After graduating PT school in 1978, I was hired as a staff Physical Therapist for St Charles Hospital on Long Island. St Charles has a wonderful rehab area where patients who have suffered physical assaults such as a stroke, debilitating rheumatoid arthritis, and traumatic brain injuries get intensive therapy seven days per week. I vividly remember my idealistic 21 year old enthusiasm; finally getting the opportunity to exercise all of the theory that I had learned with my patients. One of my first patients was Kenny, a 17 year old high school athlete, rock musician for a local popular band, and teenage heartthrob who was involved in a motor vehicle accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury. Despite intensive medical and therapeutic intervention, it would leave Kenny with a permanent slurring of his speech, and a lack of coordination in his left arm and leg.

I worked with Kenny twice a day, five days per week, and we talked as much as we worked, and developed a close interrelationship. One day as Kenny was relating how difficult it was to be dealing with his significant challenges, I said “I can understand what you are going through.” He literally stopped speaking and stared at me with tears in his eyes for what seemed an eternity before saying words that cut to my heart: “No, you cannot possibly understand what I am going through since you have never experienced what I am experiencing.” He was absolutely right, and I asked for his forgiveness, and thank the Lord received it. I have been sure never to make that mistake again, whether it was listening to a dear friend who was relating his experiences as a unit sergeant in Viet Nam, or listening to a homeless man commenting on my sermon when I was preaching at a soup kitchen. I realized that I could have compassion for what they had experienced and/or were experiencing, I could attempt to help them through their ordeal, but I could not begin to understand what they endured since I never walked in their shoes.

That brings me to my dad. I was just a little boy when he was working as a NYC fireman, and my memories were of him coming home from working 24 hours straight, and then getting a quick nap before going out to work a side job putting up storm doors and windows. I loved when he would let me put on his fire boots, jacket and helmet, but I literally could not take one step forward because the suit was too heavy to move. My favorite time was when he took me to his firehouse where I could climb up on the engine, and joke around with his fellow firemen who were more like family to him than co-workers. Dad was my hero when I was a kid. As I grew up, I remember asking him about his experiences as a fireman, however, he didn’t like to talk about specifics. He would always say that what separated firemen from regular people is that regular people see a burning building, and run away from it . . .firemen see a burning building, and run into it. My dad passed away 18 years ago, and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to tell him as an adult how much I loved him, and how proud I was of what he did to support our household.

As we look back to the grim day of 9/11/01, let us do so with a heart of thankfulness to all of the men and women, EMT’s, firemen, and police who ran into those buildings to do their job without considering their own safety. We need to be eternally grateful to them and all of those who serve our nation in positions that protect our safety and risk theirs, including our military. Let us also continue to pray and uphold those who are currently performing these tasks today. We don’t understand what you do, but we thank you.

Author's Bio: 

Joseph Benanti, PT has over 30 years experience in health care administration and consulting including directing new business development in the industrial, extended care, and home care marketplace nationally and has lectured for many years on a university basis and to local, state, national, and international professional symposiums on issues related to health care management.

Benanti has decades of experience filling the pulpit in Christian churches and in soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and extended care communities.

Benanti is currently a managing partner of Boomer Senior Living International ( . He has a BS in Physical Therapy from SUNY at Stony Brook, and a certificate in Hospital Administration from Trinity University in San Antonio, TX. He and Lauretta, his wife of 30 years live in the Upstate of South Carolina. He is a regular contributor to