Grief comes in many forms, from the loss of a loved one to the loss of a job, the loss of the familiar to the loss of a possibility. No matter the cause, all your heart knows is the dream is gone and it hurts. I was reminded of this a few days ago in an unexpected way.

Arriving early to work one morning I sat in the car for a few minutes scanning Facebook on my phone, when I came across a short video about 9/11. The video was one I’d never seen before. Narrated by Tom Hanks, this video was both poignant and heartbreaking. It told the story of the Boat Lift of 9/11. Several boat captains were interviewed along with the Coast Guard. Watching the clips of thousands of people lining up at the docks trying to get off Manhattan Island, I could feel the knot in my stomach that comes every time I see clips of that day. That wasn’t the part that had such a huge impact on my emotions though. It was the actions of the boat captains that did that.

One man was watching the TV from his home and made the decision on his own that he was going to the island to help get people off. His wife questioned his decision but his response was that even if he only rescued one person it would be worth it and if another plane hit and he died then that was ok too.

A Coast Guard captain looked at the people lining up at the docks and made the decision to call out to boaters in the area to come help. He was expecting a few boats, but within an hour there were hundreds of boats of all sizes coming in to help. It was the video clip of these boats that caused tears to fall uncontrollably down my face. Even now, typing the story, my eyes are filling and my throat is tight.

On September 11, 2001 it didn’t matter what color skin was underneath the dust. It didn’t matter if they were wearing a suit and tie or a fast food uniform, expensive shoes or sneakers. It didn’t matter if they were Christians or Muslims, Jews or Atheists. It didn’t matter who was waiting for them at home. All that mattered was the need to get them off the island to safety. All that mattered was that we are Americans, the greatest nation of diversified people in the whole world and we all wanted to help in whatever way we could. These boat captains were the best example of Americans behaving the way Americans should.

Why does it take a disaster to remind us who we really are? I don’t understand the culture of hatred being fostered here these days. We are Americans and we need to behave the way Americans should behave. We should be more like the boat captains of 9/11 who raced to help everyone who needed help. The men and women who created the largest boat lift rescue in all recorded history.

Grief comes at the loss of a dream. The dreams lost that day are immeasurable. The loss of the dream of what America should be breaks my heart. Let’s not wait for another disaster to behave like Americans again. Let’s make every day a boat lift day.

Shelley Brandon

My bio is rather complex and like most people's starts at birth, or maybe before. I was adopted as an infant by very special and very loving parents. Pretty normal and average childhood with two younger brothers. Married at 22, motherhood at 25, divorced single parent at 29. Blessed at 31 with a new chance at love and the family I'd always wanted. Eight months later two of my sons lost their mother to pneumonia. Our blended family was tossed by the waves of grief from the beginning. The waves became a tsunami when my wonderful husband died 14 years later. Grief has been my shadow for nearly 20 years now, but life is still good when you're standing in the light.