Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

To Those Fathers Lost Loving What They Do

The voice mails knocked the wind out of me. Literally. After only hearing a few of them back to back I had to move on in the memorial and quickly. I've heard some of them over the years and of course have read, viewed and heard the countless tragic and heroic stories about what happened that beautiful blue sky morning.

But the voice mails, they really tore me up inside (with the "missing posters" coming in a close second). On this Father's Day nearly 14 years since it happened, I imagine those fathers (and everybody else that day) going to work that morning to do what they loved to do so they could help take care of their families. Of course not everyone feels this way, but I like to believe that besides bringing home a paycheck there's something or many things inherently motivating for us in the work that we do.

I talk about that a lot of late -- the fact that we're loyal to the work we love to do. But that's not quite the complete picture, only snapshot from the industry I work in and the work I love to do. Most of us are loyal to the family and friends we love and care about first, then the communities we share with other families and friends outside of ours, and then the work we love to do and/or the business we create that brings work that gives us meaning and a means to an end in those communities we share with many others.

There were those fathers (and everybody else that day) who worked on every floor of the World Trade Center twin towers, and those who worked in and around the streets below, and those who worked as first responders that fateful day.

During our family vacation this week we visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum. At first, the Mama and I were okay with our solo tours (we didn't bring the girls through the whole thing together, but we talked with them about it). But then, it became overwhelming, our own emotions from the memories of 9/11 pulling us under like a riptide.

But it was a double riptide for me listening to the voice mails of those calling loved ones from the planes or the buildings, telling them what was happening.

Then there's the part when the husband leaves his wife a voicemail that says, "I'm going to be okay. I'm in the other tower."

The second riptide is the automated voice at the very end of the loved one's message.

"End of message."

That's it. It doesn't matter which god you believe in (or not), or what part of the political spectrum you fall in, that's it. That automated part of the message marked the tragic end for so many people, eerily punctuating the end of their stories. And to the fathers (and everybody else) who tried to save so many others, God bless them all -- those lost and those who lost and those who live with the memories of horrific terrorism.

Because that's what it was. Crazy and not so crazy people who hated us willing to die to kill innocent Americans and many others from other parts of the globe. It doesn't matter what came before and what role our government may or may not have played in what led to it. What matters is how we mobilize to heal.

Like terrorist acts all around the world for thousands of years, they're crazy and not so crazy people who hate other people and would rather have them eradicated than actually have to co-exist with them. It's also about power and control and keeping those despised powerless and in constant fear of injury and/or death. These acts span a myriad of civilizations, religions and political factions, and do not fit neatly into any world view no matter how hard we try (and dear God, we certainly try).

Then there's the part when you're on vacation meeting decent Americans from diverse backgrounds and tourists from all over the world in one of the greatest cities in the world, New York, and then you hear about the terrorist attack in South Carolina, one where a single person took the lives of nine others in what is supposed to be a safe haven -- a church. Call it what it is, kids. This was terrorism, something we avoiding calling our own in this country, and thankfully many reputable media outlets are calling it just that. Terrorism against a black congregation because of a hateful white man's vendetta that blacks and whites should not live together in the same communities, a racist pox this country has yet to be able to cure, much less eradicate. The terrorist brought this pox and sat at with the Bible study group at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, and then he killed them.

I'm writing this today, on Father's Day, to call for the same kind of mobilization we had on 9/11 for these terrorist atrocities in our own cities against decent Americans, whether in the North or South, East or West, Right or Left, Black or White, or any of the ethnicities that make up supposedly still one of the greatest "free" nations today. I call for us to mobilize and help this community and others like it and treat them with the same respect and reverence that we did on 9/11. The 9/11 Memorial Fountains are perfect metaphors for this kind of loss, the endless tears that flow into dark abyss after dark abyss -- while the people who gather around it pay their respects and many hope to make a difference for our future.

Because then I imagine the part when Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine victims who perished in the SC terrorist attack, leaves voice mails the morning of June 17 for his beloved wife and children while on the way to doing the work he loved to do for the community he loved doing it for. I imagine his family listening to it over and over again, mourning there loss, punctuated painfully by the automated voice saying, "End of message."

The other morning while on vacation our youngest daughter Bryce brought the Bible from the hotel room to breakfast. She doesn't really know what it it is, and we're not church-going folk (although I was raised so), but it was sweet how she called it her book of charm bracelets.

As I celebrate Father's Day with my wife and daughters in a hotel in New York City, I am so very grateful and draw upon my early Christian roots, sending healing thoughts and prayers to all the families who lost loved ones in Charleston, South Carolina, this last week.

My affinity is to those fathers lost loving what they do to make a positive difference in this world, and today I choose to celebrate them.

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