31 December 2009

MY Heroes of the Year: The families

Diane and Ken Fairben


Todd and Lisa Beamer


Katy Soulas addresses students at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School on Sept. 11. Her husband died in the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. Photos by Johanna Ginsberg

Katy Soulas addresses students at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School on Sept. 11. Her husband died in the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.

Photos by Johanna Ginsberg (read more here or here)


Most of us take our families for granted, expecting them to always be here, a part of our lives every day. For the families pictured above, their lives changed forever on September 11, 2001. In the aftermath of 9/11, the loved ones of those above were rightly hailed as heroes. I originally wrote about Diane and Ken's precious son Keith here, and Lisa Beamer's husband Todd became a very visible face of the loss we all suffered. Katy Soulas, mother of six and wife of Tim - also lost on 9/11 - has also been written about here.

What all of these families share, but what I have not seen written about, is that they are all HEROES, every single day. I saw Diane quoted somewhere (or maybe she said it to me ;) ) as saying that heroes are ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Looking at those pictures, you could - perhaps - be excused for thinking you are looking at ordinary people, but they ARE heroes. On that morning eight years ago, each of the family members of the 9/11 heroes could have no idea of how the events that unfolded would change their lives. And since that day, Diane and Ken, Lisa Beamer, Katy Soulas and so many more, have daily proved that heroes do always walk among us. Having been priviledged to hear the hearts of Diane and Ken, for instance, I know that none of the families would have chosen to be forever linked to 9/11, but it is how they have chosen to live their lives, in honour of their loved ones, that shows such heroism. In the face of such enormous tragedy and loss, it would have been so easy for them to crawl into a hole and shut out the world, and who could judge them for that? Not I.

A friend of mine said recently that this era of heroism began on 9/11, and so it did, but there are many other heroes in this Global War on Terror. Daniel Pearl's parents are also heroes. Their hearts broke as they watched, with all of us, their son being murdered and that heinous act was broadcast around the world.

Judea and Ruth Pearl formed a foundation to promote those values which Daniel lived.




Check that out here. Many of the family heroes have worked on a daily basis to be a voice for the values that their loved ones lived. To the mainstream media, the heroes we have lost are just statistics, or fodder for the 15 second soundbite on the evening news, but for these families - heroes every one - every day sees new opportunities to ensure that the emphasis is on how their loved ones LIVED. They are the keepers of the legacy, and the living embodiment of the difference their loved ones made in the world.

Since 9/11, many other families have lived heroic lives with courage, grace and such dignity. From where I sit, it is the families of our fallen heroes who deserve enormous credit as heroes. In England, families of the fallen are now being given the Elizabeth Cross, which I wrote about here. All the American 9/11 families were given the Medal of Valor by President George W Bush - the civilian equivalent of the military Medal of Honor. Yes, that is appropriate recognition, but merely a small token of the heroic lives the families must now live minute by minute, day by day, for the rest of their lives.

I have been blessed to meet and come to love more than a few family heroes. I have shared their lives here on occasion. Robert and the Stokely family spring to mind:


I have had the priviledge of meeting Robert, who humbles me by calling me his 'friend.' Robert daily proves to me what a hero he is, as he heads up the Mike Stokely Foundation here, which works to maintain the legacy that his beloved son Mike lived for. You really should go and read about Mike's life at that link. Mike's sister, Abbey, is also a hero every single day.




There are a whole lot more family heroes, of course, and you can meet just a few of them over at my place here.

1 comment:

Airlands said...

This topic has been floating in my mind for a while now. At first, I wanted to focus on how people can express their grief when they have experienced the loss of a loved one. However, I realized expressing grief is not always the emotion a person is trying to release. When you think of the person who has passed on, you shouldn't simply dwell on the present situation, but express and reminisce about the fond times you've had together as well.

Now you can create an online memorial to do just that: http://www.warmtribute.com