It is my hope that in the months and years ahead life will return almost to normal. We'll go back to our lives and routines, and that is good.
Even grief recedes with time and grace.
But our resolve must not pass. Each of us will remember what happened that day and to whom it happened. We will remember the moment the news came, where we were and what we were doing.
Some will remember an image of a fire or story of rescue. Some will carry memories of a face and a voice gone forever.
And I will carry this. It is the police shield of a man named George Howard, who died at the World Trade Center trying to save others.
It was given to me by his mom, Arlene, as a proud memorial to her son. It is my reminder of lives that ended and a task that does not end.
George Howard, forty-four years old, father of two sons (Christopher and Robert) lived in Hicksville, New York and was a member of the PAPD's emergency services unit. He had been a member of the PAPD for sixteen years and in addition to his work as a police officer, he volunteered his time as a Captain in the Hicksville, N.Y. Fire Department and as an instructor at the Nassau County Fire Academy. One would think that a man who had that many demands upon his time would have zealously and jealously guarded his days off. Another man might have. George Howard did not.
Not only was George Howard not supposed to be in Lower Manhattan on that terrible Tuesday morning, he was not supposed to be working anywhere at all. He had the day off. Yet as soon as he heard word of the attacks, he called Kennedy International Airport - which is where he was assigned - and was told to report to the World Trade Center. It might have very well been a feeling of deja vu for Howard. In 1993, when the Twin Towers were attacked for the first time, he had been among the PAPD officers who responded to the scene. That day too had been an off day for him. However, when one is born without an "off" switch, the concept of the "off" day is forever an alien one. Here is to hoping however that regardless of what he was doing in early September 2005 he took a moment or two to look in on his son Christopher - who followed in his dad's path of service and became a member of the FDNY.
Apples and trees. Apples and trees....