the Unending Journey of the Wandering Author

A chronicle of the unending journey of the Wandering Author through life, with notes and observations made along the way. My readers should be aware I will not censor comments that disagree with me, but I do refuse to display comment spam or pointless, obscene rants. Humans may contact me at thewanderingauthor at yahoo dot com - I'll reply as I am able.

Location: New England, United States

I have always known I was meant to write, even when I was too young to know the word 'author'. When I learned that books were printed, I developed an interest in that as well. And I have always been a wanderer, at least in my mind. It's not the worst trait in an author. For more, read my writing; every author illuminates their heart and soul on the pages they write upon.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering Lindsay Coates Herkness III

This is a very painful piece for me to write, but I believe the least I can do for Lindsay Coates Herkness, who lost his life ten years ago today, is to publicly admit just how much I owe him, even though I only "met" him years after his death.

Five years ago, I decided to take part in the 2996 Project, an effort by bloggers to honour each of the victims of America's greatest tragedy on the fifth anniversary of that day. I was assigned a tribute, which I wrote and posted, but then I learned that some of the bloggers who had signed up to write a tribute never did so. Those of us who took our responsibilities seriously were horrified, thinking of the families who might seek out their loved one's tribute, only to find nothing. So some of us agreed to research, and to write, tributes for these victims as quickly as we could.

I was given the name of Lindsay Coates Herkness III, with the mission of researching his life and writing his tribute literally overnight. I am ashamed to confess this next truth, but I must, in order to explain what Lindsay taught me, even after his death. When I began to research him, I discovered that he was someone I'd formed a poor opinion of in the days immediately following the disaster. He was the man who remained in his office, refusing to leave, until one of the Port Authority security officers went up to bring him down. Both men died when the tower collapsed.

The fact that I wasn't the only person to criticise him when I heard the news report about the rich financier who 'got a poor security guard killed' is no consolation. You see, whatever prior opinion I'd formed about him, I believed that I owed it to Lindsay himself, and to his family and friends, to learn whatever I could and to write the best tribute for him that I honestly could. So I sat up, in the middle of the night, reading about his life, and reading the comments people who had known him left on various memorial sites. In the process, a very different picture emerged from the man I'd been so quick to criticise.

It became obvious that he was the type of man others relied on, whose calm refusal to leave would have helped to keep others calm. It was also obvious he must have known this, or at least guessed it, and his "foolish" decision was in reality the best thing he could have done to prevent a panic. Remembering my own arrogant judgment of his actions, and the fact that many others had made similar remarks at the time, I wrote his tribute in such a way that, I hope, anyone who had misunderstood his actions would be convinced he had in fact done nothing wrong. At the time, as tired as I was, that was the best I could do.

But since then, I've remembered Lindsay at times, especially in early September, but on other occasions as well. And I've remembered just what he taught me, even though he had already been dead for five years at the time. I learned how very easy it is to criticise someone else, even when you're wrong. I learned how arrogant, how judgmental, I could be, even towards a man who paid with his life for his choice. I learned how easy it is to attack someone with the benefit of hindsight. I learned just how important it is to try to view something from the other person's point of view before you make up your mind why they acted as they did.

So, I'm sorry, Lindsay. This is my public apology to you. You taught me a great deal, and I owe you more than I could repay even if you were alive. I hope someone else may read this, and learn from my mistake - and remember your life, and the choices that you made, and do better than I did that awful day. You were a generous and a gracious man, so I'm sure you would have forgiven me, if you had the chance. Thank you for that, and for what you've taught me. I wish I could have known you.

Remembering Francis Esposito, FDNY

I never knew Francis Esposito while he was alive. I "met" him in the summer of 2006, when I was researching my tribute for him as part of the 2,996 Project to commemorate the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Since that time, I have thought of him often, especially as the anniversary of that terrible day approaches each year. I think of his sacrifice, and I think of what the world lost when he died.

Our world has changed so much in just ten years. Yet if we spent more time reflecting on what men like Frank have taught us, we might make the world a much better place than it is today. "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (Testament of John, Chapter 15, verse 13) Francis Esposito offered us one example of what such love looks like. He marched into a blazing tower, a sight so terrifying that I, safe in front of a television in Massachusetts, was consumed by fear and dread. He marched in to save the lives of others, knowing he might never come out again.

How many people owe their lives to him? We'll never know the exact number, but that isn't as important as the lesson we can learn from his life, and the manner of his death. Every time we remember his bravery in the face of something much worse than anything which will ever confront most of us, and march on, we honour Frank and the way he lived his life. Every time we think of how much he sacrificed to help others in peril, and set aside our own personal desires to aid someone else who needs our help, we respect his memory and add just a little bit more to his legacy. Those of us who weren't in those towers, who weren't even in New York, that day still owe him much more than I can ever express, for setting the example that he did, for making the sacrifice that he did.

So, please, take a moment to think of Frank Esposito, and to pray for him and for his family. And when you go on, let his example make you a little better than you were before you learned about him.