Firefighter's obituary shows heroism of many Americans

Sunday, December 23, 2001

Like you, I'm mindful of those innocent souls of Sept. 11, so many of them young people, for whom Christmas 2000 was their last.

Ever since that date, The New York Times has been publishing obituaries of those who perished.

Of course, as they are so numerous, few can keep track of the countless Americans we lost.

Each, as the president said the other day, was "the most important person in the world to somebody."

Earlier this month, there appeared in the Times a short obit so remarkable that it must be shared with a larger audience. Herewith, an excerpt:

"She was standing on the Brooklyn Bridge when the first tower fell. Everyone around her was madly dialing cell phones with no success. Suddenly, her own phone started ringing.

"'It was my older brother,' recalled Patricia Gambino, who had just escaped from the 72nd floor of the south tower. 'He said: "Thank God. You're all right, and Michael is on vacation."

"Little did either of them realize that at that precise moment their younger brother, Michael T. Weinberg, 34 -- the stunningly handsome baby of the family, a part-time model who had played minor-league baseball for the Detroit Tigers organization and was now a firefighter -- had just arrived at the World Trade Center. As the first tower collapsed, he had taken cover under a fire truck. His was among the first bodies found.

"An avid golfer, he had planned to spend that morning on the golf course. His tee time was 9:08 a.m. But when the news arrived, he threw his clubs into his car and raced toward Manhattan.

"His car was eventually found by the side of the highway, where he had abandoned it to hitch a ride with an emergency-rescue vehicle.

"'He loved to help people,' his sister said."

Like his brother police officers, firefighters and other rescue workers, Michael Weinberg knew the danger and the odds and cast them away pretty much without a thought.

As the stories of that day have been told, we've learned that countless firefighters paused on their way into the flaming infernos to receive the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church before heading upward to try to save whomever they could.

So all doubts are now swept away:

They knew.

They knew.

Greater love hath no man, than to lay down his life for another.

Or, as one writer eloquently phrased it:

"Amazing, to share the same country with such people."

We are so marvelously blessed, among all the people who ever lived, to be alive at this time in America, at this remarkable moment in world history.

I'll bet that across our great land, worship services today and tomorrow night will be even more packed than usual, as well they should be.

For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. ...

And the Government shall be upon His shoulders, and His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

God bless America.

And Merry Christmas to one and all.

Peter Kinder is assistant to the chairman of Rust Communications and president pro tem of the Missouri Senate.

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