As we weaved through the line, images of 9/11 dotted the walkway in signs and pamphlets, evoking those stored in the recesses of my brain.
It was our first visit to the 9/11 Memorial at the site of the former World Trade Center complex in lower Manhattan. Knowing we were scheduled for doctor appointments on Sept. 10, I downloaded passes to the memorial and planned our visit for that day. It was a good way to honor the memory of those who lost their lives on the fateful day, while reflecting on the value of human life.
As we walked around the reflection pools with the names of the lost etched in the tapered edges, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of courage.
Every name represented a courageous person who faced a terrifying end. Whether they were rescuers forging ahead into the burning Twin Towers or passengers aboard Flight 93, who thwarted an attack on the White House or dutiful employees reporting for work; each one exhibited courage.
These names also represent the courage of living family members who struggle to rebuild their lives after their loved ones are gone. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to go on with your life when a loved one has died. How much more courage does one need when your loved one is lost in such a senseless act of terror as 9/11?
It is so inspiring to read the stories of courage surrounding 9/11. The men and women who put aside their own fears to help another person remind us that courage and fear co-exist. There was no absence of fear that dreadful day; only courageous men and women who did what needed to be done in the face of fear.
The Psalms present courage, not merely as a quality to emulate but rather as a virtue that must be chosen as one waits on God for help.
“Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”(Psalm 27:14).
“Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord!”(Psalm 31:24)
In Jesus’ last conversations with his disciples He promises:
“In me you will have peace. In the world, you will have tribulations. But take courage, for I have overcome the world.”(John 16:33)
Courage is a choice of heart and mind rather than a feeling of boldness that comes over one who is strong. When we think of courage, we rightly think of those who fight in the military or those who stand in harm’s way to defend others. These are both examples of extraordinary courage.
The face of courage can also be found in the day to day lives of ordinary people who simply choose to love others in the midst of difficulty. Last night, I witnessed courage in the love of a husband for his elderly wife. Their audible tale of strife moved my heart to pity this beautiful couple. As his wife struggled to answer questions because of the pain of fractured bones, the husband filled in the details of their worrisome summer. Bone fractures, pneumonia and other medical problems debilitated his wife, causing them numerous surgeries and hospitalizations. But when the doctors and nurses left the room, sweet French lullabies filled the air, as this endearing man sang his beloved wife to sleep. Love was undergirded by courage in the midst of this struggle.
On Facebook I followed a young boy’s three-month journey from diagnosis to death as he courageously battled an aggressive brain tumor. Dressed as a super-hero with smiles ear to ear, he encouraged those around him to live each day with hope and gratitude. It took courage for him to face the treatments. It was courage that motivated his fearful parents to take each step day by day as they desperately tried everything to save their son. Their final act of courage came as they courageously kissed their son goodbye and trusted that one day they would see him again.
Every day we are surrounded by models of courage. We have to open our eyes and ears to find them. I recently discovered a quote about courage that is attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte:
“Courage isn’t having the strength to go on — it is going on when you don’t have strength.”
Bonaparte’s quote reminds us that we have to take courage — choose it even, especially in the face of fear. Courage is not only for those who are strong. Courage is found in the weak and the strong alike, in those who have the strength to continue and those who continue without strength. Memorials of exceptional heroes like those of 9/11 remind us to take courage and courage reminds us to take the next step. Young and old alike, especially in the face of fear; heroes are born from courage.
Eileen Benthal has a B.A. in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer, speaker and wellness coach at 40DaysToFocus.com and NOFO Wellness Center. She works with clients locally and around the U.S. who are excited about balancing their health in body, mind and spirit.
Eileen and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, 16-year-old Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org andfacebook.com/40DaysToFocus.