We don’t know why we’re here. We don’t know where we’re going. And we don’t control what will happen to us along the way, much as we like to think we do. When John Vigiano, a retired New York City firefighter, woke up 12 years ago this morning, he had no idea that his only two sons would be dead before noon. John Jr., 36, was a firefighter and his brother Joe, 34, was a police detective, and both men lost their lives at the World Trade Center. Their father recorded his memories of that day in a four-minute video, animated by StoryCorps, which my daughter Annie sent me. Watching it, listening to the father’s voice, is how I imagine a religious experience – a four-minute moment of awe, without any false emotion. John and Joe each called their father as they were heading to work. The calls ended with the words, I love you. “We had the boys – John for 36 years and Joe for 34 years,” said Vigiano. “I wouldn’t have changed anything. There’s not many people that the last words they said to their son or daughter was ‘I love you’ and the last words they heard was ‘I love you.’ So, that makes me sleep at night.”
There is no mention of heaven or hell, of Christians or Muslims, of vengeance or the American flag. This is the ultimate resurrection story, the triumph of love over the tragedy of life.
Annie’s message with the link said simply, “I love you.”