“A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.”
— President George W. Bush
All Americans know at least one person that has been affected by the hurricanes that have hit the US in the last few weeks. We have all watched friends and loved ones "mark that they are safe" this morning from hurricane Irma on social media. We have watched helpers and heroes flood into Texas with Hurricane Harvey. Watching neighbors helping neighbors doing what I think Americans do best; putting aside their differences and give of themselves by putting others needs in front of their own, even when they themselves can be losing everything.
This morning this beautifully written article came up that put tears in my eyes! I didn't even realize that it was 9/11 today. I just expected to see the aftermath of another massive storm that hit America. Please read this and mark it on your heart as history, about another day that Americans pulled together and heroes rushed in.
Photo by Kari Shull Costanza
In Praise of First Responders
by Kari Shull Costanza
I searched for his name at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City—Uhuru Houston.
Uhuru was killed when the towers fell, rushing in as an officer with the NYPD. He and his colleagues saved 25,000 people from death, losing their lives in the process.
Uhuru was a First Responder.
I had met Uhuru’s sister, Anane, after the towers came down on that awful day.
Anane was an image of grief, sobbing in a pew at a church near the World Trade Center, unable to compose herself. Her eyes were wide and her fingers seemed to claw at the sky, as if trying to bring her brother back.
I hadn’t been to the World Trade Center site since September 2001. In that time, a beautiful memorial has been erected. Much of it is underground, buried beneath concrete—a living tomb.
It would be a challenge to go through the exhibit—to relive the fear and bewilderment I felt in 2001, covering stories of a vibrant city brought to its knees.
Each day we would walk or ride the subway to meet people being assisted by funds from caring donors—people who worked near the towers selling flowers, shining shoes, washing cars—people without a safety net.
Each day I would gaze upon the posters of those missing, hoping they might be found, knowing there was little chance.
Each day I would breathe in loss, and every night I would arrive back at the hotel, my shoes, face, and clothing covered in the fine powder that remained of floor after of floor of vaporized office machines and those who made them spring into life every day.
Each day was a little more draining than the day before.
On September 1 of this year, I had the opportunity to go back.
I grew anxious as we walked with hundreds of others down a white marble hallway in quiet procession: the blue sky feelings of a summer day replaced by emotions dark and empty.
Along the way loomed the remnants of giant structures that used to stand straight and tall, now twisted into shapes no artist would ever want to craft.
I wanted to find Uhuru.
In a somber hall, there he was, his picture placed alongside nearly 3,000 people who died that day. I looked up at that picture, trying to imagine the courage it took to run into that burning tower.
Uhuru Houston. Husband, father of two, and brother to Anane.
A First Responder.
At the same time, in another place, also named Houston, First Responders were rushing in to help: this catastrophe, not man- but nature-made, as a hurricane turned a city where I once lived into a sea.
This time I knew the First Responders who were rushing in—my photographer friend Laura, whose husband procured a pair of rubber pants for her to wear while wading into toxic waters to capture images.
My friends Alan and Kelly, who worked through churches to connect people in need with the things they needed.
Amy, who gave up a treasured trip to Cambodia to remain in Houston, to serve her neighbors and city.
Ron, who stayed with his mother until her house flooded, escorting her through waist-deep waters to safety.
Cheri, who worked 24/7 at the Houston Emergency Center.
And Michelle, my producer friend who had to flee for higher ground when her television station flooded, working until exhaustion sent her to the ER.
They are First Responders.
This time Facebook posts and Twitter messages replaced the posters that New Yorkers had used to cry for help. But the emotions are the same.
Houston may feel today some of what New Yorkers felt 16 years ago—fear, confusion, anxiety, and anger. Those who lost their homes and keepsakes may be waking up each day, wondering if it was all a dream.
For those who were spared, there may be relief tinged with the guilt that comes from being a survivor.
As in New York, every life will be touched. No one will be left unscathed. No one will forget.
Every September will usher in a time of remembrance. Bells will ring in New York and the rebuilding will continue in Houston.
Florida, battered by Irma, faces a similar scenario. Tonight, friends like Julie hunker down, trying to protect property and pets while her reporter husband Dave covers the storm.
Morning will bring mourning.
It all makes me wonder. How can such tragedy be incorporated into time?
The answer lies with Uhuru Houston.
Several years after 9/11, I was in Nairobi, Kenya, driving through the heart of town. We passed by Uhuru Plaza. “Uhuru,” I asked, “What does that mean?”
“Freedom,” said my World Vision colleague. “Uhuru means freedom.”
We serve a God who gives us incredible freedom—freedom to love and freedom to serve one another.
Freedom to respond first.
It is through reaching out, through responding, that we can incorporate tragedy into time—turning anger into action. Grief into good. Sorrow into support.
It will never be easy. This world leaves holes in our hearts and while love helps to fill them, they will never be completely sealed, nor should they be.
As we walked back outside into the bright sunlight, I found Uhuru’s name inscribed on one of the beautiful ponds that look up at the new World Trade Center building.
I ran my fingers over his name. Uhuru. Freedom.
Freedom to care.
Freedom to love.
Freedom to respond.
First Responders—I wish you Uhuru.
If you would like to help,
please donate to World Vision's disaster relief!
World Vision rushed in for
| World Vision photo by Laura Reinhardt|
World Vision photo by Laura Reinhardt
To all our first responders,
And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.