I have been incredibly moved by seeing men at their best, in responding to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Paid firefighters and policemen were doing what they were paid to do, to rescue people, search for survivors, bring out bodies for grieving families, and make the area safe. They put their bodies and lives on the line. New York City has almost 300 killed or missing firefighters or policemen. I join with their families and friends and a grateful America in mourning their loss.
Who else was lost? How many civilians delayed their own escape to try and help others out, or went back in to try and guide others out before rescue teams could get to them? We will never know.
I was struck by several compelling images as I sat glued to the TV the first night of the tragedy. The fireman who was with 8 others, helping people out of the tower when the second plane hit. He dove under a truck, and was buried alive for 15 minutes. He said he didn't know what happened to his 7 co-rescuers ... but he did.
Dr. David Heath, who videotaped, and then wandered through the dust-cloud, unable to see anything, asking "Does anyone need a doctor?"
The firefighter who had grabbed the only boots available at a nearby firehouse, then worked for 12 solid hours, and was unable to stand at the end for all the blisters on his feet.
The gang of hard-hatted construction workers, who marched downtown and volunteered to go into the mess to cut and lift steel, or do whatever else they could, to try and free victims.
The many, many heroes who rushed into danger to help others.
I was moved to tears again tonight during another TV segment covering this tragedy. It focused on the volunteers, men who did not need to be there.
One was a male nurse. "My brother was on the 92nd floor." "Can you process that?" the woman reporter asked? "No I can't," he said with a sad yet resolved look on his face. Then he turned back and walked away. He could not talk, but he found his voice by moving into action.
A volunteer firefighter from Bucks County threw his turnout gear into his car and rushed off to save people he didn't know, in a city that was not his home.
A firefighter said "This is the best job going." "Even now?" the reporter asked. "Now more than ever."
"What about your wife, your kids?" another woman reporter asked the firefighter. "When I'm here, my buddies are my wife, my kids, my family, my brothers." The single-pointed focus. When I'm here and I can do it, there's a job to be done, and I'll think of nothing else. I'll do what needs to be done.
The reporter found that as the rescue wore on, there were fewer and fewer men willing to take time out to talk to her. She said that these are men who have run out of words, who "use their work as their voice."