Monday, September 27, 2010

Sunday in the City

Nothing prepared me for yesterday. After exiting the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel into the refreshingly cool early morning air of Lower Manhattan, we were greeted by an extraordinary sight. Lining both sides of the street were members of the FDNY. Among their number were 343 who were wearing around their necks large sandwich-board style signs displaying the name and face of each member of the FDNY who died on 09/11. Incredible. Simply incredible.

Even more extraordinary than the sight of the FDNY members paying homage to their fallen brothers was what they did. They clapped for us. Candidly it was a bit embarrassing. All I did yesterday morning was something that I do on a regular basis - I ran 3.1 miles. To have men and women who do something that I know the fella who stares back at me in the bathroom mirror every morning could not do for even one day applauding me was equal parts gratifying and perplexing. I did - as did Gidg who was running with me and as did several other folks who were running near us - the only thing I could think to do: I applauded them.

At the starting area in Brooklyn yesterday morning there were so many runners assembled that from our point in the crowd it took us approximately three minutes to reach the starting line. We were all assembled there for more than an hour prior to the start of the race - standing on a Brooklyn street near Coffey Park. I would love to say that I know the street's name but I never bothered to learn it. Next year perhaps. All around us in the crowd of thousands were countless folks like Gidg and me. Regular everyday individuals who may have not suffered a personal loss on 09/11 but who were running to honor the bravery (not to be confused with 'braveness' - a turn of phrase uttered not once but twice by one of the politicians who spoke pre-race) of Stephen Siller and all of the other people who died on 09/11.

There were also people who were running to honor a very personal loss - wearing shirts identifying a particular fireman or firemen who died on 09/11. And there were firefighters from various locales who came to run as their tribute to Siller and to the FDNY. A number of the firefighters were from the New York area - departments from New Jersey, Connecticut and New York (including quite a few from the FDNY). There were also fire departments from Virginia and Maryland represented as well as those from New England, Pennsylvania and Ohio. There were even members of fire brigades from England who had come to New York on a late September summer morning to pay their respects to the memory of their 343 brothers from across the sea.

Yesterday was simply an incredible experience. Not simply the run itself but all that took place post-race in the shadow of the construction that is ongoing at Ground Zero. There were thousands of people in a fairly limited space and yet no one pushed and no one shoved. It was as if the great work of the Siller family served as a self-replicating reservoir of good karma from which all present were able to drink. None of us wanted to do anything to harsh the collective mellow of the morning. And we did not.

Perhaps it was the reason why we were all gathered that brought out the best in everyone yesterday morning. We were present to honor the best of human behavior. To do that correctly, we all had to bring our "A" game......

....Here is to hoping we did.

-AK

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