This year hits different. My dad was so SO proud to have been a firefighter. Retired at the time, when chaos and tragedy unfolded on September 11, 2001, his first instinct was to run toward it. Him, and his also retired buddies, grabbed their old gear, got on the Staten Island ferry, and spent about a week on The Pile trying to rescue whoever they could.
Losing him this year to cancer – caused by everything he breathed in down there – has been just the Saddest Thing Ever. His diagnosis, treatment, and passing was fast, furious, and brutal. Three months.
Today my grief is raw and messy, the sadness desperately clawing at my insides, a permanent lump in my throat. That grief, however, coexists with knowing that he, as my best friend put it, “was the guy who showed up and helped every time.” And he was. Whether I was moving, someone needed something fixed or a neighbor’s tree was on fire, he was always the guy who helped.
I am eternally grateful we did not lose him 21 years ago. But I am greedy. I want more time with him. We will always ALWAYS want more time with our people.
He was immensely proud to serve this city and help as many people as he could. A New Yorker through and through, his legacy – his selflessness – is inextricably woven into the story of New York. My heart is sad, but my heart is full and I am so SO proud that he was my dad. So toast to Gerard, and all the Helpers, today – but god help you if you use a straw in your cocktail. Gerard would have something to say about THAT.
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