Monday, September 16, 2013

Triumph In Tragedy

I stood there talking to a four-year old - about running.
She had just finished the kids' Fun Run at the Stephen Ward 911 Memorial 5K. I told her I was an official high fiver at the event and that she could be my first high five of the day. She obliged me.
She told me she was four, holding up her four fingers.  I told how impressed I was at her running at such a young age. I joked that I didn't start running until I was 20 - and I quit soon thereafter.
Later in the day when I got home, I thought about that little girl again. She didn't even know my friend Steve, who was in the World Trade Center that day 12 years ago. She wasn't even old enough to be alive on that day. It is hard for me to imagine someone not witnessing or understanding what we all went through that day.
Yet, this little girl was running, so were so many other young kids, whether it be in the Fun Run or in the 5K. Many of them likely were just doing it for fun and had little understanding of the role they played Sunday. But someday, they will.
The race was organized by Steve's sisters and family. The money raised goes to a scholarship. Their intent was to do something positive in the devastating wake of tragedy.
Students of the future will benefit from these efforts and hopefully, they'll have the chance at the full rewarding life of which Steve was robbed.
The event went beyond the scholarship money though. It was a wonderful opportunity for a family, friends and community to not only support Steve but also each other. It wasn't a solemn occasion. It was a celebration - of Steve's life as well as our own. It was a unification of our loss and sadness. It was also a marshaling of forces for good and right.
We've all suffered loss. Grief isn't a solitary endeavor, at least it shouldn't be. Life is full of hardship and tragedy.
As I've said many times,  our lives can't be defined by our falls, failures and trials. We should be defined by how we rise above those struggles, no matter how tragic and heartbreaking.
I see so many people that have faced some sort of adversity. They've condemned themselves to living in that horrible moment or be forever controlled by that particular struggle.They never get past what happened. They never move on from it. Their lives become defined and dictated by something negative - primarily because they allow it to.
I've also seen people that have risen above. They moved past their adversity. They've used it to motivate them. They've used it to be stronger. They've vowed to learn from the challenges of life and live in the light instead of stuck in the their darkness. From the ashes, a new fire burns and rebuilding begins.

Steve's family was devastated by his loss. I can't imagine what that has been like. Grief is hard enough but when it is as public as something like this, I can't even fathom it. They've endured and persevered with great love, grace and strength.
There can be triumph in tragedy.  And the running of this race every year, allows us to not only continue to grieve but also move forward in a positive way. We honor Steve's memory and his place in all our lives. We join together to support each other and heal as a community. There's a great power in numbers, especially unified for something good.
The acts of 911 were born from hatred and closed minds. And the world is still full of the same kind of evil and divisiveness.  Sunday's race came from love and open hearts. It was a community rallying together.  That is what must carry us all forward amidst the darkness.
My four-year friend doesn't understand all that now. She will someday. Eventually, she'll recall running and she'll realize why and what it was truly all about.
 Life is a long race. We'll all stumble. We'll all fall. We can all get back up again. We can run this race together. We can finish. And we can high five at the end.
"From the pain come the dream. From the dream come the vision. From the vision come the people. From the people come the power. From this power come the change." ... Fourteen Black Paintings, Peter Gabriel

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