Friday, September 23, 2011

Actions Unspoken - Lesson VI

Here on the 23rd of September, two days away from the Tunnel to Towers Run, a couple of idle thoughts. First, today is the birthday of my favorite rock and roller and fellow Jerseyan Bruce Springsteen. Happy Birthday Mr. Springsteen and may God continue have mercy on us men who doubt what we're sure of.

Second, today is he beginning of another round of Yankees vs. Red Sox at the Stadium. While the Division title is sewn up, this weekend will include Saturday's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the date on which Roger Maris established the single-season record for home runs. On that day, which was October 1, 1961, the Yankees played the Red Sox as they shall this evening. In view of the system that Commissioner Ford Frick insisted on employing to protect Babe Ruth's record - by distinguishing between the 154 game season in which Ruth played and the 162 game season in which Maris did, this lawyer salivates over the intricacy of the disclaimer that Frick would have doubtless insisted upon to distinguish Ruth's achievement from the 'Roid Boys - McGwire, Sosa and Bonds. It would have been a year's worth of work for an army's worth of lawyers. I take some solace in the fact that this being America, you can choose to posit who you view as the legitimate holder of the single-season home run record. Me? I prefer the quiet man from Hibbing, Minnesota.

There is something to be said for someone whose actions speak louder than his words. Someone whose actions embody the words of Mark Twain, "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear."

Firefighter Thomas M. Butler was a member of Squad 1 in Park Slope. FF Butler was the son of FDNY Captain Bill Butler. FF Butler's younger brother Stephen is a Lieutenant in the Port Authority Police Department. FF Butler was 37 years old when he died on September 11, 2001. He was last seen - in the company of other members of Squad 1 - entering the South Tower. He was a husband to Martha and a father to their three sons Sean, Kelly and Patrick. At the time of their dad's death, Sean was five, Kelly was three and Patrick was but five months old. Patrick was christened just two days prior to his father's death. Sadly - and cruelly in fact - FF Butler's body was never found. His father and brother spent countless hours down at Ground Zero searching for him. Their search ultimately proved unsuccessful.

In an article that ran in Newsday honoring FF Butler, his wife Martha explained how the couple first met: Tom Butler was a uniformed police officer, working the corner of 114th Street and Atlantic Avenue in Richmond Hill, Queens, in the summer of 1987. That's where Martha Butler got off the bus after work, and where she first saw her future husband. "It was love at first sight," she said. "I asked him a question about getting somewhere, and that's how we met." Proving once again that from small things, big things one day come.

Firefighter Dennis O'Berg took a somewhat circuitous route to the family business - his father being FDNY Lieutenant Dennis O'Berg. FF O'Berg was an accountant. Feeling dissatisfied with what he was doing, he took the exam for the FDNY. He had only been on the job for a few months - assigned to Ladder 105 in Brooklyn - when he was killed at the World Trade Center on 09/11. He was twenty-eight years young. He had recently married. His bride Christine spoke of how well the new career had suited her husband, "He was so much more cheerful when he came home. Now he is a hero, but he was a good man back then."

The day his son died became Lt. O'Berg's final day in the FDNY as well. He had spent 31 years of his life fighting fires. After the towers fell, he searched for his son, but located only his fire truck, smothered in debris. He decided to retire on that day, after 31 years on the force.

Firefighter Gary Geidel was preparing to retire. FF Geidel, a member of Rescue 1 in Manhattan, had been on the job for more than nineteen years. Being a firefighter is something of a calling in the Geidel family. His father Paul also was a member of Rescue 1 prior to his own retirement and two of FF Geidel's brothers, Ralph and Mike, are also firefighters. FF Geidel was among the members of the FDNY who had the distinction of not only responding to the World Trade Center when the complex was attacked in 2001 but also when it was first attacked in 1993.

Fighting fires was in his blood. Modesty was in his veins. In his 19 years at the Fire Department, Firefighter Gary P. Geidel received seven citations for valor. His wife, Mathilda, knew nothing about them. Her husband was that way. He left his work at the firehouse. He lived life at home. Later, she learned that one citation was for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. On what turned out to be the last morning of his life, on the final occasion on which he would see his wife, he stopped on his way out of the house, turned around, walked back to the front porch where his wife had remained standing and gave her one final hug and kiss goodbye.

Actions not words. The true measure of a man. Indeed.

-AK

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