81: Hero to Many, Father to Me

81: Hero to Many, Father to Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

Hero to Many, Father to Me

All men are created equal, then a few become firemen.

~Author Unknown

When my mom didn’t pick me up at the bus stop I knew something was wrong. Our neighbor, Dolores, was there and she motioned for her daughter, Michelle, and me to go with her. As we walked down the block, her face looked stiff. Her mouth was tight and there were little wrinkles between her eyebrows. The silence was intense as she placed her hand on my shoulder and pushed me along.

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally reached my neighbors’ home. I tried thinking of anything my mom might have had to do that day. A doctor’s appointment, a meeting — nothing came to mind. Dolores opened the front door so slowly that the hinges creaked. As we walked into the house, she motioned for Michelle and me to go to the living room where the rest of her family was watching television.

The image I saw was indescribable. It looked like the factory steam stack I always passed on the way to my grandma’s. I used to believe that steam stack was a cloud maker. A beautiful, white, puffy cloud maker. But the cloud maker I was watching on the TV was making big, black, evil rainclouds. I sat there in confusion until Dolores finally explained to me that this building was burning. The famous, big Twin Towers were burning down right before my very eyes.

I was nine years old on September 11th. It took hours for Dolores to explain to me what, how, and why. I had never heard of something so cruel and tragic. When my mom finally picked me up from Dolores’s she was crying. I asked her why, but all she could do was tell me everything would be all right. The phone calls to my house were endless. My mom would hang up and the phone would ring again immediately.

As the phone calls slowed, my mom sat me down and told me that Daddy wouldn’t be home for a little while, but that he would come home. When I asked where he was, my mom replied, “Saving lives.” My dad? Saving lives? In THAT building? Each day that my dad didn’t come home got harder, but I knew he would come home. He always did. One morning, on the front page of the newspaper, I saw my dad. He was with three other men and they were all in their fire gear. They were pulling a man out from beneath rubble and debris. The man had lost his hair, and many of his teeth, and his eyes were caked with dirt. My dad had rescued someone, and I was so proud.

I wore red, white and blue to school every single day until my dad came home. When he walked through the front door, he looked disheveled, his hair a mess, his clothes dirty, but I didn’t care. I ran to him and wrapped my arms around him so tightly they hurt. He reciprocated the hug and began to cry. I looked into his eyes and I asked, “Daddy, why are you crying? You’re home with us now.”

He smiled at me and said, “The whole time I was trying to be a hero to all those people, all I could think about was how scared I was. Scared because I was thinking that I wasn’t going to get home to be a hero to you.”

Hundreds of firemen and policemen died in the World Trade Center that day. I ask myself every day how I got so lucky. I also think about how unfair it is that I got to keep my daddy, and some other kid out there just like me didn’t get to keep hers. Thank you Dad for saving lives, for fighting and for coming home. I love you.

~Danielle

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