Ten years ago, some of us in our small Canadian town felt curiously isolated from the events nearly a continent away in New York. As the events unfold on TV, it all seemed very unreal.
No one from my town died during 9/11 attacks. I've never met anyone who knew anyone who died in the Towers. The chance of a terrorist targeting our small, remote northern(ish) town was, and still is, virtually zero.
The only direct effect of the attacks occurred when the North American airspace was shut down for four or five days following the attacks. Two passenger planes were forced to land at our local airport Civic officials across Canada scrambled to find accommodation and food for around forty thousand stranded passengers. In one small town, Gander, Newfoundland, nearly forty planes were forced to land.
Several members of my family have jobs in rescue or protective services including my brother, who is a fireman. While I
- carries unconscious people out of burning buildings
- retrieves dead, bloated bodies from the river in the springtime
- administers the Heimlich maneuver to choking victims
- uses a cardiac defibrillator on people having a heart attack
- uses the Jaws of Life to cut open cars after highway accidents to remove the mangled, bloodied bodies.
- puts out fires all the time, mainly grass fires in the spring and fires caused by wood stoves in the winter.
When reflecting on the 343 courageous firefighters who raced to their deaths into the burning towers, I think of the gaps in the lives of those left behind: parents, siblings, wives, girlfriends, partners and children and especially their children who had not yet been born. I think of the lovers and sexual experiences they never had and the babies they never conceived.
I especially think of the 30 - 50 firefighters among the dead who would have been gay, I would imagine that many of them were closeted or only partially out or uncertain of their sexuality. I've heard that firehalls can be a particularly macho, testosterone-fueled environment and not all are tolerant of gays.
These men will never experience the joy and freedom of living a life of truth, of finding a true connection with another man in every way, emotionally, sexually, romantically and socially. To me, that is the saddest thing of all.
When a man becomes a fireman his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished. What he does after that is all in the line of work. ~Edward F. Croker