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Posts Tagged ‘Drew Stein’

Like so many, my thoughts are turning to the tenth anniversary of the attacks on our country which forever changed my sense of safety, my assumptions around what it meant to live in the U.S., and my appreciation for life itself.  Ten years ago, serving as the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Director of Electronic Communication, I found out that something was wrong when Alison Miller, now a minister and then, an intern in our stewardship office, ran through the hall saying that New York was under attack.  Alison was a native of New York, so this was personal for her.  I tried to bring up CNN on my browser.  Nothing.  The New York Times – wouldn’t load.  NBC news – same story.  I knew that we were experiencing a major crisis, just because of that.

As the horrible events of the day unfolded, we all watched the grainy television in the staff lounge in horror.  For a while, we thought that one of our staff members was on one of the planes that went down.  With huge relief, we found out that – at the last minute – she had taken an earlier flight to the west coast.  Our President, Bill Sinkford, was in Washington, DC.  We learned that he would speak at All Souls Church that night, and that, along with a beautiful reflection from Meg Riley on how we talk with our children about such tragedies, became the beginning of UUA.org’s extensive coverage of the tragic events.

Our building, next to the Massachusetts State House, was closed due to security concerns.  I went home, and with the one other staff person in our office, began outlining what our web coverage of this unspeakable disaster would be.  My routine was to work till I could not do so any longer, stop for food or to watch something on the news or to kiss my daughter (we were very careful not to watch television, listen to the radio, or have the papers out while Abby was around:  this is not the news you want to share with small children, we decided), and then work again.  I would fall into bed, exhausted, and rise three hours later, going back to work again.  My colleague, the parent of an infant, did the same.

Saddest of all, we decided to profile the Unitarian Universalists we could identify who had died on that horrible day.  I tracked down their survivors, and each phone call was the same.  I would introduce myself, offer them my deepest condolences on behalf of the Association, and then ask them to tell me about their loved one(s) who had died.  I asked for a photo, asked about memorial services.  I promised them we would not forget and vowed that I’d try to hold to my word on that one — offer the story of those people, their work, their lives, so that others might know them and also remember.  Then, I would hang up the phone, sob, and write the profile of each person.

The work went on for weeks this way, as more features went up on the web, worship resources, commentary, and more.  We were gratified when the Library of Congress notified us that its Minerva Project had decided to archive our September 11, 2001 website to preserve our work.  Today, as we approach the anniversary, I look back on that archived UUA site and wonder how it was we managed all that coverage with two staff people and no other resources to speak of.

And now, I know that there is at least one other name that should be added to the list of those who died as a result of the attacks:  Drew Stein, a member of the congregation I attend (First Parish in Lexington, MA), died this summer.  Drew lived in Manhattan in 2001, and his death, from sarcoidosis, was a result of the asbestos and other toxins he inhaled after the attacks.  Drew will be remembered formally in a service at First Parish in the coming months, but I want to mention his name now, so that we all will remember him when we think back on 9/11.

In my head, I keep hearing the words to the best-known song from the musical, “Rent,” which asks, “How do you measure a year in the life? …In day light, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee, in inches, in miles, in laughter in strife…how about love?”  The people we lost — all those people who the New York Times remembered, and those, like Drew, who have died since that day — had lives we could measure in different ways.  Gone now, I believe they mattered, that they were loved, loved others, and that we will continue to remember them.

On Sunday, I’ll be standing on the Battle Green in Lexington at 6 PM with members of many faith communities to mark the tenth anniversary.  I will think about those good people, what possibilities life yet holds for all of us who call the United States home, and I will remember.

I, like most of the people I know, am forever changed by what happened ten years ago.  I do not take things for granted; I try to look for the gifts each day holds.  And I know that the value of my life is always best measured in love.

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