The Eternal Legacy of 9/11

The 9/11 memorial coverage always makes me remember a moving Bruce Springsteen song titled, “Into the Fire” that was written (at least I assume) in the perspective of a loved one who lost a firefighter in those New York City Towers:

The sky was falling and streaked with blood

I heard you calling me, and then you disappeared

Into dust

Up the stairs, into the fire

Up the stairs, into the fire

Amid that day’s horrific events, I am always deeply moved by accounts of the many men and women who gave their lives to save others: From the office manager who died as he held the stairwell door open so that his coworkers could exit safely, to Todd Beamer’s heroic “Let’s roll”, the countless stories of self-sacrifice and courage reflect a divine strain embedded in the very DNA of humanity.

A quality far more powerful than terror.

Yes, there is something about those firefighters choosing to charge up the stairwells of the burning towers that can stir the soul of the most hardened cynic. Their heroism reminds me of an Old Testament story of three friends who stood before a tyrant and faced a similar furnace. It is a moment of bravery that affirms, “even if God doesn’t deliver us from your fiery furnace — this is the right choice.”

I think these are the moments that truly resonate across eternity. As Jesus affirms in the Gospel of John, “This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.”

Each September that passes I am reminded that the eternal legacy of those dark hours will never reside in the acts of terror, but in the light of hundreds of men and women who looked into that fire and made the choice to put others ahead of their own well-being.

Even 20 years later, Springsteen’s song is still one of the works of art that can best remind us all why the aims of terror fell to resounding defeat that day:

I need you near, but love and duty

Called you someplace higher,

Somewhere up the stairs, Into the fire

May your strength give us strength

May your faith give us faith

May your hope give us hope

May your love give us love…

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