Every 9/11 we remember that hellish morning when we learned that planes had hit in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania. We know just where we were standing, what we were doing when we learned of the attack.
One young man, an Oakland firefighter who went to New York as part of the mobilization of firefighters emailed me a few weeks later. He told me that he had been dating a Jewish woman and the relationship was important to him. But he told me that in the smoke and debris of the Towers he had knelt with a priest and reaffirmed his Catholic beliefs. He told me that it was a time and place when God suddenly mattered to him a great deal. Over the following months we emailed as he healed mentally from the trauma and his relationship with Catholicism because stronger.
In the end the relationship did not survive. He couldn’t turn away from his faith, nor could his girlfriend accept the idea of a Catholic home. I realize that this is not the happy ending that we are programmed to want. But it is an honest ending, one with integrity. My Catholic friend found the religion of his upbringing. His girlfriend realized that being Jewish mattered to her.
Every year on this date, I email him both to thank him for his service and to say that I remember his personal sacrifice. Sadly, his email began bouncing just one month ago. So Jay, wherever you are out there, I’m thinking of you and wishing you a rich and fulfilling life.