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Happy Birthday. And remembering.

Happy birthday, little bro. 10 years ago, we talked about how this day would never be forgotten. Today, I remember 9/11, but even more so, I quietly remember you.

Most of the blogs today (as well as Facebook updates from friends and the news) are focused on remembering 9/11 as today marks the 10 year anniversary of one very tragic day. People are sharing their memories and experiences of the event and the aftermath. Even at work, we received an email asking for employees to submit stories or memories that they wished to share with the company. My heart breaks and weeps for all those that were killed and all of their families and friends. But, at the same time, it warms my hurting heart just a tiny bit when I see how much people come together, support one another, and truly do what they can to never forget.

Life continues on.  We hurt.  We come together. We learn to cope. We fight back. We will never forget.

I, too, remember exactly where I was and how I found out about the WTC and the Pentagon. I remember being shocked and unable to move.  I remember the struggle between gluing myself to the television and refusing to watch the updates out of horror.  All of that – but what I remember most was my conversation with my brother.  A meek “happy birthday” from me, to which he responded that there was a lot more to think about other than his birthday. And then somewhere in that conversation, he commented that he would probably never really be able to celebrate his birthday the same way ever again. Not so much in a selfish way, but more of an observant way.

That was the last birthday that he celebrated. 9/11/01. I wish we could have celebrated his life, the fact that he was living, the brotherly-sisterly love that we had that day. His life came to a crashing halt nearly a year later, just 8 days short of his 17th birthday and what was also the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I still feel guilty that I couldn’t have made his last birthday more special.

My biggest fear is that I will forget. While I have no doubt I will never forget him as a person, I know that as we get older, our memories fade.  I’m afraid of losing the small memories – the things that in general, as people, we take for granted or don’t even really consider ‘memories.’ The day to day interactions. The sibling bickering. The basic routines we had. With each passing birthday, both his and mine, it’s another year that we grow apart – he forever etched in my memory as a 16 year old and me as a growing young adult. And so, for each birthday that passes, I resolve to highlight a memory of him. To Always Remember.

The “city” that we grew up in was pretty darn kid friendly. The neighborhoods were linked together with “greenbelts,” which were virtually bike paths that either ran separately along major streets or through the backwoods. We had so many family outings that involved the entire family biking on the greenbelts either to the duck ponds down the street (which, incidentally, had some fun fishing for my dad) or down the nearest TCBY.  While we were young kids, we always went with our parents.  We would excitedly ask them to make cool “bell shapes” out of our soft serve ice cream – a great trick to show a kid when you really just want an excuse to have an extra taste or two.  Eventually, we grew older and could take trips to TCBY on our own. Just us, brother and sister, which at the time was just about as exciting as the first time you drive solo without anyone else in the car.

And while the ice cream shop did not have candles readily available for me to light one in your memory, today, I ate ice cream in your memory (pity me, I know). We miss you and will always remember you. Happy birthday.

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