[If you've ever read my blog over on ERE, you know I write a piece for 9/11; why should it be any different on RBC?]
For the past 6 years, 9/11 began the same way for me: Wake at 5 AM, shower and decide which Jones Beach Lifeguard cap I’m going to place at the firefighter memorial sitting outside the Squad 1 firehouse in Park Slope.
This particular memorial was never caught up in a same pool of bureaucratic quicksand that has hampered nearly every 9/11 memorial; it was a gift from Oregon firefighters carved from a single stump of wood. On it, three silver plaques list the names of the 343 FDNY firefighters murdered. No billionaire real estate mogul’s ego, no politician attempting to rubber stamp their career with a towering monument of excess, simply the love and respect from fellow firefighters and Americans. As it should be.
In hindsight, I don’t know how I neither laughed nor cried as I approached the Brooklyn Bridge each previous year; the same clear blue sky that framed the towers seven years ago always seems to have presented itself yet every year I seem to have neurologically Photoshopped smoke plumes across the downtown New York sky. A silver bracelet listing the names of four friends who were murdered that day is my permanent 9/11 memorial that sits omnipresent on my left wrist: Dave Fontana
, my rowing partner, former Jones Beach lifeguard, and a firefighter from Squad 1 whose wedding anniversary was 9/11 and who was an exceptionally dear friend
; Billy Burke
, Captain of 21 Engine and another lifeguard, who had a knack of answering the telephone, “William Burke, your hero”
– and he wasn’t kidding: After ordering his men out of the building, he rushed back in…his body has never been found; Chris Maltby
, a former lifeguard, chick magnet and employee of Cantor Fitzgerald – as young men, we were fortunate to hang out with Chris during the summer: He was so handsome that we’d be happy - no ecstatic - to meet the women he would spurn; and Tom Palazzo
another former Jones Beach lifeguard: I didn’t know Tom as well but I do know his brothers and sisters and especially one of his nephews, Ian Grunke (also a Jones Beach Lifeguard as is his mom, Betina), and if character ever runs in a family, it does so for the Palazzo’s.
Just like hearing a song of a favorite musician of someone you love or seeing their car model drive past after you’ve broken off a long term relationship, I’m always seeing the number 343, even after all these years. When I wake early in the morning, it is invariably at 3:43 AM; watch the movie Frequency
and take a look at the street address of the house
lived in by Dennis Quaid’s firefighter character. On and on.
When I think of all the people murdered in New York, DC and Pennsylvania, I can’t help but think of not only the families and friends but of all intellectual possibilities destroyed: A cure for MS, for cancer, a Nobel Peace prize, an influential politician, a teacher who inspired hundreds, a community activist who changed neighborhoods. Nearly 3,000 people who could have impacted the world…
Wouldn’t you as recruiters just have loved to interview Todd Beamer
, a person so full of character, a person so powerful that he banded together with others to take down a plane that was sure to hit the White House? Can you imagine delving into the person who wrote emails to the very end – “It doesn’t look like I’m going to make it, I love you”
– like Chris and Tom managed to send before the towers collapsed?
So today, think about the people who left us on September 11, 2001; ponder how much they could have accomplished. And in their honor, when you interview someone today, pay special attention to the person’s character. Don't settle.