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ONE THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY STEPS TO HEAVEN

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That is the number of stairs in the 110 flights of stairs the first responders climbed eighteen years ago One thousand, nine hundred and eighty stairs up and one thousand nine hundred and eighty stairs down. Life changing, life altering, life ending. Two thousand nine hundred and seventy-seven people died in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and Flight 93. Three hundred and forty-three were fire fighters, twenty-three were police officers, and thirty-seven Port Authority Officers. Only one thousand six hundred and fortyfour of the lost have been identified as of July of this year. It took 3.1 million hours of labor to clean up 1.8 million tons of debris. The total cost of cleanup was $750 million. As we think back on that day, eighteen years ago, it is difficult to realize that there will be young adults graduating from high school this year that were not on this earth when the towers fell. As news stories go, remarkable stories hold our attention for increasingly shorter periods of time with each passing year and each new iteration of technology. Add to that, the ability to use social media, “bots” and other spurious technology to send outrageous stories flying across computers from Bangladesh to Boston and who is to say how this event will hold up with the passage of time? So not unlike so many other things that we used to expect our government to take care of, events like these are ours to protect and pass on so that the courage and the sacrifice of 343 fire fighters and 23 police officers, and literally hundreds, perhaps thousands that have come after them will never lose its command over our hearts and our spirits. It is beyond important that we tell their stories to the young people who will one day take our places so that they can feel the pride and the sense of loss that comes with the knowledge that four hundred and three individuals walked up those one thousand nine hundred and eighty stairs as the rest of humanity made their way down. The loss of life that day was unbearably tragic. The revelation that our country was that vulnerable was life altering. But the courage; the unhesitating sacrifice, the humility required to make that climb must not ever be forgotten because it is valor that we should all aspire to. We need stories like that . We need heroes like that – to remind us of our better selves as we navigate the challenges and opportunities that life gives us. I remember these little hand-held clickers that I would see people using in grocery stores as they counted the goods on the shelves. They still make them – simple little clickers with which to count things. No technology required, just your thumb. I found that they actually sell them on Amazon.com and I ordered ten of them. I turn 70 this month so I figure I have another ten years in me easily. So., I am going to carry one of those clickers around with me and count every stair I climb until I reach one thousand nine hundred and seventy-seven and then I am going to count four hundred and three more. And when I am done, I am going to give it to my grandchild, if I have one, or to my god child Gavin, so that he can start to count his stairs. Imagine if each of us who remembers that day would do that. Just count your stairs as they present themselves to you, knowing you will be able to count four hundred and three more than they did that day. Appreciation is a fleeting thing. Perhaps it would be meaningful to a young person; perhaps not. Perhaps you could tell them, “Now you know exactly how many steps it takes to get to Heaven.”

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