the last time

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.*

4 thoughts on “the last time

  1. I just finished writing a long and quite nice reply….only to have Facebook blank out on me. Suffice to say I can’t remember those words, but I do remember the service for Bruce. It was beautiful. Steve says it was the most difficult one he has ever prepared for. We saw someone on our cruise who reminded us both of Bruce, and we thought of him and you and the girls. The melancholly feelings we get as we do…. Tho distance is great between us. and our last visit so many years past…I remember you fondly and love you dearly!


    • Karen, Having Steve as my pastor/friend and you as a friend were priceless gifts that I still cherish today. The service was beautiful and you and Steve played a major role in that. I will never forget Steve stopping by on the morning of the service to say “I am going for it” and I said “we got nothing to lose”. Thank you for your friendship. love and hugs to all


  2. FIrst… I need to say that your comment about not having the mayor at the funeral gave me chills. You see, before 9/11, Joe was involved in an incident and I found out all the info via the news because he would never give me all the details. I remembered soon after that, another incident occurred and this time a police officer was hurt. The mayor and commissioner were soon at the bedside and I remembered telling Joe that God forbid if he was involved in anything like that or he would no longer be with us due to an incident at work, I would not want the mayor there. I didn’t see the purpose. Joe laughed because he thought it was me being political. But he, like Bruce, said it would be my choice but that’s just the way things were. That being said…. I don’t think words ever convey what’s exactly in one’s heart when something this tragic happens. You remember the last time you spoke to Bruce and I remember that evening, trying to remember the last words I shared with Joe before he called me to tell me about the attacks. I had this great need to remember something we shared besides that awful phone call. I didn’t want those words to be our last. I remembered the other day when I was doing a tour and I got to the end where I told people, I had no idea why I was spared after the bad news was given to me two months after 9/11. But today in reading your blog I suddenly remembered two things: I asked God to spare me because I truly did want to live. I asked him to forgive me for not trusting him as I surely thought that Joe was spared on 9/11 because I was going to die. I thought that was such a great gift from God and here I was rejecting it. Then I remembered that I also told God that night, that I would live a life of service. I had told my mother this and she had responded in her broken english, “Whatchu mean? Juuu already do so much? God esss not asking juuu for more. He’s asking juuu to have faith.” And I did. A visitor recently told me that maybe the reason why I was spared was because God had other plans and part of those plans was to tell people how good he was to me and so many others. I have been blessed in so many ways and one of them is knowing you, Ms. Ann. My heart will be with you as well as my thoughts and prayers on Monday but most especially on Tuesday. God Bless You…and your beautiful daughters. … Peace, Sonia


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