By Denise Olsen
Wife of a fire fighter lost on 9/11 and a member of our staff
It has been 13 years since our country was attacked. 13 long years filled with ups and downs. My husband, Jeff Olsen, was a NYC firefighter. He was stationed at the firehouse across the street from the World Trade Center and was lost that day. He was 31 years old. We had 3 children—Vincent: 8 years old, Tori Rose: 3 years old, and Noah: 18 months old. I could barely breathe. The pain of my broken heart was actually physical and I had no idea how I would survive.
He was and is my “why" and in 13 years, I have learned. I have learned that for every bad person in this world, there is a hero. I have learned that faith and hope are sometimes all you have. I have learned that you need to allow people to help you and love you--it heals them, too. But most importantly, I have learned that pain is a powerful energy.
We don’t always get to choose what happens to us, but we get to choose how we handle it. In honor of my husband’s life and the lives of all those who were lost that day and in the years following 9/11 until now, I have chosen to turn my pain into power. I choose to celebrate their lives instead of focusing on their death. I encourage you to do the same; be grateful for the love you shared even if it was for just a short time. Find strength in their strength. Never give up hope. Always remember, they live forever through us...
I read this passage today and I am including it because I couldn't have said it better myself:
Grief can destroy you—or focus you. You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. OR you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn’t allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it. But when it’s over and you’re alone, you begin to see that it wasn’t just a movie and a dinner together, not just watching sunsets together, not just scrubbing a floor or washing dishes together or worrying over a high electric bill. It was everything, it was the why of life, every event and precious moment of it. The answer to the mystery of existence is the love you shared sometimes so imperfectly, and when the loss wakes you to the deeper beauty of it, to the sanctity of it, you can’t get off your knees for a long time, you’re driven to your knees not by the weight of the loss but by the gratitude for what preceded the loss. And the ache is always there, but one day not the emptiness, because to nurture the emptiness, to take solace in it, is to disrespect the gift of life.
--Dean Koontz, Odd Hours