In the Presence of Heroes

In the Presence of Heroes

After my day Friday, I did not want to get up at 5 am Saturday morning to chaperone my Daisy Girl Scout Troop at the Tunnel to Towers run.  

I am so glad I did. 

T2T is a race in honor of a young man who ran from the Brooklyn Tunnel to the Twin Towers in his 60 pounds of gear, only to die when the towers came down. 

Each student and Scout along Forsyth Park waved a flag, gave high fives and encouragement, and wore a placard with the picture of a uniformed rescuer who died that day. Many runners do the race in full turn out gear, in honor of those who did it for real. 

One of our Daisy Scouts was wearing the sign for FDNY Engine 226’s Stanley Smagala, Jr. 

About halfway through the race, a firefighter in gear who was jogging across the the road from us, cut across the road, and ran straight for Lauren. He knelt down, and used two fingers to place a kiss on her placard, and quietly, said, “My brother, Stan.” 

He stood, never taking his eyes off Lauren’s sign, touched his heart, turned and took off again. 

Lauren turned around, looked at her mom and me, confused, and asked, “Why’d he do that?”

Her mom responded, “He called him by name. He knew him.” Lauren turned back around to the race– she’s five, and most of our scouts aren’t really old enough to understand the level of sacrifice of the firefighters and rescuers that day. 

I’m not sure any of us are. 

Lauren’s mom and I looked at each other, both of us with tears in our eyes, and chill bumps down our arms. 

It happened so quickly– maybe less than 10 seconds–but I’m still thinking about that man, and will for a long time, and how he ran that race, his dead brother on his mind, looking for Stanley Smagala, Jr’s picture, to find it on one of my little Daisy Scouts. 

The emotional strength it must have taken him to run that race without tears, and with such steady concentration, I cannot imagine. 

I also cannot imagine the kind of courage it takes someone to move forward after losing someone to such a loss. 

I do not remember his face. 

Or what insignia he wore. 

Or when he might have finished the race. 

I even had to check with Lauren’s mom to be sure of the details before I wrote this. And none of the eight parents with me that day got a picture of him. 

It’s just as well.  

I will forever remember his touching tribute to his brother Stan, and how for a brief second, we were in the company of heroes. 

*********************

For more information on the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, visit their website at http://www.tunnel2towers.org.  

This is not the firefighter I’m talking about in this post, but he exemplifies many of the firefighters that ran the race. Plus I really like this picture.
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