As this column will be published on Sept. 11, I thought it would be a suitable time to share my story as the daughter of a firefighter.
Even though I wasn’t even 2 years old on Sept. 11, 2001, I feel a connection to it through the history lessons at school and the words of my father.
When I visited the Sept. 11 memorial in New York during my sophomore year of high school, time seemed to stand still. I couldn’t help but walk around aimlessly with tears in my eyes.
Even though I didn’t know any of the names on the monument, I cried for them, their families and that moment in American history that I will always be too young to ever fully understand.
During the International Association of Fire Fighters Conventions, the organization recognizes its members every other year. The names and faces of all the first responders who died protecting and saving lives are projected on screens.
Even though I was young at many of these conventions, I remember the tears in both of my parents’ eyes as the bagpipes and drums began to play. The music echoed through the convention hall as everyone slowly stood up and honored their fallen brothers and sisters.
Growing up, I remember giving my dad a hug every night before he had to work because I knew that I wouldn’t see him the next day. Sometimes he had a 48-hour shift, so when we talked on the phone before bed, it was “talk to you tomorrow” instead of “see you tomorrow.”
I also remember crying if he missed a phone call before bedtime. My mom would comfort me by saying, “He’s probably on call. Just get ready for bed and see if he calls soon.” I always slept better when he called to say goodnight.
In school, I was very involved and participated in many events. I knew that he wouldn’t be able to make it to everything, but it was okay because he was helping people and saving lives. Sometimes he would surprise me and show up in uniform and that always put a smile on my face. If it was before a band performance, I think having him there made me play better, too.
He was always there for the important stuff, the things that mattered: several award ceremonies, graduations, prom, college move-in days and so on. Even if he was tired from a 48-hour shift or sore from fighting a fire, he was there. He is here and I’m grateful for that every day.
Although my dad worked a lot and couldn’t be at everything, my mom was always there. I know this is mainly a column about my dad, but I cannot finish without mentioning the most incredible woman in the world and the glue of the family.
Since there were days we couldn’t be all together, she made sure that when we were, we had family dinners. Afterward, we would watch TV together or have family game nights.
When my dad had to work holidays, my mom would still try to make them special. He had to work on July Fourth? We would go see fireworks on the third. I remember one year when she took my brother and me to visit the firehouse on Halloween so he could see us in our costumes.
Sometimes my dad even has to work Christmas, so Santa came a day early. My mom said he did that for all of the firefighters’ kids whose parents worked on Christmas.
She did and does so much more, but that can be a whole other column.
Even now that I’m in my third year of college, my parents are still always there for me. Just last week, I had to call my dad for help with something in my apartment. Even though he was at work, he still answered and talked me through it.
Many people also share the title of a firefighter’s child and probably have similar experiences; however, some are not as lucky as I am. My dad has come out of every burning building he has gone into and has never been severely injured on the job. I know not everyone can say the same.
As my dad is a lieutenant and getting closer to retirement, he is not doing as much of the whole “running into burning buildings” thing, but he is still helping people every day, especially me.
Many people take Sept. 11 as a day to reflect. They remember where they were when they heard that a plane crashed into the first tower. They think about the lives lost and every change the country has gone through since that moment.
As a nation, we will “never forget.” And, as a fireman’s daughter, I will never forget the sacrifices my dad has made to keep others safe.