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There’s a Onesie in the Rescue Pack

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In September, 2001 I was just five months into my initiation to the fraternity called fatherhood.  Like millions of Americans, I watched live as the the second plane crashed into that tower, and I knew instantly…that our lives would never be the same.  In the months following the  attack on our country, being a father took on a completely new meaning for me.

For starters, I reevaluated my faith and my commitment to God.  I recommitted my life to Christ and vowed to raise my family in the shadow of His Word.  Quite literally, a life-altering turn for me that continues to have ripple effects as I see my children growing closer to Jesus as they navigate their own faith walk.

On a lighter note, I began preparing our family for survival during and after an emergency.  There’s a saying in the emergency services field, that really is sound advice with many life applications.

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

This was back in the days when SD was still a toddler navigating preschool.  She was really into the cartoon “Go Diego Go”, and our favorite character was (and still is if you asked me today) “Rescue Pack”.

Diego Rescue Pack

Diego’s Rescue Pack

Able to change into anything Diego needed at any given moment…”a parasail or kayake…a zipline, a snowboard…whatever you need“, Rescue Pack had our back.  So it seemed logical explaining to a 4-year old toddler that the backpack I was setting up as our emergency “go-bag” was our “Rescue Pack”.  And so it’s been called ever since, even as it grows into multiple bags to accommodate a growing family.

I knew it’d been a while since I’d updated it, but I hadn’t realized it’d been this long…

boys, not babies anymore

Back when they fit in the palm of my hand

Yes…the last time I opened the bag packed with extra changes of clothing for every member of the family, you both apparently were able to fit in Onesies.  Arguably, I could hold you one-handed back then.  What a nostalgic afternoon last week held for your mother and me as we looked through that bag.

You’re both growing so fast that it’s all I can do to hold on to and embrace each moment as it comes.  Because one moment lends to another and another.  The moments in your lives are coming and going so fast.

There’s a duality to the mind of a parent that I pray you are able to experience one day.  In my mind, you will always be my little men, just learning to walk as you climb up onto my lap to rest your body on my chest for an afternoon nap.  At the very same time, I’m able to see you as the men you will become…boldly and courageously living out your faith as men of God with careers, wives, and children of your own.  It’s that duality that allows me to love you in the moment…while raising you to become the men God is calling you to be.  There will always be the dad in me who misses those days when I could hold you in the palm of my hand…and there will always be the dad in me who anxiously awaits the man you will become. The challenge is striving daily to recognize you for who you are now…young men navigating a world unlike the one I experienced at your age…and to not take one second for granted.

Really, this was just a fun opportunity to look back and write you to simply tell you that I love you…more and more every moment I am blessed to be in your lives.

Love,

Dad

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Never Forget Means NEVER FORGET

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On the eve of what was the worst attack on our nation’s homeland in recent history, I lay my head down for what I pray is a restful night at the firehouse. Like it was for so many Americans that day in 2001, my day was filled with more emotion than one should have to face in such a few short hours. I say short, because the elapsed time, when reflecting back on that day with the gift of hindsight, flew by relatively quickly. On that day, though…time stood still. Minutes seemed like hours and hours like days.

I sat glued to the television while at work for 10 hours straight, and came home still unable to turn it off. All day long, all I wanted to do was hold my family. To hold your mom and sister tight and offer a sense of protection and safety that deep in the pit of my soul I knew I could no longer provide. That day, we all faced the reality that our lives are so much more beyond our control than we ever knew. The safety net was gone, the walls lowered, and our vulnerability was undeniable. It was a day that changed so many aspects of our lives.

It was a day that helped me realize I can’t do this life alone. It brought me to my knees seeking answers. Seeking justice. Seeking peace and comfort. Seeking truth. I found the Truth that day. I found that I am a sinner and worthy of death. I found that I am reliant on my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for my very existence. I found that He took death in my place so that I might be spared. I found the cross. And it’s on that cross that I surrender my all to the One who took the fall.

Life has never been what it was before that day. And for that, my dear children, I am sorry. You will never know a world like I knew growing up. You will never experience the same freedom I had as a child. Your childhood will always be in a post 9-11 world where trust is low and tensions are high.

As our lives unfold, we move closer and closer to the day of Christ’s second coming. The time is now for believers to share the Truth. We will undoubtedly face many trials, adversities, pain and hardships before that day arrives, and it’s my prayer that as you face those moments you look beyond the pain and suffering. Beyond the evil and malice. Beyond the bad. To find the good that lies interwoven in those events. When evil people do unthinkable evil, there are others who rise to help. To serve. To render aid, to support and to save. There are heroes in your everyday life. Some where a badge or a uniform. Some wear only the blood of their country on their hearts as they bleed with pride in the citizenship of our nation.

It’s my prayer that as you grow, those of us who lived through those days can help you to know. To remember. To never forget. Many people in our nation seem to have forgotten. And that, my child, brings a sadness to the very essence of my core. Some have forgotten what “Never Forget” meant. They’ve taken the images of that day down and tried to erase them from our collective memories. They’ve removed them from our mainstream media in hopes that they won’t offend anyone. And even now as I write this, our leaders are discussing the possibility of going to war in Syria to support the heinous people who attacked us twelve short years ago tomorrow! What we all need to remember is that Never Forget means NEVER FORGET.

To the families of those who were killed that day, I offer my prayers. Prayers that the God of love and grace will continually keep you. That His arms will wrap around you, not just today on the anniversary of your loss, but everyday. That you might find a peace and comforting rest in His arms like none other. I pray that your grief, though always present, is comforted slightly by the knowledge that there are more of us who know what Never Forget means than those that don’t. And I pray for safety and blessing on those still fighting in defense of our freedom…at home and abroad…on the front lines and behind the scenes…career and volunteer. You all do your part in providing for our safety and freedom, and the very fabric of our lives is interwoven by your sacrifice.

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13

Love,

Dad

A Dad’s Reflection – Eleven Years Later

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Today, Americans all across the nation and the world pause to reflect on the events that took place 11 years ago.  It is a time in our nation’s history that changed the course of our nation forever.  It was a time when strangers helped strangers, and everyday people performed heroic acts of valor, honor and courage.  It was a day when the heroes ran toward the danger, like any other day, not knowing it would be their last.  It was a day where some gave all, and all gave some.  It was a day that brought our nation to its knees…not just in awe, but in prayer.  People who called themselves Christians, but who had been walking without God, came back to Him.  People who never knew Jesus personally called out to Him and believed.  People all across the world watched in awe.  And prayed.  Some in private, some in public.  It was a time when prayer in schools and in any public forum was again accepted all across our nation…and more than not, welcomed.  It was a day that brought our nation together, with resolve and passion to seek God and to seek justice.

 

It was a day that we will Never Forget.  What do the words “Never Forget” mean to you?  In the words of a friend and fellow firefighter, I couldn’t have said it any better than he did this morning:  “What ‘NEVER FORGETTING’ means to me!  I am humbled and honored to serve with incredible men and women willing to risk their lives WHENEVER called upon.  To our 343 brothers and sisters lost eleven years ago in New York, rest easy, we will take it from here with HONOR and PRIDE!”
It was a day I remember vividly.  I was working a 12 hour dispatch shift, and we watched as the news broke in with live video from the World Trade Center following the first attack.  We watched live as the second plane hit the second tower.  We watched live as people jumped from the towers, hundreds of floors above the ground, to escape the flames.  We watched as the news reports came in from Washington that a third plane had hit the Pentagon.  We watched as news reports came in from Pennsylvania that a fourth plane had crashed in a field, learning as the day went on that everyday citizens on that plane became heroes by preventing further death on the ground at that plane’s intended target.
We sat in disbelief.  In shock.  In awe.  In fear.  In anger.  In grief.  As we watched the towers collapse, we knew instantly that thousands had just perished…that the loss of life in the first responder family would be catastrophic.  We knew the moment the second tower was hit, that we were at war.  That day at dispatch has been, to date, the slowest day ever.  I don’t know the volume of calls we handled that day, but it paled in comparison to the normal call volume.  It was eerily quiet in that little room…all day.  It was quiet at the 911 center that day, because like millions of Americans all across the country, the people we serve were all glued to their televisions.  No one was out doing what they normally do on a Tuesday, unless you had to be working.  Many of us cried, some of us had to walk away to cry alone.  It was a defining moment…one I will never forget.  I remember coming home that night mentally and emotionally exhausted.  I came home to your mom and SD, and wept as I picked little SD up.  Only two years old at the time, I was at a loss for what the future held for you.  For how to protect you from this new evil in our world.  I’m saddened that you, my dear children, will never know a pre-9/11 America.  As you grow, you’ll only know the new “normal”, and that just seems wrong.
To all those servants who gave their all that day, and to the ones who were lost in the aftermath due to the emotional and psychological pain and trauma they endured in the months that followed, we honor you by remembering…and by not being paralyzed by our fear.  We honor you by living out our lives in service to our communities across this world.  I am honored to be a part of the EMS & Fire family.  It’s an honor so few are given…and an honor I do not take lightly.  To be entrusted by strangers with their life and all they have is more than I can fathom some days.  I am NOT a hero, and I am not comfortable being called one.  But I work alongside a crew of heroes.  Everyday citizens serving our community in the little things…and sometimes the big.  I am closer to my men than some of my family, and the bond we share is one only known to those who entrust their lives to one another day after day.
For those of us who know Jesus as our Lord, we honor you, oh Lord, by remembering the sacrifice you made for us on the cross.  We honor you in our humble service to our fellow man.  And we honor you by living out our lives in a way that reflects YOU alive in us.  We lift the families of those lost on this day eleven years ago to you and beseech you, oh Lord, to show them the love shown to us in Psalms 36…to provide them “refuge in the shadow of your wings.”  Give them a peace like no other…a peace only found in you, oh God.  Calm their hearts and minds, Father, and surround them in your grace, mercy and love.  Lord, help them in their search for answers, and walk alongside them as their hearts cry out.  Father, may YOUR will be done, and may you use all that we face to bring us closer to you.  For your glory.  Amen
Love,
Dad
Jesus will wipe every tear from our eyes. - Revelation 21:4   Never Forget

Never Forget

Never Forget

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Ten years ago, life was much different than it is today. By the time you’re old enough to read these notes and understand their words and meaning, I’m sure life will be much different than it is now. I’ve heard people say before that every generation has their “defining moments.” Defining, not in that it defines who that generation is, but in that it defines what that generation lost…and what they gained. In my lifetime, there have been few of those defining moments to reflect upon. I was in middle school when the space shuttle Challenger exploded, killing all on board. We watched the launch live from the school library, looking up with amazement as the first teacher in the history of space exploration embarked on a monumental mission, and we watched in awe as something went horribly wrong very early in the launch. I was a sophomore in high school when the Berlin wall came down, marking a historic end to the post-World War II Cold War era. I was a senior in high school when Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, resulting in the first Iraq war. Four years later, I was taking a new job with Sonic Drive-In, traveling to Jefferson City, MO when the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City, OK was bombed, killing 168 men, women and children.

Each of these incidents spark a flood of memories all their own…where I was, what I was doing, where I was going, me feelings about what had happened, my fear of the uncertain future. If you asked anyone who was old enough to remember these events, they’ll tell you the same. Everyone has a story, a slew of memories linking them to each event. Like our parents, grandparents and the generations before them, everyone remembers where they were when their generation’s “defining moments” occurred.

It’s odd to sit here and reflect back on life ten years ago. The economy was booming…we had more than we needed, and we lived in abundance…jobs were plentiful, and employers were bending over backwards to recruit and retain good employees…we had freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from anxiety. Freedom from the uncertain. We could walk onto an airplane and never once give thought to a terrorist taking us hostage. We could walk into any federal building or national monument, never giving notice to how relatively easy it was to pass through security. We could drive through all 48 contiguous states, passing gasoline tankers on the highway without the thought that someone could use it as a weapon to kill innocent men, women and children. War was behind us…not ahead of us. So we thought.

Then on a sunny Tuesday in September 2001, life changed. For some, they met their fate with eternity. For others, they lost loved ones, friends and coworkers. Others ran toward the front lines, doing what they could to protect life. Still others watched in horror, either right there in the thick of the storm. For the vast majority of us, our only connection to that day’s events was in watching it unfold thousands of miles away, on television. It didn’t matter where you were that day. We were one. As a nation, we were one…united together. Banded together as one people, prepared to shake off the dust…save who we could…honor those we couldn’t…lift each other up and move forward together to heal our wound and strike back at those who had taken us by surprise. In the days and weeks following that day, images of solidarity and unity were everywhere. You couldn’t walk outside, turn on the television or surf the internet without being barraged by images pledging to “Never Forget”, that we are “One Nation Under God” prepared to stand and fight with a call to “Let’s Roll”.

In those moments on that Tuesday morning and throughout the day, we knew. We knew the moment we watched the second plane crash into the second tower. We knew we were under attack. We knew life as we knew it had changed. We knew this was our defining moment. Some say it was our darkest hour. I choose to believe it was our finest hour. In an instant, strangers became best friends, heroes to each other, performing acts of heroism for those in need. Some say the heroes of that day are the firefighters, police, port authority, and ems workers that rushed in, toward danger to help those in need. While they did indeed perform heroic acts, I know that if you asked them…the ones there that day…they would say they’re not heroes, but they worked with a bunch of heroes. As a firefighter, I can honestly say I’m not a hero. I’ve been called one before. I’m not. I’m a guy doing my job…doing what God called me to do and what the citizens of my fire district pay me to do. The heroes of that day, in my opinion, are the average citizens who rose above their own suffering, pain and difficult circumstances to help another in need. There were thousands of them that day.

Yeah, we knew. I was working my part-time job here at the 911 dispatch center that day. I watched in horror as the second plane struck the second tower. We knew we were at war…we didn’t immediately know who our enemy was yet, but we knew we were at war. I watched in horror as both towers fell, knowing that thousands had just perished. Knowing before it was confirmed. I watched footage of the attack on the Pentagon, waiting anxiously to hear news from other possible target location, praying there would be no more. I watched as the reports of another plane crashing in Pennsylvania came in, learning of heroic acts of courage and valor from average people, determined to take a stand. We knew life had changed. We didn’t know yet the extent to which how much it would change, but we knew. In all my years of working at the 911 center, I can say this with absolute certainty. It will go down as the slowest day in history. If the phone rang a dozen times, I’d be surprised. It didn’t take long to realize that everyone with access to a television was seated in front of it, glued to it with an intensity like no other. I still remember calling your mom…asking her if the television was on. On her reply “no”, I told her to turn it on, and she asked “what channel?” I still remember saying something like, “I don’t think it matters. Just turn it on. I love you.” I still vividly remember coming home to hug her and embrace SD with all I had in me. It was a moment of innocence lost, an embrace that spoke volumes about my emotions…as a new dad, it was an embrace of uncertainty, a hug of fear. Knowing that life would never be the same, I wanted to embrace you and your mom as though it was the last time I would ever hold you. Because quite honestly, that day awakened us to the reality that any moment may very well be our last.

As you read this, I pray you take from it what God would have each of you individually to know and feel. Know that as a father, my greatest concern is for your safety and protection. Prior to September 11, 2011, it was not the burden it is now. In a post 9/11 world, uncertainty has invaded us. Ten years later, as the nation pauses to reflect on that day, it’s my prayer that we reflect on our emotions of not only that day, but of the days, weeks and months that followed. When we said “Never Forget”, I pray we truly apply those words to an action. Ten years later, it feels as though the country has become complacent again. As the first commercial planes took the air 4 days after the attacks and in the months that followed…on a whole, we as a people didn’t bat an eye when asked to go through much more rigorous security measures at the airport. Today…not so much.

I’m just a guy. My opinion is no more important than anyone else’s. What I have to say on this topic is nothing special…it’s quite honestly just the ramblings of a middle-aged man getting older, knowing that my time here is short. In the time I have left, I hope to share with you what I believe God has asked of me. Because, you too will face your own defining moment in history. Your generation will come face to face with its own moment in time when life will forever be changed. When you do, find peace in remembering these words. I believe that in sharing with you my personal story of that day…my emotions, my fears, my resolve, my uncertainty, my memories…in this, I remember.

It’s my way of keeping my promise to “Never Forget”. It’s my way of remembering. From a video I watched online Saturday, “When we remember, we honor. When we honor, we value. What we value, shapes who we become. Throughout Scripture, God urges us to remember. The sacrifices made…the freedom gained…the promises kept…the faithfulness of God. God has urged us to always remember. Because He knows what remembering does inside of us. Remembrance gives purpose to our past by drawing wisdom, strength and resolve from our pain and loss. Remembrance brings gratitude for those ordinary people who became extraordinary heroes. Remembrance strengthens community as we discover what God does through us when we’re unified. Remembrance provides perspective for what God has done on our behalf, despite our fears and worry. Remembrance reignites hope in what God will bring us through today, and forever. Because God is faithful, even in our darkest hours. God is always there, whatever we face today, whatever trial it seems we cannot endure. Remember that God has always brought us through. And He always will.” – Steelhouse Media Group

There are wonderful things that can be learned from grief that can’t be learned from laughter. In our grief, we are reminded of the brevity of life. Our time here on earth is short in comparison to the eternity we’ll spend afterward – either with God or separated from Him after our death. Our perception of time is based on what we see, here and now in this life. Instead, it should be based on what is not seen, as through the eyes of God, because God’s perception of time is based on eternity. “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”James 4:14. There is a brevity to life, and we must prepare for eternity. We should examine the purpose and direction of our life. What are we living for? That’s one thing that changed in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. There was a return to religion…to faith…to belief…in something more powerful and more omniscient and omnipotent than us. Even many of those who did not have a personal relationship with God called out to Him that day. As a nation, we turned to God for comfort, grace and peace. We turned to Him for forgiveness of our own sin and grace for our own lives. Ten years later…not so much. As a nation, we have forgotten. Forgotten how we felt that day…how we turned to Him for comfort. And we have once again cast Him out of our lives.

As Pastor Ralph explained, how we act in times of adversity determines whether we become bitter or better. “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.”Ecclesiastes 7:14. When faced with adversity and loss, we can choose to either blame God or to seek God. Know this, though. We are all going to die…it’s inevitable…there is no escaping it…it is natural. “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure…The end of a matter is better than it’s beginning and patience is better than pride. Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”Ecclesiastes 7:2-4;8-9.

The end of a matter is better than it’s beginning. Let’s take just a second to break that down. God is basically saying that the day of a man’s death is better than the day of his birth. Why? Because it is in his death that we are reminded of the brevity of life and naturally take pause to reflect on our own life and its meaning. It’s in our grief that we turn toward Him for our comfort, and it’s in Him we find grace. It’s in those moments we can reflect the light of Jesus Christ. God rewards patience. Patience in our grief is knowing that although we don’t have the answers to the question “why?” right now, there will come a day when all is revealed. In one of my personal favorites, Paul shows us in Romans 5:3-5 “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” I couldn’t say it any better myself.

Like every generation before you, yours will be faced with its own defining moment. Your moment may come with advance notice. It may not. Most likely, it will come like “a thief in the night”. When it comes, I encourage you to rise above your fear. Rest your hope in the Lord and rise above your fear of the uncertain and the unknown. For only God knows the plans He has for us. Be prepared to pick up the sword of freedom and the shield of righteousness to protect and defend your family, your community and your nation. Freedom is not free. It comes at a cost. A great cost of sacrifice. Freedom cannot be passed from my generation to yours…or from yours to the next. Every generation must preserve it for themselves. It’s in the moments you’re defending your freedom that you will encounter your finest hour. As you do, take pause occasionally to reflect. To remember. Because it’s only in remembering that we will truly “Never Forget”.

I love you!

Love

Dad