A while ago I watched CNN Heroes, an awards show that honors people who are saving the world.
The first Hero honored was Maria Ruiz, a Texas woman who works the night shift, then comes home every morning to feed her five children breakfast and walk them to school. Then, instead of sleeping, she packs up her van with food and drives to the Mexican border. She waits at the border for three hours each way, to deliver food to the hungry children of Juarez, Mexico. Every day.
The second Hero was Yohannes Gebregeorgis, who established “Ethiopia Reads,” which provides public libraries and literacy programs to impoverished Ethiopian children.
Next was Carolyn LeCroy from Norfolk Virginia, who started the “Messages Project,” helping children stay in touch with incarcerated parents through video messages.
Next came Viola Vaughn. She moved from Detroit to Senegal to retire, but when a group of kids asked her for help with their classes, she began a program that has helped hundreds of Sengali girls graduate from school and start successful businesses.
After each Hero’s story was told, he or she would accept a trophy and give a speech. The audience, made up of celebrities and regular Joes, clapped earnestly in their seats and wiped stray tears here and there.
And then Christina Aguilera came on stage and sang the song “Beautiful.”
And as soon as she was done singing, the entire audience rose to their feet to offer a three minute standing ovation …FOR THE FIRST TIME ALL EVENING.
I sat stunned on my couch, hoping that maybe I’d missed the announcement that Ms. Aguilera had just cured cancer.
Nope. She just sang really, really well. Heroically well.
This, my friends, confuses me.
I’m not saying…I’m just saying.
Ceecee Lyles, Flight 93 flight attendant, 33 years old, in an answering-machine message to her husband: “Please tell my children that I love them very much. I’m sorry, baby. I wish I could see your face again.”
Tom Burnett, on United 93, called his wife Deena: “We’re all going to die, but three of us are going to do something. . . I love you, honey.”
Todd Beamer, on United 93, prayed on the phone with a stranger,Verizon Airfone supervisor Lisa Jefferson. She said hewas calm. They said the Lord’s Prayer together. Then he said,“Let’s roll.”
Elizabeth Rivas, at the Laundromat when the planes hit the WTC, called home to see if her husband who worked in the WTC had called. Her child reported that he had called: “He said, Mami, he loves you no matter what happens. He loves you. That’s it.”
Capt. Walter Hynes,of NYPD Ladder 13, dialed home that morning as his rig left the firehouse at 85th Street and Lexington Avenue for the WTC: “I don’t know if we’ll make it out. I want to tell you that I love you and I love the kids.”
Because of September 11, Bill Cahir, at age 34, sought an age waiver to enlist in the Marines. This month, on his third tour while patrolling the Helmand province, Sgt. Cahir was killed. AsCahir was laidat Arlington, Marines handed the flag to his bride – pregnant with their twins. A dozen men stood in the back of the chapel and were the last to leave; they had traveled hundreds of miles to be there, wearing their FDNY dress uniforms, to honor a hero.
We remember you. We honor you. We will be the last to leave.