Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Profile of Courage

I’ll never forget what I couldn’t believe.

From the moment my eyes locked on the two burning buildings, my mind scrambled to understand. All these years later, I still don’t understand. I was certain on that day in 2001 that the firefighters who ran into the raging inferno in New York would come out again. Firefighters are superheroes, you know. But even superheroes are no match for flaming jet fuel. Especially seventy-eight stories up. And the buildings that were designed to withstand airplane crashes gave way to the impact of blackened terrorist hearts.

I watched TV coverage of the attack on innocent Americans from seven a.m. until four p.m. with a mixture of shock, fear and grief that day. But no tears. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know what the World Trade Center actually was until I saw it burn and implode in a city thousands of miles away. I felt sick to realize hundreds or thousands of people died in real time as I watched the towers fall. But I didn’t cry. Not until four o’clock. Not until the news finally reported with certainty that the death totals would include hundreds of firefighters who ran into a building as everyone else ran out.

That’s what heroes do. That’s what firefighters and police officers do. They run into deadly situations. They risk their lives when everyone else is running for theirs. And that’s what my husband did for thirty-eight years. Putting his life on the line for his job as a firefighter, for his children, and for his wife. He did it with no thought for himself. I’ve never known a more selfless man. Even when he trained with his new department here after ten years of experience as a Florida fire officer, his training captain was amazed by his humble attitude and servant heart. And told him so.

We’ve known many incredible men and women in the fire service over the years. And, to be honest, a few who were not so incredible. Happens everywhere. But the vast majority love their jobs and would have run into those buildings, too, if fate had them working for the NYFD on that day. I am certain my husband would have been at the front of the line. He has taken the heat for me more times than I can remember. He has taken the heat from me more times than I want to admit. He’s taken the heat on the job unnecessarily. But he has never wavered in his devotion to either his job or his family. He’s not afraid of heat.

He is a strong tower into which I have run many times. But he never crumbles. He knows Where his own Refuge is, his own High Tower. His identity as God’s man makes him both secure and a security to others.

I wish with all my heart that the New York towers had been built of the same stuff as my husband. I wish the heroes of 9/11 had lived to hold their wives and children another day. That there would have been no reason for them to even be called heroes. And I wish I knew how to say thank you to the men and women of the fire service and their families. Only they know the sacrifices they make every day so that you and I will be safe.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13 NIV)

I love you, Rob McLeod. You are my hero.