My birthday is September 11. This year, I am 58 years old. I enjoyed my day with my son, my brother, my father and best wishes of my mother, and three sisters. I wanted to tell you about what happened to me on September 11, 2001.
I first met Victah Sailer thirty years ago in Boston. I was special projects manager at Runner's World then, and we gave Lynn Jennings a RW award. Victah Sailer was the photographer for the event. For the past thirty years, Victah Sailer has been photographer, confidant, but most of all, friend.
My birthday is September 11. I was in Wisconsin the day of the bombing. I was supposed to be flying to Boston the very next day. I would not fly for two entire months after the bombing.
Victah Sailer was a fireman for 19 years and ten months. On September 11, he was supposed to be at the Twin Towers, but he was, I believe, at Shea Stadium checking out the stadium. After the bombing, he and his crew rushed to the Towers.
One of my high school classmates was on the first floor of one of the towers, and saved a staffer (I would see him on TV the next day). Several alums from my University were killed in the largest terrorist attack in U.S. history. Many Americans lost family members in the attacks. Those deaths, those lives ended tragically early, changed the lives of many.
I knew Victah worked the Towers as a fireman. I did not hear from Victah that day, so, I left him a message. Actually, I left him several messages. On the very last, I told him I was worried and wanted to hear his voice. I also promised him that I would loose 100 pounds if he was alive. I was over 400 lbs at that time, not happy with my life or myself.
About 11:55, a voice mail came in from Victah. He was okay, and he expected me to make my promise. His message was short and typical Victah. I lost the weight. Actually over the last fifteen years, I have lost 155 pounds. I still have 50 pounds to my goal.
I think about that phone call each year, and treasure the time I have had with my friend. In Rio, Victah, my brother, Brian and I shared an AirBnB. I used photos from Victah each and every day and hear from him at least once a week.
Victah Sailer is larger than life: he is a proud (very proud) New Yorker. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He is protective of his friends and outraged when he sees an attack on his sport. I can not envision the last fifteen years without him.
It took me several years to celebrate my birthday after 9/11/01. Watching the yearly coverage and revisiting each year, I am taken back to the moments after the attack. My father reminded me that I called them in Hawaii that day, crying, and told them to turn on the TV. I remember driving out to Fort Atkinson from Madison, Wisconsin that day, as I soaked in the attack on our country and murder of nearly three thousand Americans of all ethnic groups, sexual orientations and political persuasions. It was an attack on America, and Americans, in my book, and the way my parents taught me, come in all shapes, sizes and persuasions.
So, when you look at the hundreds of events we cover each year, and see PhotoRun by the photo, know that the man behind the photo selection, if not the photographer (Victah works with a fine team of photographers), know that the man who shows his love and devotion for our sport was my September 11 wish in 2001.
I think about the nearly three thousand people killed on September 11 often. They had started the day out like any other day, and that day never ended for them. It also never ended for their families.
My September 11 wish this year? That Americans remember that, simply put, more things bring us together than tear us apart.