Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Gone but Not Forgotten...

It's September 11 today in New Zealand, and while I haven't taken part in the 2996 Project for 2007, I have chosen to repost the one I wrote on this anniversary last year. It amazes me that 6 years have passed already since this tragic event. However, it doesn't amaze me that the void and loss can still be felt as keenly as if it were only yesterday for the loved ones of those fallen.

It is also no surprise that the U.S. nation and the world at large still struggle to come to terms as to the 'whys and wherefores' of the entire situation. And putting aside terrorism, war and retaliation, as I sit here today and think back, another thought strikes me (and not for the first time).

Life is short. At times it can be incredibly unpredictable...we often have no control over that. What we CAN control is how we live it and the love and happiness we spread around those close to us. The negatives of life in general get in the way of that happening many times over the years...we get discouraged, we can feel we lose focus on our goals...we start to wonder if we're going to even reach those goals, ever. We sometimes lose sight of dreams and aspirations altogether.

Because not only is life short, it can be cruel. It is well documented that we only have one go at the time we spend with our feet on God's green earth. And despite the cruelties that this physical world can throw at us, and how many times we've had to get up, dust oursevles off and keep soldiering on, it's an important fact to remember.

You and I are STILL here...we have the chance to make the most of what we have...we are still around to share ourselves and the goodness within us, with others. The smallest gesture of kindness can make someone's miserable day brighter...a smile, a hug...they cost absolutely nothing, yet the reward of passing them on and having them returned, is enough to buoy us through some tough days.

I don't want my life to be filled with "what if"s and have my mind consumed with wondering what's going to be or what could be...I want more, I need more, and like the rest of you out there, I deserve more. We foolishly take it for granted that we are going to be here tomorrow, and at times like these, I think it's poignant to remember that what we expect out of life and what may actually happen in reality, can become two different things entirely.

Rejoice being alive...tell those special to you that you love them...embrace life and it's beauty every chance you get...and hold on tight to what's important to you...take nothing for granted.

Anyway, I'll stop here in case you think I'm trying to morph into the Dalai Lama overnight lol.

It is my privilege to reintroduce to you today, Michael Paul Ragusa. A man that spread his warmth and love around...a man who touched many lives with his willingness to help and make a small part of the world a better place to be in. May his soul rest in peace.


Michael (Mikey) Ragusa had been a plumber for several years before he changed vocation and became part of the New York Fire Department. He'd been a firefighter for a little over 12 months before the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Michael was a well-loved man by many. I have read so much about how he would help anyone that needed his plumbing skills over the years...he would've given the shirt from his own back if it helped someone else. He was always there for those that needed him.

"He did things to make others happy," said his fiancée. "That's how he made himself happy."

That fateful day as his mother watched the towers in flames on tv, she felt secure in the knowledge that none of her children worked there. No other family member had been part of the fire service before, and as such it can be said she was not thinking like a 'fire mum'. I don't think we can ever ever be prepared for the emotional turmoil that rushes through us, when we realise our children are in such grave danger.

His father later said he had tried to retrace Michael's steps from the time he raced from his Brooklyn firehouse, up to the time he arrived at the WTC. He had each minute in time laid out in his mind....he felt that Michael would have been on the 30th or 40th floor of the tower when it collapsed. How he felt knowing that 70 floors of concrete and steel had come down on his son I can't even begin to imagine.

His sister said he was single-minded. "If we all lined up outside the World Trade Center and yelled, `Mikey stop!,' he still would have ran in."

When word of his disappearance spread through his neighborhood in Brooklyn, dozens of people camped out on his parents' lawn, on their patio furniture and on their living room floor. Strangers who did not know his name came by with fruit baskets to tell of how he helped fix their fences or change their tyres.


The hand of friendship that he offered to others, and his overall love of being 'there' for anyone was made even more apparent on the day he was finally laid to rest....almost two years after the tragedy. His parents had waited for something, anything, to come out of the rubble that was identified as their son. A bone fragment, body tissue, something with DNA possibilities. How could they bury an empty coffin? They HAD to have something.

By coincidence and a passing remark made by a trusted spokesperson of the medical examiner's office, the Ragusas' were made aware that some firefighters had given blood to become potential bone marrow donors.

Michael had volunteered to be a marrow donor.

"On the way home, we were laughing and crying. We were hysterical. We were happy, if you can call it happy," Dee Ragusa recalls. "We had something. Now we had something."

And that's what they buried. Approximately two teaspoons of their beloved son's blood in a glass vial. Two years later, under a clear late-summer sky, flanked by two thousand firefighters frozen in white-gloved salute...nine men in dress blue uniforms slowly pulled a wooden casket from a fire truck and carried the box containing what remained of their final lost comrade into St. Bernard Roman Catholic Church.


Michael Paul Ragusa was born to Vincent and Dee on July 30 1972.

29 years later he gave his life to the people of New York City by doing his best to help save the lives of those occupying the World Trade Centre. He was the last of the 343 firefighters killed in the aftermath of the WTC attack to be officially memorialised.

The Ragusas live in the Bergen Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, an isolated waterfront enclave that did not have paved streets until the 1960s. This is where Mikey used to play in the empty lots, get dirty, get into trouble. Now their street is named after him.

My heart goes out to the Ragusa family and Michael's friends on this 5th anniversary of September 11. You are truly blessed to have had 29 years with such a wonderful and giving man. From the research I've done and the news articles I've read, it is very obvious to me where his strength and caring nature comes from. Good people are surrounded by and supported by more good people.

It is my honour to pay tribute to this courageous young man and share him with you all today.
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