Tuesday, February 19, 2013

All. And Then Some....

In the autumn - usually in September - I run in several races, including the Jimmy D 5K in New Brunswick, the Fallen Heroes 5K in Lake Como and the Tunnel to Towers 5K in New York City, which either raise money for and/or honor the work and sacrifice of First Responders.  Firefighters are - of course- well-represented in terms of those being honored and those participating.  

It was with a smile and not an iota of surprise that I read a story this past weekend in the Los Angeles Times regarding the plan that is both the brainchild and a labor of love of the Firefighters' Mutual Benevolent Association, which is a union in which approximately 5,500 New Jersey firefighters are members.  The FMBA's plan is to build twenty-six playgrounds - a number equal to the number of victims slain in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut this past December - to honor the lives of those children and adults who were murdered.  

The FMBA is going to build the playgrounds in twenty-six communities throughout New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, which three states were the hardest hit by another unwelcome Sandy in late October of last year.  According to FMBA President Bill Lavin, each of the twenty-six playgrounds will have its own unique flair designed to honor the person in whose memory it is being built and the things that he or she loved.  For Jessica Rekos, horses and whales. For Grace McDonnell, lots of peace signs. For Dylan Hockley, the color blue.

This project does not mark the first time that the FMBA has swung into action to help people who live beyond the borders of our beloved State of Concrete Gardens.  After Hurricane Katrina obliterated communities all over the Gulf Coast, the FMBA built a playground for the North Bay Elementary School in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi to replace the one that Katrina had destroyed.  But to hear Lavin tell it, all he and his members did was repay an act of kindness. 

You see, shortly after September 11, 2001 a group of third-graders from North Bay Elementary School had sent notes and letters of encouragement to firefighters and first responders whose days and nights since that dreadful day had been principally spent looking through the wreckage that had once been the World Trade Center and dealing with the loss of family and friends.  Among the fire departments that received the care packages?  Elizabeth, New Jersey.    Bill Lavin was among the Elizabeth firefighters whose spirit was buoyed by the support of children he had never met.  

And from the seeds of something horrific, something beautiful sprouted up.   Something that neither time  nor distance nor politics can tear asunder.   And now the time has come again for Lavin and his colleagues to spring into action.  To answer yet another alarm.  

Bernard Malamud wrote, "Without heroes we are all plain people and don't know how far we can go."   Kudos to Bill Lavin and his comrades for repeatedly reminding the rest of us that the sky is indeed the limit and that the road does in fact go on forever.  


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