Today is September 11th. Today everyone is asking each other on Facebook, “Where were you on the morning of September 11th when the World Trade Center Towers were hit?” Everyone over the age of 26 has some story, recollection or life shifting memory of that day. One memory I shared was of the image of the exhausted firefighter – helmeted head hanging down in sadness with the image of an angel with her arms around him. The first responders were our heroes that terrible day. The courage they had to muster to get their equipment and haul it up hundreds of flights of stairs, while chaos was all around. They showed us that you do what you need to do to help others, even in the face of possible death.
A few of my friends on Facebook had gone to the WTC site after the attack, before the memorial was built and mentioned the stillness and sadness. I was there with a friend in January 2012 and the church across from the site still had the letters, cards, stuffed animals and missing signs that had been left on the fence in the days after September 11th. Many of these artifacts made their way over to the memorial that I visited in 2016, but it didn’t have the same feeling as walking through the church and reading that the volunteers slept on the pews when their exhaustion got the better of them. They were courageous heroes, too. Many of those volunteers got sick from breathing in the noxious material of the burning buildings. Dozens stayed for months to feed all the people clearing the rubble, the ones looking for anything they could bring to the deceased victims’ loved ones.
I have seen courage in all the natural disasters we have experienced in the Hawaiian Islands this year, as well. Courageous people were out saving animals on the lava fields who had been left behind when the volcanic eruption started and there was no way to capture them and nowhere to put them. People came together and found pasture land and hauled them out of the lava using helicopters. During that time, over 700 homes were burned and people were left homeless. Hundreds of volunteers came to serve food for almost three months and gave hugs and hope to those left in shelters for far too long.
Courage has shown up in preparing for a Category 5 hurricane to hit Hawaii Island, and when 50 inches of rain caused severe flooding, neighbors were out helping neighbors get through it.
The spirit of human beings is amazing. We can face the most horrific challenges and even when we too are caught up in times of crisis, we reach out to help others where we can. During the week of 9/11, my fellow staff members of the real estate association I worked for, along with our volunteers, arranged for blood drives to help the victims. We felt we had to do something..even if we were 2500 miles away.
In these challenging times we face, (our island waiting for yet another tropical storm coming in today) climate change, political turmoil, etc, we need to have courage and we need to help each other. Courage helps us mentally get through when our bodies have said “I am DONE” or “I have lost faith” and accomplish the things we never thought we had in ourselves to overcome and helping each other reminds us of our humanity and gives us collective strength.
I recently re-joined my local chapter of Habitat for Humanity as a Board member to help the folks who lost their homes during the eruption in Puna build new homes for themselves and their family. It takes courage to have everything taken away and still have faith that somehow it’s all going to work out, even if you don’t know how. People show up for people. That is what we do.
ps….here in Hawaii, we often call that the Aloha Spirit.