Waiting for Daddy


The post today goes along the lines of the one I published yesterday. I’ve always had such respect for our military and those serving in law enforcement. I’ve never served in either, but my Dad did. Maybe that’s why I have such deepened sense of honor and gratitude.

I can’t imagine being a child and having a parent taken away in the line of duty. While thinking of that, I wrote Waiting for Daddy.

 

Waiting for Daddy

(Copyright 2014 Chris Martin)

 

Such tiny little hands, tiny little fingers

The softness of a newborn’s touch

Rosy cheeks, fresh scent that lingers

Two people who love her so much

 

He slips off into the night with a goodbye kiss

In the silence, Mom and child sit alone

She whispers a prayer, wrapped tightly in a wish

They’re already waiting for Daddy to come home

 

It’s her first day of school, ribbon tied in her hair

White dress and cute matching shoes

Swing sets and fun, without a worry or care

She plays as if there’s nothing to lose

 

Mom picks her up, a smile on her face

Her little girl already looks so grown

They sit at the table, there’s just one empty place

They’re waiting for Daddy to come home

 

Graduation day, it’s so hard to believe

The years have gone by way too fast

Although her future shines bright, it will be hard to leave

She clings to memories that will always last

 

She looks at the crowd, there’s one face missing

Her mother sits in the aisle all alone

So many stars, on which she’s been wishing

She’s still waiting for Daddy to come home

 

A badge and a belt, a picture with the edges well worn

All that’s left of the man she never knew

He answered the call, and on the night she was born

Lost his life while wearing the uniform of blue

 

Tears stream down her face as the people stand

Her mother stares at the woman all grown

They walk down the aisle, she gave herself to another man

She’s no longer waiting for Daddy to come home

The true heroes


I’ve been watching the TV show, Cops, quite a bit lately. Spike TV has been running marathons on Fridays and Saturdays. I’ve watched the show in the past, but with a much different attitude than what I have now.

I used to take joy in watching people get thrown to the ground, shot with a Taser, and eventually handcuffed. I would shake my head in disbelief as people constructed lies to try and cover their criminal activity. I would call them stupid and deserving when they resisted arrest, and were forced to their knees by officers with guns drawn.

I watch the show now with a deep sadness in my heart. Policemen encounter people during their worst moments. Some in desperation. Some in the throes of addiction. Most all of them with little or no hope. I watched one the other night where a guy wouldn’t put his weapon down, because he wanted the officers to kill him. I believe they call that suicide by cop. Once they had him in custody, he said there was no reason to live anymore.

That one literally brought tears to my eyes.

There is another world that most of us never see. A world where desperate people are fighting to remain alive. A world where men and women go to work with the possibility that they might never make it home to their families. A world where any one decision can be life or death.

The heroes in this world aren’t athletes or actors. They might be the ones making the big money, but catching a ball or being chased by monsters on a green screen can’t possibly compare to those who selflessly serve the public.

I’m a sports fan. I enjoy watching football and basketball, but it angers me to see millionaires act like big babies on the field when there are officers in the streets being murdered. Or when sons and daughters come back from war in a casket instead of standing on their own two feet. It really puts it all in perspective.

Cops don’t get paid enough. Teachers don’t get paid enough. Military men and women don’t get paid enough. We freak out if we have the opportunity to see a celebrity walking down the street, but when was the last time we thanked a solider or police officer for putting their lives on the line every day?

The amazing thing is that most of them do their jobs without even expecting a simple thank you.

I’m smart enough to realize there are two sides to every story. There are some bad cops out there. I’m sure there are also people in the military with some not so heroic intentions. That doesn’t mean they are all bad.

I don’t know how my salary compares to policemen or military personnel, but I hope and pray they make more than I do.

When you lie down to sleep tonight, say a prayer for the police officer patrolling the dark streets in order to protect the innocent.

Remember the men and women, thousands of miles away, who only wish for the chance to hold their babies for Christmas.

Let’s remember who the true heroes are.

To the brave men and women


I wrote this military tribute a couple years ago. I was at work one day just thinking about the drastic differences of my life compared to that of someone who serves in our military. Thank you is never enough.

 

Thank You Isn’t Enough
Copyright 2012 Chris Martin

It’s a typical morning. My dreams dissolve into the sound of two little girls running up and down the hallway. Birds chirp outside the window as golden sunlight trickles in through the half-open blinds. Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I greet my wife with a kiss and stumble into the kitchen. With the press of a button, frothy hot liquid pours into my mug. The aroma brings a smile to my face.

Thousands of miles away, a young man sits on the damp earth, trembling. Bombing continued throughout the night, shaking the very ground beneath him. His eyes burn from lack of sleep. He grips the M16 rifle across his lap with both hands as his thoughts drift away to a normal life he can barely remember. Tears dampen his face as he recalls the last words his mother spoke to him right before he left.

After hugging the wife and kids, I walk downstairs to my office, carefully sipping my coffee.  I sit in a very comfortable chair waiting for my computer to boot up so I can begin my work day. I look outside and watch in wonder as the day comes alive. Reaching beyond the trees, a hawk soars across the crisp blue sky that seems to go on forever. He dips toward the horizon where sky reaches down and kisses the earth.

A husband and father of two glances up, wishing the sun would break through the smoke and haze that surrounds him every moment. He ties the laces on his boots as he prepares for another day of work. He has been selected to go on patrol. They will search the face of everyone they meet, looking for signs of friend or foe. Two weeks ago, one of their own was killed when a thirteen year old boy tossed a grenade across their path. He pulls out a picture of his wife and two little girls and imagines what it would be like to hug and kiss them.

I answer the phone with a smile. It’s the tenth call of the day. I talk jovially about the weather and the customer’s favorite football team. After twenty minutes of troubleshooting, the problem is solved and we end the call. I document everything in my ticket and decide it’s time to take a break.

A mother of four speaks softly, but with authority as she directs several families to leave the building. Within minutes there will be nothing left but a pile of rubble and ash.  It’s a suspected safe house for anti-American extremists and it’s targeted for destruction. The innocent women and children are being ushered out before the order is given to launch the attack. She urges them forward; the gun in her hand speaks louder than her words. There’s no time to take a break.

I’ve put in my eight hours and now it’s time to go upstairs and create everlasting memories with my family. There is a choice to be made. Chicken or hamburger for supper. We decide on chicken and I fire up the grill. Thirty minutes later, we’re sitting at the table eating and talking about our plans for the weekend.

A young girl, just three years out of high school stares at the scene before her. Her training never prepared her for this moment. On one side of the road, a small child screams in terror as wild dogs attack. On the other side of the road, rebel forces hold a pregnant woman at gunpoint. There is a choice to be made. Try to save the child, ignoring the fact he might be wired with explosives or go for the woman which would undoubtedly draw an onslaught of gunfire.

I lay on my bed, warm and safe, thinking about what tomorrow might bring. The children have fallen asleep after watching TV in their room. The neighborhood is quiet with only a gentle echo of crickets in the distance. In another country, far from safe or warm, men and women are giving their lives to protect the very things I take for granted on a daily basis.

One of my favorite movie lines comes from Saving Private Ryan. With his dying breath, Tom Hanks pulls Matt Damon close and whispers, “Earn this.” He had just given his life so that Private Ryan could leave the war and go home to his grieving mother who had just lost three other sons.

Whether we agree with the politicians in Washington or not, we need to earn each and every second we are given by the brave men and women sacrificing their freedom so we can enjoy ours. They are the ones who allow us to sleep in peace at night. They are the ones who allow us to get up every day and earn a living. They are the ones who answer the call and drop everything to serve their country with dedication and pride.

Thank you isn’t enough.

Veterans Day


Tomorrow is Veterans Day. It’s a time when we honor the men and women who have served in our armed forces. Great sacrifice is something to honor and preserve throughout the ages. Many of you have probably read this before, but I wrote it last year as a military tribute. I wanted to post it again in honor of the men and women who have served, and who are currently serving. God bless you.

When a Soldier Cries
Copyright 2013 Chris Martin

A tattered picture, nearly faded to white
Faces of the ones for whom a soldier fights
In the empty silence of a world so far away
On the rocky ground, the only place to lay

A father dreams of home, family, and friends
In war, there is no guarantee he will see them again
Thunder roars with fury, lightning burns the darkened skies
The mighty angels shed a tear, when a soldier cries

She walks across the street, a young child stands alone
Memories haunt her dreams of the daughters she left at home
She tries to smile, show happiness through the tears
Although she wants to help, the child retreats in fear

At night she dreams of home, bedtime hugs and kisses
She prays to one day have again, everything she misses
She can still see their faces as they spoke their last goodbyes
Nothing can soothe a heart, when a soldier cries

In the pouring rain he stands guard, rifle in hand
Just two years out of high school, his parents don’t understand
He wanted something greater than just video games and fun
He dedicated his life to become more than just an ordinary son

A young man dreams of home and wishes upon a distant star
The letters are few and far between, only time can heal a wounded heart
In the gathering shadows, just beyond where the unseen lies
Those who have gone before, bow their heads when a soldier cries

The growl of crunching metal, searing heat and flames surround
Voices of the wounded, silent screams that have no sound
She left college early and signed up to answer the call
Now lying in the wreckage, she wonders if it’s time to give it all

The young woman dreams of home, but she doesn’t surrender to the fear
She knows if they’re alive, they will come back and find her here
Chaos and confusion, in a place where hope and fate collide
She fights for every breath, there’s no shame when a soldier cries

They stand in single file, one hand raised to touch their brow
Men and women, young and old, bound together by a sacred vow
Silently they watch as each car drives slowly past
A beautiful flag covers every casket, heroes returning home at last

Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, bravery at its best
Defined by the unselfish act of sacrifice, courage passed the ultimate test
With a will stronger than iron, nerves of steel and no compromise
There’s nothing to give but respect and honor…when a soldier cries

When a Soldier Cries (re-post)


I wrote this military tribute last year, and posted it on my blog. If you strip away all the politics, all the speeches, and all the nonsense, what are you left with? Boots on the ground. There will always be men and women fighting wars, spending many nights away from their families. I’m not into politics at all, but anyone who sacrifices what these brave souls do, has my respect. Please share with anyone you know who is serving, or has served in our military. Tell them thank you, even though that isn’t truly enough.

Here are a couple more I’ve written in the past:

The Letter

Thank You Isn’t Enough

When a Soldier Cries
Copyright 2013 Chris Martin

A tattered picture, nearly faded to white
Faces of the ones for whom a soldier fights
In the empty silence of a world so far away
On the rocky ground, the only place to lay

A father dreams of home, family, and friends
In war, there is no guarantee he will see them again
Thunder roars with fury, lightning burns the darkened skies
The mighty angels shed a tear, when a soldier cries

She walks across the street, a young child stands alone
Memories haunt her dreams of the daughters she left at home
She tries to smile, show happiness through the tears
Although she wants to help, the child retreats in fear

At night she dreams of home, bedtime hugs and kisses
She prays to one day have again, everything she misses
She can still see their faces as they spoke their last goodbyes
Nothing can soothe a heart, when a soldier cries

In the pouring rain he stands guard, rifle in hand
Just two years out of high school, his parents don’t understand
He wanted something greater than just video games and fun
He dedicated his life to become more than just an ordinary son

A young man dreams of home and wishes upon a distant star
The letters are few and far between, only time can heal a wounded heart
In the gathering shadows, just beyond where the unseen lies
Those who have gone before, bow their heads when a soldier cries

The growl of crunching metal, searing heat and flames surround
Voices of the wounded, silent screams that have no sound
She left college early and signed up to answer the call
Now lying in the wreckage, she wonders if it’s time to give it all

The young woman dreams of home, but she doesn’t surrender to the fear
She knows if they’re alive, they will come back and find her here
Chaos and confusion, in a place where hope and fate collide
She fights for every breath, there’s no shame when a soldier cries

They stand in single file, one hand raised to touch their brow
Men and women, young and old, bound together by a sacred vow
Silently they watch as each car drives slowly past
A beautiful flag covers every casket, heroes returning home at last

Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, bravery at its best
Defined by the unselfish act of sacrifice, courage passed the ultimate test
With a will stronger than iron, nerves of steel and no compromise
There’s nothing to give but respect and honor…when a soldier cries

Never Forget


I tried to come up with something special for this day. A story, some kind of poem, or even some new song lyrics. I just wasn’t able to pen anything fresh. I can usually tell after a few minutes of staring at the blank screen whether or not it’s going to happen. Well, it didn’t. I ended up with nothing but memories.

9/11 was one of those events where you remember every single thing about that day. Where you were. What you ate for breakfast. Possibly even what you were wearing and every single detail of each conversation you had with people. Every moment is seared into your brain. For me, it was the same way when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. I was in school when one of our teachers ran in with the devastating news.

These are events that alter history. They tear through the fabric of time and leave scars that may never heal. They create stories that our children and grandchildren will study one day in a classroom.

It was a Tuesday morning. We lived in Corvallis, OR, and I worked for Pepsi. The previous day, I had just started training to be a route driver. I climbed out of bed after having a very strange experience during the night. Around 2 AM, I awoke with a churning inside my stomach like none I have never experienced before or since. Dread washed over me in waves. All I could think to do was pray. I prayed for everyone that came to mind. My family, my friends, my co-workers. I didn’t even know what to pray. I just asked God for protection over them all.

My initial thought was that something horrible was going to happen in the small town I grew up in, Franklin NC. When I turned on the radio in my car that gloomy morning, I knew why I had been praying.

I rushed back into our apartment and flipped on the television. A scene of horror greeted me, and I sank into a chair. It was one of the most horrific events I had ever witnessed in my lifetime.

I didn’t want to be late for work, so I tore myself away from the news and headed on in. Obviously, it was the focal point of all conversation that morning. That early, most of the people I worked with weren’t exactly lively, but that day was so different. There was a sadness that clouded the Pepsi plant. You could see it in each face and hear it in every voice.

We made sure the truck was loaded and pulled out to start a day full of deliveries. We listened to the radio the entire time. We couldn’t speak when they announced the first tower was crumbling. I wanted to rush home and hold my wife and little girl when they described the second one falling.

We worked through our route in a state of numbness. I remember one stop was a local newspaper. We walked in and started toward the back where the vending machines were located. I noticed that everyone looked at us strangely. Even Sean, the guy training me, said something about it once we reached the lunchroom. While we were determining what they needed as far as product was concerned, one of the paper employees walked in. He said they were all on edge and just wanted to make sure we were truly from Pepsi.

Everywhere we went that day, people were frightened. That, and deeply moved by the grief and tragedy befalling our nation. It’s something you wish could be wiped clean from the deep shadows of our memory, but yet, it’s also something we don’t want to forget. We could never forget.

I’m not into politics at all. I’m not pro-government. I’m not anti-government. I’ve watched countless videos attempting to prove that 9/11 was an “inside” job. None of that matters to me. What does is the fact that people lost sons and daughters that day. They lost parents and cousins. Brothers and sisters. Best friends. Grandparents. Uncles. Aunts. The list goes on and on. Brave men and women rushed headlong into the smoke and debris desperately trying to find survivors. I’ve watched so many documentaries over the years, and I’m left wrecked at such loss and devastation.

It’s time such as this, I fall to my knees and thank God for the many blessings in my life. My wife. My two children. My mom. My job. It’s too easy in this life to gripe and complain about everything. The Bible actually calls complaining a sin. I make it a point each morning to wake up conversing with my Father, thanking Him for another opportunity to represent Him on this earth. Time is short, folks. We have no idea when Jesus is coming back. We have to live as if it could be at any moment. Take a few moments today to just stop, get into a quiet place, and talk with God.

Today marks 13 years since the events of 9/11/2001. It’s hard to believe. Wherever you are right now, hug someone close to you. Tell them how much you love them. Never forget that our lives are but a vapor.

Here today and gone tomorrow.

Let Us Remember


Independence Day always stirs within me thoughts of young men and women who have sacrificed so much throughout the timeline of history. From a young boy with trembling hands griped tightly around his one-shot musket, to the girl, just barely out of high school, clutching an M16. No matter what era or battle, it takes something special to be a solider. I’ve always had much respect for people who sacrifice. Those who give up something for another human being. The Bible says there is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for another. Regardless of my beliefs on war, there are everyday people fighting on foreign soil, separated from their families and loved ones, and for that we owe them respect.

I wrote When a Soldier Cries last year, and wanted to share it with you today. Have a safe and happy July 4th holiday.

When a Soldier Cries
Copyright 2013 Chris Martin

A tattered picture, nearly faded to white
Faces of the ones for whom a soldier fights
In the empty silence of a world so far away
On the rocky ground, the only place to lay

A father dreams of home, family, and friends
In war, there is no guarantee he will see them again
Thunder roars with fury, lightning burns the darkened skies
The mighty angels shed a tear, when a soldier cries

She walks across the street, a young child stands alone
Memories haunt her dreams of the daughters she left at home
She tries to smile, show happiness through the tears
Although she wants to help, the child retreats in fear

At night she dreams of home, bedtime hugs and kisses
She prays to one day have again, everything she misses
She can still see their faces as they spoke their last goodbyes
Nothing can soothe a heart, when a soldier cries

In the pouring rain he stands guard, rifle in hand
Just two years out of high school, his parents don’t understand
He wanted something greater than just video games and fun
He dedicated his life to become more than just an ordinary son

A young man dreams of home and wishes upon a distant star
The letters are few and far between, only time can heal a wounded heart
In the gathering shadows, just beyond where the unseen lies
Those who have gone before, bow their heads when a soldier cries

The growl of crunching metal, searing heat and flames surround
Voices of the wounded, silent screams that have no sound
She left college early and signed up to answer the call
Now lying in the wreckage, she wonders if it’s time to give her all

The young woman dreams of home, but she doesn’t surrender to the fear
She knows if they’re alive, they will come back and find her here
Chaos and confusion, in a place where hope and fate collide
She fights for every breath, there’s no shame when a soldier cries

They stand in single file, one hand raised to touch their brow
Men and women, young and old, bound together by a sacred vow
Silently they watch as each car drives slowly past
A beautiful flag covers every casket, heroes returning home at last

Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, bravery at its best
Defined by the unselfish act of sacrifice, courage passed the ultimate test
With a will stronger than iron, nerves of steel and no compromise
There’s nothing to give but respect and honor…when a soldier cries

For Them


Since it’s Veteran’s Day, I wanted to put links to four tributes I’ve written for our troops. They are all on my blog, but instead of having to search through so many posts, they will be right here in one convenient location. Most of you may have read them, but let’s keep our troops in mind today. Not only those who have served courageously in the past, but also those serving today.

When A Soldier Cries

The Letter

The American Soldier

Thank You Isn’t Enough

 

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Have a blessed day

Nothing but Respect


I was never in the military. I never served multiple tours in Afghanistan. I’ve never had to spend sleepless nights in a bunker somewhere on the other side of the world listening to continuous gunfire and explosions. I’ve never had to spend months or years away from my family wondering if I would ever see them again. I’ve never spent holidays and birthdays alone, far away from the ones I love the most.

Unfortunately, there are many brave men and women who have, and who are still serving right now. I have the utmost respect for anyone who lives a life of sacrifice. True heroes don’t wear capes, football pads, or memorize scripts for the silver screen. The true heroes in this world wear dog tags, a shield on their uniform, rush into burning buildings to save lives, and stand in front of a classroom full of kids who don’t respect them.

I’ve written several things in honor of our troops. I can only imagine the feelings, thoughts, and emotions they endure. I hope in some small way, the words I write in their honor will convey that there are people all over this world who truly respect what they do. A simple “Thank you for your service” is great, but I don’t think it’s ever enough. The American flag is stained with the blood of those who have given their lives to protect the freedom we so often take for granted. Don’t let their sacrifice be in vain.

With Veteran’s Day quickly approaching, I wanted to share one of my personal favorites out of all I’ve written for the troops. It’s a poem entitled “When A Soldier Cries” Please feel free to share this with anyone you know who is serving or has served in the past.

When a Soldier Cries
Copyright 2013 Chris Martin

A tattered picture, nearly faded to white
Faces of the ones for whom a soldier fights
In the empty silence of a world so far away
On the rocky ground, the only place to lay

A father dreams of home, family, and friends
In war, there is no guarantee he will see them again
Thunder roars with fury, lightning burns the darkened skies
The mighty angels shed a tear, when a soldier cries

She walks across the street, a young child stands alone
Memories haunt her dreams of the daughters she left at home
She tries to smile, show happiness through the tears
Although she wants to help, the child retreats in fear

At night she dreams of home, bedtime hugs and kisses
She prays to one day have again, everything she misses
She can still see their faces as they spoke their last goodbyes
Nothing can soothe a heart, when a soldier cries

In the pouring rain he stands guard, rifle in hand
Just two years out of high school, his parents don’t understand
He wanted something greater than just video games and fun
He dedicated his life to become more than just an ordinary son

A young man dreams of home and wishes upon a distant star
The letters are few and far between, only time can heal a wounded heart
In the gathering shadows, just beyond where the unseen lies
Those who have gone before, bow their heads when a soldier cries

The growl of crunching metal, searing heat and flames surround
Voices of the wounded, silent screams that have no sound
She left college early and signed up to answer the call
Now lying in the wreckage, she wonders if it’s time to give it all

The young woman dreams of home, but she doesn’t surrender to the fear
She knows if they’re alive, they will come back and find her here
Chaos and confusion, in a place where hope and fate collide
She fights for every breath, there’s no shame when a soldier cries

They stand in single file, one hand raised to touch their brow
Men and women, young and old, bound together by a sacred vow
Silently they watch as each car drives slowly past
A beautiful flag covers every casket, heroes returning home at last

Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, bravery at its best
Defined by the unselfish act of sacrifice, courage passed the ultimate test
With a will stronger than iron, nerves of steel and no compromise
There’s nothing to give but respect and honor, when a soldier cries

 

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Have a blessed day

From the Ashes (Part 2)


I stood, immobilized, gripped in the clutches of incomprehensible fear.

My eyes had most certainly watched as a large aircraft plowed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, but my mind had yet to rationally compute the horror. I winced as flames, debris, glass, and black smoke erupted in a fireball of destruction. The shock wave assaulted the North Tower, but the windows remained intact. At least the one I was looking through. I felt another rumble under my feet, and I forced my legs to move.

I returned to my fallen co-worker. He moaned in pain. “What’s your name?” I asked.

“It’s Jack.”

“I’m Rick. I think it’s time we got outta here, what do you say?”

Jack nodded. He pulled up his pant leg, and I could see that his ankle had swollen considerably in just a short amount of time. He needed medical assistance. Probably some ice. At that moment, we had neither, so it was time to move. I knelt down and put his arm around my shoulders. I counted to three, and we stood up together. He wasn’t able to put much weight, if any, on the injured ankle. I wondered how we would ever make it out of the building with non-working elevators and seventy-five floors of stairs between us and the outside. I pushed the thoughts away and focused on the present.

We slowly made our way out of the office and into the main hallway. It was nearly impossible to see anything due to the smoke, but I realized rather quickly that we were all alone. It was the same type of eerie quiet that follows a blizzard, except we didn’t have a sheet of sparkling white snow laid out before us. I’m not sure if it was just plain, raw fear, or some kind of instinct, but something urged me forward with increased intensity.

As we moved toward the stairs, I tried to carry as much of Jack’s weight as I possibly could. Sitting behind a desk all day wasn’t exactly a great fitness plan, so I was extremely out of shape. I knew most of my power was coming from adrenaline. If that ran out, we would both be in serious trouble.

We burst through the door and into the stairwell. The smoke was worse than in the offices. We both immediately started to choke and cough. I leaned Jack up against the wall and ripped off one of my long sleeves. “Keep this over your nose and mouth,” I instructed. I grabbed Jack, and we started down the stairs. I heard someone yelling, but couldn’t tell if it was coming from above us, or from somewhere down below.

After maneuvering down three flights of stairs, I had to stop. We sat on the landing, and I bent over, gasping for breath. 

“You need to leave me here.”

I looked over at Jack. He removed the shirt sleeve covering his face, and forced a smile. Tears etched two thin lines through the dirt and ash on his face. I coughed some more, and then shook my head. “No way. We’re doing this together.”

“We will never make it out of here with you having to carry me down seventy more flights of stairs. Just go.”

“You have kids, Jack?”

He nodded as fresh tears spilled from his eyelashes. “Yes. Two.”

“I do too,” I replied. “They aren’t going to lose their fathers today. Let’s go.”

Despite his protest, I picked Jack up, and we continued down. After counting another five floors, my body just physically couldn’t take it anymore. Jack had stopped talking altogether. His head lolled back and forth as if he were on the brink of unconsciousness. My throat burned with the kind of pain I could only imagine would result after swallowing razor blades. I realized that for the majority of our trek, I had kept my eyes closed. Each time I bumped into a wall, I knew it was time to turn.

I carefully laid Jack’s head down on the cement floor and made sure the makeshift bandanna across his face was secure. I leaned back and finally allowed myself to cry. I had desperately fought to hang on to hope, but sitting there in the darkness with a burning throat and stinging eyes, I knew the end was near. Occasionally, the floor beneath our feet would rumble, and I would hold my breath. I had no idea what had happened to the building. Had an airplane hit ours as well? A bomb? Did the outside world have any idea what was happening here?

I pulled my cell phone out and took a deep breath. I had never thought about the words I would say to my loved ones if I knew I was going to die. I don’t believe anyone could ever be prepared for that kind of conversation. Pivotal moments in my children’s lives flashed through my mind, and I wasn’t present for any of them. Graduation, college, marriage. How would my death affect them in the coming years? Losing a father is not something that just goes away with time. It never did after I lost mine.

I pressed the speed dial button for home. I would try there first. Andrea didn’t always hear her cell phone ring if she was helping Megan with something. After three rings, a tiny voice answered, and my body shook with uncontrollable sobs.

“Hello?”

With every ounce of strength I had left, I regained control and croaked out a greeting. “Hey, Sweetie. This is Daddy.”

“Daddy? Hi, Daddy.”

The excitement that rang in her voice, after hearing it was me, shattered my heart into pieces. “I-I’m at work, Honey. Can you get Mommy on the phone?”

“Daddy? I’m crayon in book.”

I clenched my teeth so tightly together that my temples throbbed in pain. “You and Mommy coloring?”

“Yes. Coming home now?”

God, give me the strength to do this. I hadn’t prayed in a long time. “Daddy can’t come home right now. Soon though.”

There was a shuffling noise, and I could hear Andrea’s voice talking to Megan. Then she spoke into the phone with concern. “Rick? Is that you?”

“Hey, Babe. Yeah, it’s me.”

“What’s going on? What’s wrong?”

“Turn on the TV. It’s got to be on there by now.” Jack moaned, and I leaned over to look at him. He moved his head back and forth, but his eyes remained shut.

“Oh, God, Rick. Are you still at work? Are you still in the building? Please tell me you were all evacuated.”

“What exactly are they saying?” I asked. “What happened?”

“You don’t know? Two planes have flown into both towers of the World Trade Center. There’s smoke pouring out of the upper levels. It’s total chaos. Firefighters and police are everywhere. Are you down on the street? Where are you?”

“I’m-” I paused. Should I tell the truth, or be evasive with my answers? “I’m still in the building, but we are getting out. Slowly.”

At first, I only heard static on the line. Then Andrea began to sob.

“Shhh, it’s okay. I’m sure they have people coming in to get us out. Everything’s going to be alright.” I fought back the urge to vomit as I tried to console my wife. I doubted anyone was coming to rescue us. Even if they did, there was no possible way they could evacuate a building of that size before the flames engulfed it entirely. The images of people falling toward the ground chilled my blood. I didn’t know how much more smoke I could inhale before passing out. Jack might be dead, I wasn’t sure. It was over. It was time to accept it.

Somehow, I had to be strong for Andrea. “Listen, Babe. You there?”

“Yes. I love you so much.”

“I love you too. Listen, I’m sure the firefighters are on their way up. But-”

She cut me off. “No, don’t say that. You can’t say that.” Her voice trailed off into more sobbing.

I swallowed the lump in my throat. I could barely feel the inside of my mouth. “If they don’t make it in time.” Choked up, I paused. I took a deep breath, and winced in pain. I didn’t realize I was lying on my back until I opened my eyes and saw a cloudy ceiling. The smoke had become unbearable. I wasn’t typically a claustrophobic person by nature, but it felt as if I was inside a tiny box, with barely any room to breathe. I knew the smoke was probably filling my lungs, and it wouldn’t be long before I suffocated with no air. “Andrea?”

“I’m here. Baby, I’m here. Just keep talking to me. Stay awake. They’re on their way to get you. Just hold on.”

“Andrea, I love you so much. More than you will ever know. Tell Matthew that so proud of him and the awesome grades he’s in school. Tell you-”

“Rick? Rick?”

My head twirled in a sea of nausea. I could hear myself talking, not making much sense, but I couldn’t control my words. It felt like an out of body experience. I focused all of my concentration on Andrea’s voice. “Tell Megan I think she’s a princess. Her smile tell her I’m sorry.” The building shuddered, and I waited for the final death blow. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I just knew it would be devastating.

Andrea’s voice slowly faded into the distance as I began to drift. For the first time since my morning had been completely turned upside down, I felt peace. My throat no longer burned, and I could open my eyes and see clearly. In contrast to the smoke-filled stairwell, the room was brightly lit. A warmth enveloped me from head to toe, and I sighed in relief. This wouldn’t end as badly as I had imagined.

I frowned when I heard the sharp bark of static.

My eyes snapped open. Bits of a conversation filled my ears.

“We have two.”

“Alive?”

“Barely.”

There was commotion all around me as I laid there in pain and confusion. A face materialized into view right above me. A man spoke, but I couldn’t hear the words. I could see the worry in his eyes, but he smiled. On his head, he wore a helmet with the number 213 and the initials FDNY above that. I tried to speak, but couldn’t. I surrendered to the blackness.

I awoke in the hospital surrounded by my family. I was alive. I had sustained permanent damage to one lung due to smoke inhalation, but other than that, I was fine. Well, physically speaking. I found out later that Jack and I had actually made it down to the fifty ninth floor of the building instead of only a few levels like I had originally thought.

Don’t take anything for granted. Your family, friends, job. While trapped in that building, I realized that life is nothing but a brief journey that passes by way too quickly. Hold your family tight, take chances, and don’t ever think there’s something you can’t do. Nothing is impossible. Oh, and Jack? He’s fine too. The shirt sleeve I wrapped around his face protected him from any damage to his lungs. Our families are headed out of town next weekend together. It’s time for some fresh air.

Note from the author:

While this story is fiction, constructed from the depths of my imagination, we all know how incredibly horrific 9/11 was. I can’t imagine what it was like for someone like Rick, trapped high up in one of the towers, not knowing if he would ever see the light of day again. I’ve tried to illustrate those feelings in my story, but I’m sure they aren’t even close to what a person might have endured. The respect I have for our police force and firefighters can’t be explained in mere words. The brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for others are the true heroes of this world.

We will never forget. 9/11/2001

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