Parenting & Fatherhood

Can Tragedy Lead You to Greatness?

Can Tragedy Lead You to Greatness?

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Freedom Tower as Seen from the 9/11 Memorial

I had the privilege to visit the observation decks of the new Freedom Tower before it officially opens to the public. Since it was Memorial Day weekend, Manhattan was an easy commute from New Jersey, so I couldn’t pass up the invite I got as a season ticket holder of the New Jersey Devils. I picked up my daughter Rebecca, who was visiting me for the long weekend from her job in Virginia, and her boyfriend and we headed for a day in the Big Apple with tickets to go to the top of the world.

My daughter Rebecca at the Freedom Tower Entrance

The tour and facility are dazzling. There is ultra-modern architecture, incredible sight lines, one of the fastest elevators in the world, sophisticated electronics run most everything, wide open areas on the 360 degree observation deck, and highly efficient people moving – all at the top of the world’s 4th tallest building, towering above the world’s greatest city.

Freedom Tower and Observation Decks 2015

Freedom Tower and Observation Decks 2015

I have been in Lower Manhattan many dozens of times for work, pleasure and to visit my youngest daughter, Sara, who goes to college in the shadow of the new Freedom Tower. I have observed the decade plus long construction with a sense of fascination, wonder and pride. Naturally, I have mixed emotions about the site. There’s the 9/11 memorial with it’s 2 huge reflecting pools where the World Trade Center Towers used to be and all of its painful and horrific memories. And there’s the sense of rebirth and renewal one gets from the massive amount of building going on.

Freedom Tower Rises From the Construction 2015

Freedom Tower Rises From the Construction 2015

What happened on 9/11 was an unparalleled tragedy. The new Freedom Tower, 9/11 Memorial, and entire project are unparalleled greatness. That contrast weighed heavily on me yesterday so the question that came to my mind was whether this level of greatness is possible without an equal level of tragedy. I couldn’t help but reflect on the tragedy that befell my family in 1996 when I became a single parent of 5 children ages 18 months to 8 years old. Their mom had left the house for good, in a display of erratic, ugly, abusive and finally diagnosed personality disorder, behavior. All the children were traumatized. The family I imagined had burned to the ground.

9/11 Memorial

9/11 Memorial

In nature, forest fires spontaneously happen and as a result the ground becomes more fertile and the forest rebuilds itself to greater heights. In Manhattan, the terrorists destroyed a wonder of the world. It took courage and fortitude to rebuild it to something way better than it was before. For me and my family, the tragedy that we faced, forced us all to find the strength, courage and perseverance to survive. Today I have five enormously successful and happy adult children and we are are closer than I ever could have ever wanted.

1998 2015

1998                                                                                                                           2015

I get asked often whether I am bitter or upset about what happened to me and my children. I respond to that by stating how grateful I am that we were “forced” to overcome and the result today is so overwhelmingly positive. The saying, “everything happens for a reason” has extra meaning to me. I have learned that when tragedy strikes, if you find a positive way to overcome it, you’ll find greatness.

Do you agree that tragedy can lead to greatness?

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