I’ve been thinking about the meaning of courage ever since Sunday, September 26th, when I ran in the Tunnel to Towers Run, which is a charity run in honor of FDNY Firefighter Stephen Siller. On the morning of September 11, 2001, Stephen had just ended his shift in Brooklyn when he heard that the Towers had been hit. He turned his car around and tried to drive through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel but his car was stopped from entering. He grabbed his gear (which weighed approximately 80 pounds) and ran approximately 3 miles through the tunnel toward the Towers. Stephen and his entire fire company perished that day. The Tunnel to Towers Run retraces Stephen’s steps, beginning at the mouth of the Tunnel in Brooklyn and ending at the site of Ground Zero where the Towers and the 9/11 Memorial are now rising.
Stephen Siller showed enormous courage on 9/11, but what are acts of courage in everyday life? To me, courage means acting even in the face of fear. It’s moving forward with intention, even when we know that we could suffer physical or emotional harm in the process. Courage can be seen in acts great and small. It could mean running into a burning building. But it could also mean ending a marriage that you know needs to end if you are ever going to be happy in the future. You make the decision in spite of the fear of the emotional upheaval and pain that you, your spouse and your entire family will feel in the process. I know only a handful of people who would run into a burning building, but I work with clients everyday who act in the face of fear of ending their marriages. They are afraid, shaken, and unsure of what the road ahead will look like. My job is to honor and respect their courageousness and make their path as easy to navigate as possible. Hopefully, as they move forward they will begin to see their new lives rising in the distance; and that vision will give them the strength to continue moving toward the goal that drove them to face their fear and take that courageous step in the first place.