Sunday, September 17, 2006

The events of September 11th, 2001 were remembered by the Cazenovia community on 9/11/2006. Father Peter Worn of St. James Church opened the ceremony with a prayer as citizens gathered to reflect. (Image courtesy of Gene Gissin)


I was privileged to help with our community’s 9/11 observance a week ago which was organized by the students of Project Café and the Cazenovia Fire Department. Thanks to all the members of those groups as well as Father Peter from St. James, American Legion Post 88 and the members of the high school Chamber Choir who helped to make the event so memorable.

As I tried to highlight during the ceremony, perhaps one of the few bright spots from the tragedy of 9/11 has been that our nation has focused long-overdue appreciation on a group that has given so much for so long. Our firefighters, police and other first-responders are always there, keeping watch and keeping us safe. It’s a shame that it took the unparalleled sacrifices of 9/11 to bring that fact to our national consciousness, but better late than never. My father was a firefighter for 32 years and my mom was a charter member of our local ambulance corps. I have always been mindful and proud of their efforts and it’s nice to see their colleagues get the much-deserved recognition they are due.

Someone noted as the fire department marched to the park where our veterans’ memorial and fire department memorial are co-located that they were led by a military color guard. They inquired why there weren’t firefighters carrying the colors. The response was that there were! Several members of the color guard are volunteer firefighters as well as military reservists – they were just wearing one uniform instead of another on this occasion. This reinforces my life-long observation that they are people cut from the same cloth… dedicated, service-oriented, quietly heroic, salt-of-the-earth people. I always remarked how similar my father’s (often humorous) stories of life around the fire house were to the intense camaraderie of the Marine Corps.

As advisor to the students of Project Café, I couldn’t have been more proud of the active role which these young people played in planning and carrying out our observance. They should give us all hope that our community and country will be in good hands as they assume adult roles in our society. Other communities should take note of the amazing work done by these students and recognize what an untapped resource our young people are when given the opportunity to serve and to lead.

In closing, I would like to highlight the poignant speech of our Fire Chief, Tom Tait. Tom chose to speak of September 12th, not September 11th. The core of his message was to remember how our nation responded and how we treated one another the day after 9/11. He challenged us to make EVERY day like September 12th in terms of caring, concern for others and civic-mindedness. I’m pleased to report that this spirit is alive and well here in Cazenovia. I can’t begin to thank all those who have come forward to offer help during the past week as news of my deployment has become public. Your kindness is greatly appreciated.

Thank you to Cazenovia photographer Gene Gissin who captured these images at our 9/11 observance and was kind enough to share them with me for this entry.

Members of the Cazenovia Fire Department marched up from the station to assemble in front of their ladder truck which served as a fitting backdrop for the 9/11 Observance. Community members took time not only to reflect on the tragedy of 2001, but also to give thanks for the day to day contributions of local heroes like our volunteer firefighters. (Image courtesy of Gene Gissin)

Local reservists, some of whom are also volunteer firefighters, led the color guard during the 9/11 Observance. The veterans, students and parents in the background are symbolic of the wide cross section of the community that turned out to reflect on September 11th, 2001 and its aftermath. (Image courtesy Gene Gissin)

Students from Cazenovia High School's Chamber Choir led local residents as they sang "God Bless America" and our national anthem at the 9/11 observance. (Image courtesy Gene Gissin)

Monday, September 11, 2006


I share these thoughts and experiences not because they are unusual, but because they have become so common in our post-9/11 world. Thousands and thousands of reservists like me have been called to serve our country in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. They have set aside their “civilian life” for months or even years to serve our nation.

How does one set aside their normal duties and day-to-day life? I’ve tried to begin with an inventory… what do I do? Who could fill this role? How can I prepare to make it easier when I depart? The obvious ones are also the hardest… husband and father. I try to remember all the things that I would have done in the months ahead… who will light the furnace on that first cold night? I record bedtime stories to be played back weeks hence. Will my wife remember to get the car inspected… to put on the snow tires? The thoughts are endless. Thank God for parents, family and friends who will help to fill this void.

My duties as teacher and coach come next. Teaching and coaching are more than a job. My concern for these young people is exceeded only by my love of my own kids. Finding the best possible people to fill these roles in my absence is essential to me… a mission that has begun in earnest since getting confirmation of my deployment in recent days. My hope has been to get the school year off to a good start. With week one under our belt, I look ahead now to week two and hope to establish an effective routine before I have to think about departing.

What role do we play in our community? What groups do we belong to? What are our responsibilities? Who can help fill these gaps in the months ahead. I’m torn between wanting to share the news so that I can make preparations more effectively and my desire to minimize the disruption which news of my departure may cause.

Sharing the news of ones pending deployment is an interesting phenomenon in itself. My wife has been a trooper (so far). My children manifested a surprising calmness mixed with youthful curiosity: “Where will you be? Will you carry a gun? Can we visit?” My oldest even ventured optimistically, “At least I’ll have interesting things to tell about during sharing time at school!” Moms worry. Dads are stoic. Everyone is supportive. God bless you all.

As I prepare to observe 9/11 tomorrow (later today actually at this hour), I magnify my experience by the hundreds of thousands who have gone before me and try to grasp the impact which the events of September 11th, OEF and OIF have had. For nearly four years, my family has prayed nightly for the safety and effectiveness of our troops overseas and for their families. Now my kids understand why we added that to our blessing each night. My praises to all those who have answered the call to serve without hesitation or complaint and to those back home who have selflessly shared their husbands, dads, Sunday school teachers and little league coaches.