’s about 14 seconds per person.

Fourteen seconds for Pat Brown. At an apartment fire long before 9/11, Brown and his crew were on the roof of a burning building, with a man desperately hanging out a window. A rope rescue was in order, but there was nothing on the roof to anchor the rope to. So they anchored the rope to Pat Brown, and as the rest of his crew strained to hold Brown in place, a firefighter was lowered to the window. Brown knew that when the desperate man was pulled from the window and his weight doubled the burden, all six of the men involved might very well plunge to the ground. But he did it anyway, and the man’s life was saved. And of course on 9/11, Pat Brown led his crew into the WTC, and was last heard from on the 35th floor.

Fourteen seconds for my friend, John Moran, who had been injured during the devastating 2001 Father’s Day fire that killed three firemen. On 9/11, John ended his shift and was getting in his car to go home, but instead literally fought his way to the WTC and shouted as he ran in, “I’m going to make a difference here today.”

And 14 seconds for Timothy Stackpole, who had suffered horrifying injuries in a fire years before, and battled with the fire department medical staff simply for the right to return to work, only to then give his life on 9/11.

Fourteen seconds for Moira Smith, a police officer who stormed into one of the towers to find the revolving doors were preventing people from fleeing quickly enough. So she shot out a giant plate glass window, allowing the lobby to empty and, with the lobby cleared, ran upstairs to guide thousands of frightened people out of the building.

Fourteen seconds for Stephen Siller, who was on his way to play golf, but hearing the news, picked up his fire gear and headed to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to enter lower Manhattan. With his truck hopelessly blocked by traffic, he ran through the mile-long tunnel on foot in full gear, and perished.

And 28 seconds for the Langone family. Peter Langone was a fireman about whom was said he "had only one speed, and that was fast forward." Thomas Langone was an officer in the police Emergency Services Unit. He collected 42 medals in 18 years and went to Oklahoma City in 1995 to help recovery efforts after the bombing there. Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma said at his funeral that Officer Langone and his colleagues "brought with them honor, courage, humor and occasionally a funny accent." Mayor Giuliani, speaking at the joint funeral, told the four children of the Langone brothers that "We owe you a great deal….it will be paid back."

For 103 minutes, we will reconnect to those we love, recall a time when all of New York, and much of the world, recognized our common humanity, and think about every one of those 443 ordinary people who did remarkable things and whom we owe a great deal.

May their love give us love.

21 comments:

Mia said...

Beautifully written. Not being a New Yorker or even an American, I have always found it difficult to know what or how to say "I am thinking of you today". Even from across the Ocean, I can still distinctly remember the feeling of loss and grief coupled with a feeling of hopelessness on not being to help. I now understand what to do. Thank you. Amanda.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for adding a new perception to this day.

Anonymous said...

I admire all of the ordinary people who did remarkable things that day and in the following days and weeks.

I also feel incredibly lucky that my husband was late for the breakfast that was being held in Windows on the World that morning and is alive and well because of it.

What I don't admire is a self-serving blog post with an attention-grabbing yet simplistic title about it.

"On 9/11, we were humbled to learn that a good number of remarkable people are willing to put their lives at grave risk so that others, unknown to them, may live."

If this is the first time you learned that regular people are willing to put their lives at risk, you, sir, are a moron. Even if you're too young to have known the events, certainly you've read about Pearl Harbor? The courage of Londoners during Nazi bomb attacks? The list goes on, of course, but I'm not going to try to educate you now.

So, great librarian of the internet, I encourage you to open a few virtual history books. And while you're at it, don't tell me that "a focus on the tragedy and grief ignores what should be the central takeaway" of 9/11. Don't presume to know what I am focusing on or to tell me that my enduring memory should be of love.

My enduring memory of you and your company name will be one of utter contempt. And that will hold true every day, not just when you're picking over the bones of a tragedy for your own gain.

Uncle Jimmy said...

Dear Anonymous, I am happy that your husband is "alive and well", you are very lucky. I am proud to say that Capt.Pat Brown was a good friend of mine. Paddy was kind,generous,compassionate, and loving. He was big enough to ignore your misguided anger and hate.I am every bit as proud of Mark Moran, my nephew, for being the kind,generous, compassionate and loving man that he is. Make the effort to meet him, you will be a better person for it. All the Best, Uncle Jimmy
Try something positive
P.S. www.captpatrickbrown.org

Anonymous said...

Why anonymous? Why not put a name to your horrific post? For someone who has been spared the inhumanity that took place on 9/11, you seem awfully bitter. You obviously missed the point of the post in order to burden this blog with your own pontification. I suggest you seek counseling, as it appears, you most likely suffer from a 9/11 guilt complex.

A great post.....

Matt

Mia said...

Anonymous...what gain? Self serving? Attention Grabbing? Utter Contempt? How dare you.

Anonymous said...

To all I subjected to my tirade, I apologize.

You are right, I have been spared the pain of losing my husband.

I should not have let my resentment at being told what I should feel about this horrific event lead me to leave such a scathing comment.

It's an admirable thing to counsel seeing this tragedy as an example of love. I wrongfully assumed that the author was ignoring the valor of so many people throughout history. That does not diminish the courage exhibited by New Yorkers and citizens of the world on 9/11.

I think it's wrong to tell anyone that to still view this as a tragedy is missing the point. However well-meaning that is, I see it as an insult. I see that day as many things and I do not want to be told I must adjust my view. Positivity is a wonderful thing but there are some things that cannot be painted over with a happy brush. I realize that I completely misunderstood Mr. Moran's intentions.

Finally, I do not normally post anonymously. I find it cowardly. I did so in a misguided effort to keep my husband's name from being involved. I am glad for his sake that I did.

Mark Moran said...

Anonymous,

Thank you for this follow-up comment and your thoughts on my post. You may be missing the point a bit. Last year, a good number of people told that New York Times that it was time to put 9/11 behind us, stop observing the anniversary, that there has to be a shelf life on grief. What I intended to say, and believe my post says, is that I do not agree that 9/11 should be largely ignored from now on because some people are tired of hearing about the grief. And I wrote that my enduring memory of 9/11 was the love exhibited, first by the rescue workers and the victims, and then by the entire city and indeed much of the world in the following weeks, and I gave some specific examples, which I do find humbling. And so I wrote that may company would spend 143 minutes on 9/11 remembering what some remarkable people did that day and the love they showed, and the good will that pervaded throughout the world in the following weeks. And I find it remarkable that you could somehow view this as my exploiting anything. I personally knew 12 people who were killed that day, including my brother's best friend and classmates from every level of school I attended. I'm just trying to keep alive the memory of some remarkable people and a remarkable time, when so many are eager to forget.

Po Ki Chui said...

Dear Anonymous,

As an employee of findingDulcinea, I must tell you the truth. This company is full of love, care, concerns for the people. Each of us is doing our best to provide the best information and service to the people. There are lots of companies who have selfish desires only for their personal gains. However, the founder of findingDulcinea is not. I am sure about this because of our daily interactions in the office, dedications to our work and mutual care for each colleague. I am proud to be part of findingDulcinea, and I don't need to be anonymous about it.

Anne said...

I'd been meaning to add to your blog post, Mark--14 seconds for Frank DeMartini, Port Authority onsite construction manager, who loved the WTC, wasn't afraid of heights, and knew where all the exits were. After making sure his wife got out of the building safely, he went back upstairs to help groups of people find their way to intact staircases and escape. He didn't manage to get out. Remembering 9/11 means remembering the individuals we lost that day; it's as simple as that.

Julie Obermiller said...

Mark,
You left a comment on my blog at www.sunnysideup.wordpress.com about having like thoughts on the reason to remember, which brought me to your blog, and your eloquent tribute!
"The Chatterbox" (my newspaper column name) has never been said to be BRIEF about anything, so that brought a smile. It is so hard to convey the swirling emotions, or the pain that still lingers. It's hard to see those billowing smokestacks used in political ads to remind people of the need to be afraid of another attack.... 9/11 should remind people that we are all in this together. The message of 9/11 should be of hope, and not of fear.
As a writer, I am humbled by your post, and somewhat surprised at the negative comments it prompted. No one can know, or diminish, another's pain but how sad to only remember that moment of death rather than a whole life, however brief. I live in the far corner of Western NY, and cannot express how proud I was to be a "New Yorker" after those of you who lived through it responded so gallently...with love. Thank you for leading me back to your blog. It put some sunshine into my heart!
Julie

Sue said...

Thanks Mark. I'm not a blogger, but that was beautiful and made me cry.

Andrew P. Karamouzis said...

14 seconds for Jason ("Jay") M. Caefalu, 29 years old, who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald on teh 105th Floor. Jay was a vibrant, caring, energetic young man who was full of life and had a bright future ahead of him. Jay always had a smile on his face and was ready to lend a hand whenever he was needed. Jay is gone, but not forgotten.

Mark-

Your post was clearly written from the heart. It was inspirational and moving. Thank you reminding us, in your own way, about what is truly important in life -- love.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mark...Great Job!!! Let's always remember and never forget!!!

conorian said...

As I watched the MSNBC re-play of that morning, it occurred to me that this was the first year I had watched without at least tearing up. I wondered if all the casual references and yes, exploitive use, of the 9/11 catchword had coarsened me to it's impact. Or possibly it was just the passage of years. And then I read your blog and it all came back to me. I remembered the beautiful young faces of so many of those lost that day. I recalled the stories of those for whom the pain of that day will be forever fresh. But mostly I remembered how we were saved from having that day be remembered as one of being simply victims, totally demoralized. The heroes of that day and the ones that followed turned the story into one of great pride in our values as a country and in the bravery and devotion to duty that our people can show. And you're right, it's a story of love. The day must be remembered. And cried over.

A Botting said...

Thank you for sharing this. Sometimes I feel like people are trying forget 9/11 when it should always be remembered. Remembered for the horrific act of terror and those who committed it. We must always be willing to fight them.

We should always remember 9/11 for those people who gave themselves selflessly to save and help so many others. To forget people that brave would dishonor them and ourselves.

And we should always remember 9/11 because when it was over and we found ourselves knocked down we got back up and stayed back up. We wouldn't be bowed. We never will. And that is something we never want the world to forget.

Thank you for helping America to always remember.

Mary said...

Thanks for a beautifully written tribute. This day brings out so many emotions to so many of us. Lets pass on that feeling of pride, honor and love.

Anonymous said...

sometimes i think we forget ALL of sept. 11th. i know you didn't do it on purpose, but leaving out the pentagon on your post is a continual issue with sept 11th. as someone from the dc area, and someone who was at the pentagon on sept. 11th, i saw the helpfulness, the aid, and the wonderfulness that is associated with the day. i don't want to share the anger from the earlier post, because i think that is wrong, but it can be frustrating to read someone writing about nyc and flight 193 and not the pentagon. as someone who's life was dramatically changed from the experience, lets not forget the phenomenal change that the pentagon crash made for people related to that moment... i have never seen such love and help...and all of it was unbroadcasted.
thank you for your great words...

Swintone said...

What an inspiring article. While we will all continue to live with the events of 9/11 in our hearts and minds, recognizing the "extraordinary" actions of "ordinary" individuals is the crux of transforming this tragic event.
I am a public high school teacher and used your sage perspectives and recognition of love and remembrance in the classroom. My students, grades 11 and 12 second language learners, took so much from their analysis of your corporate philosophy related to the commemoration of 9/11. Here are a few of their thoughts:
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I learned that it is really important to know what happened on September 11 and the impact the events had on those in the USA and world. We should all be proud of those who risked their lives to save others. I hope Mr. Moran's philosophy helps people realize that love and respect for all are foundational.
Christina, Grade 12, Columbia
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Respect is what your article made me feel after I read it. Your perspectives about what happened on 9/11 are incredible because it truly was and is about love. The love those who lost their lives had, the sacrifices they made for those they had never met is uncommon. Thank you for sharing their stories and for inspiring so many people, including me, to do more for others.
David, Grade 11, El Salvador
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I am glad you created this beautiful philosophy. From your article, I learned bravery is not a characteristic for those who are not afraid of anything. Bravery is a characteristic that so many people on 9/11 demonstrated as they reached out to help others. Thank you for teaching me this lesson that I will hold forever.
Aland, Grade 11, Ecuador
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Your article was wonderful because it showed us the tragedy of 9/11 from a different view. You really showed some of what these brave men and women experienced. It is so important to remember all who were lost, as well as their families.
Luigui, Grade 11, Guatemala
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Dear Mark Moran,
After reading your post, my respect for all those "ordinary" people has increased more than someone could have ever imagined. Sometimes we focus so much on the negativity of things that we forget what is really important.
I'm really glad that this post was written because it showed us that these "ordinary" people were only thinking about making a difference by trying to save others that day. Therefore, commemorating them and remembering their love, concern and compassion is what we can do.
As a high school student, your post demonstrated the importance of love in a different way. Thank you so much for that reminder. Sarah, Grade 11, Haiti

ed said...
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Bruce said...
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