September 12, 2001
Like most of the country, I was still in complete shock and disbelief the morning after. I wanted to just pull the covers over my head and pretend it wasn't real, yet as the Executive Director of the American Heart Association, I had an obligation to be accessible to my staff. I doubt that anyone really accomplished much that day, but we were together. About 2:30 my phone rang. It was TJ. Over the years, I've trained my kids to call me at the office only when it's something that can't wait until I get home, so I knew it was important. I answered and he said matter of factly, "Mom, President Bush wants us to fly a flag to show how strong we are. Can you stop and get one on your way home?" "No problem," I replied.
First I stopped at the local hardware. I loved going in there. It smelled just like my grandfather's store in New York. No flags. Then I went to Target, followed by Wal-Mart. No flags. Then I checked the yellow pages for flag stores. No flags. I drove home feeling deflated. I was going to have to tell my son, "No Flags." I hated not being able to come through for TJ. He never complained, but I knew he recognized his life was not like his friends. He was the sibling, not by choice, of a medically fragile sister with Down syndrome. He had to put up with the constant attention she required, the frequent hospital visits, even the 911 calls in the middle of the night.
And that's when it hit me. THE FLAG. We have my grandfather's flag. The New York Fire Chief's flag. I know my grandfather would have had his men on a truck heading for the city to help the minute that second plane hit the Tower. That's just the kind of man he was. So with the help of my husband and the kids, we delicately opened the case, unfolded the flag and carefully hung it on our house in support of the thousands of men and women our fine country lost that day. We hung it especially in support of all the families of the brave fire fighters who gave of their lives serving others.