It was a beautiful day, much like that fateful day in New York City ten years ago. Dave stood beside his friend’s grave and stared at the words etched across the face of the stone, “Kevin Malone April 21, 1973-Sept. 11, 2001.” The epitaph simply read, “Son, Husband, Father, Hero.”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small wooden cross, rubbing it between his fingers at first, then, clinching it tight in his fist as the memories of that day rushed back.
Their engine had been called to a false alarm that morning. It happens. The “all clear” for people to re-enter the building had just been given. The firefighters were preparing to leave.
Overhead, Dave heard the loud roar of the plane before he saw it. The sound caught everyone’s attention. Due to the tall sky scrapers that make up the city of Manhattan, planes never get low enough to be noticed. Everyone froze as they watched the plane fly straight into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. For the split second it took for minds to wrap around what eyes had just seen, it was silent. Then, all hell broke loose.
“Dear, God…” Kevin exclaimed. It wasn’t a curse, but a sincere prayer.
“Mayday, mayday, mayday!” The Fire Captain was radioing in to dispatch.
“Did you see that?” Dave yelled over the commotion. “It looked like the plane was aiming for the Tower!”
The Fire Captain turned to his fellow firefighters. “Alright, load up! Let’s GO! We’re first responders on this one.”
The engines roared to life.
Dave turned to Kevin. “This will be the biggest fire we’ve ever faced.” His heart was racing.
“Yah, but that’s what we do.” Kevin replied, staring out the window at the huge black plume of smoke now rising to the sky. “We run into the buildings everyone else is running out of.”
Dave nodded. “You know what they say, ‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.’”
“I guess that makes firemen the biggest fools of all.” Kevin smiled. Then his face grew serious. “This is one we may not come out of. Do you know where you’re going if this is your day to go?”
“Man, stop talking like that.” Dave shook his head and turned away.
Kevin reached into his pocket and pulled out a small wooden cross.
“What’s that?” Dave asked as Kevin held it out to him.
“A couple months back, my oldest, Jack, was having nightmares that I was going to die in a fire. A lot of kids struggle with the danger their parents face as firefighters. I talked to him about it, though-told him that because Jesus was living in both our hearts we could never be separated from each other forever. We didn’t need to fear death.”
Kevin rolled the cross in his hand. “I bought these crosses from a street vendor. I kept one and gave one to Jack as a reminder of that truth. You know, for when he gets scared. I want you to carry this one today, as a reminder for you. It’s never too late to make that decision.”
When they entered the lobby of the North Tower, it looked like a war zone. David, Kevin, and the other firefighters began the arduous climb up the stairwell. As they ascended the stairs, they passed civilians on their way down. The relief on seeing their rescuers was unmistakable; the cavalry had arrived.
Suddenly, there was another loud crash. The South Tower had been hit. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind now; we were under attack.
After that, his recollections were like the fuzzy edges of a bad dream: a bone-chilling boom, darkness, light, and the call to evacuate after the South Tower had fallen. He vaguely remembered trying to get back down the stairs, Kevin close behind him. Neither made it. Dave was eventually pulled from the rubble, broken, but alive. It wasn’t his day to go, but it was Kevin’s.
He placed the wooden cross back in his pocket.
“I know you can’t hear me,” he said, staring at the patch of earth that held his friend’s body. “I’m trusting God will deliver this message.” He cleared his throat. “I remembered what you said to me that day, and all the days before, about Jesus, sin, and eternity. Anyway, I’ve been going to church and last night I made Jesus my Savior. I just wanted you to know… I’ll see you again.”
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