Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Season of Baking

Seven years ago right now I was putting the first of my homemade cookies into the oven. I'd rushed home from work in the city to my apartment in Brooklyn Heights and baked a batch as fast as I could. I finished them some time before nine o'clock and then, wrapping them carefully, I walked over to the neighborhood firehouse, Engine 205, Ladder 118. I nervously knocked on the side door. The big, front door was down and there were no signs of life. I think I may have rung the bell. A young fireman greeted me. I told him I'd baked some cookies for them, and his eyes lit up and he welcomed me in and lead me to the back of the house, to the kitchen, where they were all gathering. Apparently firemen all eat together and sort of late, since their shift-change comes during normal dinner hours. They enthusiastically welcomed me to eat with them. I felt bad. I was there to bring comfort to them. I was feeling lousy myself and I could only imagine how they were feeling. But I stayed. I can still taste the ground beef-pasta creation (actually, I think I just burped some of it). A couple of the older guys sat with me at a table, the younger guys a bit shy to be talking with an attractive young woman bearing baked goods. Or maybe they had girlfriends, young wives - ? Either way, the older guys were comfortable enjoying my company, not shy or quiet at all.

As we started to eat, they all angled themselves to face the TV hanging from the wall in the corner. A documentary about 9/11 was about to come on. I was stunned. I hesitantly asked one of the guys next to me if they weren't kind of sick of seeing all the stuff about 9/11. It was a year. Their house lost eight men that day. He replied "Well, yeah, we are. But we're in this one." And so they were! The show narrated what happened to them on 9/11, interviewing some of them. The TV showed these firemen - in this firehouse - in this kitchen, with the same TV that I was now staring at in the same corner of the room. It was surreal. None of them were upset; I guess they had a year to cry and grieve about it. They were very brave men, as I learned after 9/11. One never really considers the bravery of a fireman until he actually dies in one of those burning buildings trying to save someone. 343 firemen were killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11. It's almost too much to think about, even eight years later.

The firemen at the house that night lifted my spirits so high, I no longer was feeling depressed. I was happy and so appreciative for the sacrifices these men made for us everyday. I was so happy that the next day, the first anniversary, I rushed home and baked for them again. And when I got to the house to deliver the baked goods, their main door was up, and a young fireman who wasn't there the prior evening thanked me for the cupcakes and I went on my way. A lot of other folks in the neighborhood had brought by baked goods and flowers. It was all really nice, and really appropriate, but I found myself thinking 'Wouldn't it be nice to do something special for them on other days, not just this anniversary?' So that began my baking for the firemen, something I continued for almost a year, until some gained weight made me reduce the frequency of my baking (I've never been able to resist chocolate chip cookie batter!) and a new boyfriend became the recipient of what rare baking I did. So ultimately, I baked for them for a season. My season of baking for the firemen... something I'll always be so happy I did. I wasn't able to take away the hurt for anyone I knew who was affected by the acts of 9/11, but I could certainly sweeten things a bit.

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