I don’t remember how old my youngest daughter (M) was but at some point she put a note in her father’s dress uniform hat that said “I love you Dad”. That note is still in that hat. And that hat sits on a shelf in the corner cabinet of my “study/reading room”. As I remember the story, M. had placed the note in the hat because her dad was attending a firefighter’s funeral. The tradition of firefighters paying tribute to fellow fallen firefighters is a long, rich not to be taken lightly duty. To be honest, I didn’t always get the “firefighter” funeral thing. I understood the firefighters need to honor their fellow firefighters and support the family. I personally felt it was wrong for the mayor, etc to show up at funerals and speak. I felt it was an invasion of privacy. Bruce would tell me that it was just the way it was. I had told him that if he died in the line of duty I wasn’t going to let the mayor come. He told me I would have to sort that out after he was gone. It would be my problem not his.
The last time Bruce wore that hat was the day of M. eighth grade graduation in June 2001. Bruce would attend the funeral for one of the firefighters killed in the Father’s Day fire. He would call and say he was running late and should he come home to change and be late for graduation or just come in his dress uniform. We would decide that he should just meet us there. There are wonderful photos of M with her dad in his uniform.
When September 11 falls on a Tuesday, it is a little freaky for many of us. See when it is on a Tuesday you know what you were doing in the days leading up to that day that would start as such a beautiful late summer day. The days seem to line up more easily. I am not sure why it is maybe it is just how your brain stores information. Sunday September 9 is the last time so many years ago that I would see my husband. He was on duty Sunday evening to Monday evening and then on duty again on Tuesday for a day tour. Because his firehouse was in the Bronx, we decided he would spend Monday night and the firehouse.
I would speak to him on the phone on Monday. I can’t remember what that conversation was about. I do vividly remember the conversation we had when he left for work on Sunday September 9, 2001. It had been a ordinary Sunday. We attended church with our eldest daughter (E). Our youngest daughter (M) wasn’t home. She was on a school sponsored trip to the New Jersey shore. We had lunch and then took a *”Nazarene” nap. As Bruce was getting dressed to leave, he said “I am so blest”. I commented “why”. He answered “I am married to Miss Ann, we have 2 great kids and we got the trailer.” To which I responded “some people won’t see being married to me as a plus. You are right the girls are great. And yes, we had a great summer.” 🙂
The mayor won’t be at Bruce’s memorial service not because I didn’t invite him but because there were too many services/funerals. A representative of the mayor’s office and governor’s office would be there. A little side story I would actually meet those gentlemen the day before. The day before Bruce’s memorial service we would stop by Squad 41 in the Bronx. As we pulled into the little parking lot next to the firehouse, an official looking car would pull in behind us. Two suits would get out. They were coming to Squad 41 to learn about Bruce and pay their respects.They didn’t expect to run into his family. I had a brief conversation with them. Some time after I would receive a personal note from those men telling me how moved they had been by his service and meeting me. On September 29 we would have Bruce’s memorial service. It would celebrate his life and bring glory to our God. Both of those things were important to us. Firefighters from all around would attend. And they would be given a standing ovation has they entered and left the church. I can still hear the sound of people applauding for them. The firefighters would exit the church and stand in formation outside. My daughters and I would walk out the side door of the church and around the corner of the building to see a giant American flag drapped between two firetrucks and all those firefighters would stand at attention as we walked by. My daughters tell me that they still remember the sound of my heels on the pavement. I actually remember that sound, too. We would re-enter the church through a lower level door and have a brief time of refreshment. Complete with Arthur Avenue cheesecake and coffee – two of Bruce’s favorites. Family, friends and complete strangers would offer their words of encouragement and support. My daughter’s friends from school, church and camp would be there to support them. The outpouring of love was amazing. And on Monday October first, E, M and I would establish our new normal but those stories are for another day.
*Nazarene nap – Sunday afternoon nap right after lunch and sandwiched in between morning service and evening service.*