I woke to “Amazing Grace”…

…heard from two blocks away, at the NYC Firefighters Memorial, where a 9/11 ceremony was winding down. Bagpipes played “America the Beautiful.” I leapt out of bed, threw on clothes and ran out the door so I could stand among a throng of firefighters in uniform, milling about as the gathering broke up, firm handshakes, hugging, greeting one another as “handsome.” I leaned against the fountain and remembered. Lee Greenwood’s embarrassing “God Bless the U.S.A.” came on, but as background music, easy to ignore. I looked around and thought: If New York faced another 9/11, these are the men who would fight and die. They lost so many on 9/11, but I was seized by a different, incredible fact: They’d do it again.

With six or seven others, I was once stuck in an elevator for about half an hour. When the firefighters pried the doors open, we saw we were two feet below our intended floor. We had to climb out. Feeling a bit alarmed by the whole experience, I made a subtle attempt to push to the front. I’ll never forget the ribbing I got from the firemen. “Oh, courageous guy!” was the gist. I wonder if those firemen are alive today.

Now I’m listening to the names of the 9/11 dead being read by family members; a victim’s sister speaks sanctified words in Arabic, the very next reader in Hebrew. Muslims, Jews, Chinese, Latino, African American, Irish, Italian. No matter where they strike, the jihadists do not care who they kill. It is this we must never forget.

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