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9/11 victims more than just numbers

This month we took time to remember the 19th anniversary of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. I wrote about these individuals 19 years ago and I would like to re-introduce some of the people of Sept. 11. Our prayers go out to these families who lost someone then or through the war on terror later. My first wife and I were in New York on the one-month anniversary of the tragedy, to do what little we could to comfort. This is my opportunity to vent. There have been several anniversaries since that day, but still it looms large over our lives. After 19 years, it’s still an honor to speak about it. I also was honored to be a part of Temple Shalom’s 9/11 service at the Firefighters Memorial, along with other religious leaders. A few years ago there was an arson attack on the Islamic Center in Fort Pierce, Fla., on the 9/11 anniversary; it appears that not only we remember that anniversary, but our enemies do as well.

We have seen it on TV, we have read it in the newspapers and heard it on the radio, but unless you knew someone personally, it may not seem real to you yet. I have talked to some people in the Ohio Valley who say, “I don’t know anyone that died in that tragedy!” The tragedy seems big, it almost seems like it was a movie. We are all sickened by the event as Americans, but with the help of The New York Times and other resources I would like to personally introduce you to three of the thousands of victims.

The first one I would like to introduce to you is Mary Herencia. She is remembered according to the paper for her cough, a theatrical, throat-clearing “a-hem!” She used it every morning to get her four boys out of bed and on their way to school. My own mother, Mrs. Cummings, would call you three times, the next time she would pour a cup of cold water on your head. You made sure you got up the next time. I don’t know what Mary’s next step was, but the paper said that the boys knew that malingering in bed beyond that signal could be dangerous, unless you were really, truly sick.

“She was very tough, but she was also gentle, and that captured it for me,” said her son, Joseph. Herencia was 47, her nickname I am told was Molly. She was a mother of four boys, including a set of twins that she raised by herself in Manhattan. I am sure that every single mother in the Ohio Valley can relate to her situation. It did not appear to me from the article that she was rich, but somehow she made it. It is our prayer that now that she is gone, her four children will pick up the struggle of life and come out a great success. Oh yes, as far as her job, she was an insurance broker at Aon for the last 10 years, with her office in the World Trade Center. Perhaps if she would have lived she would be getting ready to retire. I hope that with all the problems they had getting the 9/11 money to the victim’s families; I hope her sons were not overlooked.

Another one of the many victims on that day was Andrew Fisher. He sounded like a fun kind of guy. They told the story of how one day he was driving his family to Kennedy International Airport in August when he noticed that his newly wed sister, Maria, was still carrying her bouquet. He pulled over to the curb, opened the door, and made everyone get out. Then, as angry drivers honked, he gleefully snapped pictures of the bride tossing her bouquet.

“It was funny,” said Christina Fisher, the sister who caught the bouquet. “My brother was kind of a big kid. He always had a need for laughter and was very playful. That was the side of him that I miss most.” I think we all have a brother, son, uncle, or friends like Andy. I felt a special kinship with him because he was the same age as me, 42 at the time. I would like to believe he still had a lot of living to do. I am sure when he went to work that day, as a sales manager for Imagine Software, he never dreamed that the World Trade Center would be attacked that day or any day. Another reason I felt a kinship to him was because of all the traveling that I heard he did. In the year of 2001 I traveled more than I had ever before in my life. Andrew traveled a lot more than I did; he had lived in Amsterdam; Sydney, Australia; and Edmonton, Alberta; before settling into the East Side of Manhattan. Now a part I could not relate to was his ability to swim, I read that he swam laps every day. All I can do is sink like a rock. He was so humble, (just like me, smile) that he never told his family how he fared; they must have assumed he did not do well. When his family unpacked his gym bag, they found a third-place medal under his goggles and swimming trunks.

Have you ever heard of these dishes: Corn pudding, barbequed chicken, fried chicken, turkey wings, collard greens mixed with kale and turnip greens, banana pudding, peach cobbler, and yellow and green squash with onions? The next more important question is, “Have you ever tasted them?” If you did you had a party in your mouth. I remember some of these dishes from my youth — I am happy for every chance I get to have some. One of the victims of 9/11 was a young lady named Yvette Anderson. Her dream was simple but wonderful. It was to open a restaurant and serve these dishes. She never got a chance to delight her friends and well-wishers with her dream.

It is my dream that these profiles will make the events of that day, and the soldiers who are fighting a little more personal. As the lives of more than 1,000 U.S. lives have been lost in Iraq and in other areas, let us pray more earnestly and work harder for peace in our world and our community. If we don’t, other dreamers and dreams will die too soon. What has happened to others can happen to us. We pray for all the candidates who are seeking the office of the president of the United States. God bless America!

(Cummings is pastor of Shiloh Apostolic Faith Assembly in Weirton.)

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