I'm going to post this tonight, just in the off chance that I'm not able to do so tomorrow.
Two years ago, I joined this thing called the 2,996 project. 2,996 people took a name and wrote about a person on their blog. Some of you may remember it, some of you might have been a part of it (Jennster, Becky, Alissa, Kristin?) and some of you might have no clue what I'm talking about.
We wrote about someone we'd never met. A man or woman, any race, age or religion; we didn't know until we were given the name. The name was of a person who died on September 11th. Seven years have gone by since that day, but I'll never forget. (It is weird to think that I could possibly have this baby tomorrow.) Two years have gone by, but I've never forgotten the man whose name I was given to write about. I will always remember him and wonder about his family. I will always hope that his boys grow up to be good strong men; men their dad would be proud of.
Agree with the war, don't agree with the war. Obama or McCain; Biden or Palin. None of it matters in remembering the people who died on that day. This day is a day to remember the men, women and children who lost their lives and to remember the ones left behind.
This man, he got into my heart. I'd never met him and I'm sure I'll never meet his family, but they touched me forever. We did it too remember and I know I always will.
Thomas J. Kennedy
When I signed up for the 2,996 project, I had no idea which name would be sent to me. I didn't know if I'd get a man, woman or child. I didn't know if that person would be young or old. From America or from another country. It didn't really matter to me. I just wanted to be able to remember someone who was no longer here. I also wanted to be a part of something wonderful. I feel that this tribute is wonderful. When we talk about people who are no longer with us, it keeps their memory alive. At least that's what my mother always told me and I have no reason to doubt this.
What I didn't know in accepting a name was that the person would get into my world. The name I though I was getting, became a person. A man, with a life and people who loved him. A man, not to much different from my husband, brothers or dads. And he got in. I let him in. As I searched the web for him, I found more and more. Just small things here and there, but the pieces came together like a puzzle. As I found more pieces, I grew more attached. How funny to grow emotionally attached to a man you've never met. But I did anyway. That's when I started getting worried about this post. Could I do it right? Could I make you feel the way I do about this man? To care about him, even thought you'd never heard his name? Well, I'll have to give it a try.
Thomas J. Kennedy (Tom) was born on January 24, 1965 at 12:45pm. He was born in the car right in front of the hospital. His parents, Eileen and Bill had trouble getting there in time because of a bad snowstorm. He had two older brothers, Brian and Bob. He had blond hair and "the bluest eyes in the world" according to his mom. She also has said on his memorial site that he was funny, always cracking jokes and a gentle patient man who everyone loved. His father, Bill said that he loved all babies and kids and they tended to gravitate towards him, because he spoke to them like they were adults. (I found his mom's email address, but choose not to bother her.) He also loved to ski and be on boats.
Tom was married to a woman named Allison and had two baby boys, Michael and James, who were two and 10 months when their father died. I couldn't find Michael's birthday, but by guessing, I'd say he is 7 years old today. James will be five on November 17th. He was a hands on dad who loved to spend time with his boys, bathing them and reading them Goodnight Moon every night. This is the same book, we've read to Morgan and Bailey their entire lives. I read somewhere that he wanted to have five kids, but two was all he was around long enough to have. His eyes lit up every time he told someone about his boys. His aunt said she'd never seen him happier than on the days his sons were born. He loved being a husband and father.
Tom was at the World Trade Center that day because he was a firefighter with the Ladder Company 101 in Brooklyn. His company was one of the first on the scene because their firehouse was just across the east river from downtown Manhattan. There were seven guys "brothers" who went in together. None of them made it out. They all died heroes, having saved many lives that day. Tom when in to try and save more people, when the towers fell. He died doing what he loved, what he lived for. Even before she knew what had happened to her husband, Allison knew that he wasn't afraid to go into the fire. She said "they were all excited to go into the fire. That's what they live for." "They didn't have fear, that we as civilians would have. They didn't ever think they wouldn't come out of a fire, ever." He had no way of knowing that September 11th, 2001 would be the last day of his life. That it would be the last day he'd ever seen his wife and sons. That he'd die a hero. And I can't say it for certain, but even knowing it, he may have gone in anyway. It is what firefighters do. He was a firefighter, it is their job to protect people. They all know the risk. Everyday when they go to work, they are putting themselves at risk. For us. For people who they don't know.
Everything I read about Tom was a glowing blurb of his life. People he'd saved through the years. People who thought they were going to die, but instead he came to their rescue. Some called him a hero, others an angel. There were stories from family and friends. Stories about fishing with nephews, playing hide and seek with his nieces, skiing with friends, being there for his family. Everyone said how wonderful his boys are, that his wife is doing a wonderful job with them. There are wonderful stories about her too. People say that their son Michael looks like her, but James is the spitting image of him. People tell stories about the boys too, how big they are, smart and sweet and caring and how they are each others best friends. I'm sure Tom would love to know that. In fact, he probably does.
Tom never saw his youngest son walk. Never walked his boys into pre-school or kindergarten. Never taught his boys to ride bikes, read, catch fish. He'll never get to teach them to drive or how to be nice to girls. He won't be there when they get married and have babies of their own. He would be 41 years old today. Thomas J. Kennedy was a father, husband, son, grandson, uncle, nephew, friend, firefighter and a hero.
Tom did indeed die a hero, but he was a hero in life too.