A day to believe in heroes


Dear Mila,

Today is one of those days I’d like to be able to believe in God. Maybe it would be easier to understand why life goes the way it does. Why things happen that one can never understand or grasp, things no one will ever be able to see a reason or sense behind. Things happen because they do and they can shake you to your core and sometimes people will never overcome the pain those events bring.

Today is one of those days I’d like to be grateful. I am. But I am also furious, sad and numb. A day I’d like to be happy but I can’t, because I know that there are others who are not. And that it could be me, the one who today only feels deep, dark and inexhaustible grief.

It’s a blink of an eye, one movement, a little moment of hesitation or a single look over the shoulder that saved my family the grief which 7 other families have been living with for the past 10 years.

Today marks 10 years since the biggest fire department accident in Switzerland. On November 27, 2004 the roof of an underground garage crashed down onto the fire fighters who were beneath it, at that very moment, to extinguish a fire. Seven of them died immediately or on the site of accident. Three were rescued, one of them badly injured – my father.

They left children and wives. My father would have left me, my two siblings and my mother. Had he stood one meter to the front, November 27, 2004 would have been the day of his death.

I don’t know what saved my father’s life. Did he put on his boots a second slower than the other? Was it the zipper of his jacket that stuck for a little moment? Did he let someone else go in front of him? Or did he look back at the front door to make sure all his loved ones were fast asleep? Maybe it was God, yes, maybe he exists. Who knows. Maybe it was destiny. Coincidence. I will never know. No one ever will.

On my way to school that morning, I saw his car on the parking lot in front of the firehouse. “There was a fire early in the morning. I don’t know why he’s not back yet”, my mother said. Even though we have seen uncountable of those missions in the middle of the night, I knew immediately, that something was different this time. At this very moment, my dad was already lying underneath the debris – fully conscious. Weeks later I read in a newspaper interview what he was thinking about in those moments – almost certain about his immediate death.

“He was in it”, my mom sobbed on the phone.

Peeping sounds, tubes, doctors, a bustle, tears. Impossible to forget the moment when I saw him again, hours later in the hospital. He pulled the oxygen mask down from his face: “I told you I was going to be 99.” A crushed lung, a brocken back – but he was alive.

Despite the joy I feel that he is still alive, that we got another chance, I also feel the grief of the people who, today, are reminded once more how cruel their fathers, husbands, sons and friends were ripped out of life. It is as if I could physically feel their questions: “Why us? Why him? Why?” And I ask myself if they wish it had been us instead of them. Ask myself if they can forgive? Find closure? Keep on going? Are they still angry? Did they find consolation?

To all those question, I have no answer. But there is one thing I know and I want you to know that, too, Mila:

– Those men were heroes!

For years they risked their lives in their spare time, to save others. From 9/11 in New York to November 27, 2004 in Gretzenbach, Switzerland – never cease to believe in heroes, Mila!

They are among us – and when they are taken away from us, that’s how we should remember them.

To me, at least, that’s what they will always be. So today may not be the day I start to believe in God. But it’s another day for me to believe in heroes.

gretz5Jahresrueckblick-27 deckeneinsturtz-einer-tiefgarage-in-gretzenbach  TIEFGARAGE Ceiling of an underground car park collapsed in GretzenbachLove



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