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Thread: 'He had such a big life; I still feel his presence'

  1. #1
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
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    Jan 2002

    'He had such a big life; I still feel his presence'

    REMEMBER 9/11: 'He had such a big life; I still feel his presence'

    Copyright 2002 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
    The Atlanta Journal and Constitution...09/11/2002


    Cindy Taylor, 43, lives in Mableton and teaches at the Horizons School in Atlanta. Her brother, Vernon P. Cherry, 49, was a New York City firefighter working at the World Trade Center site on Sept. 11.

    It certainly doesn't feel like it's been a year since Sept. 11. We just buried my brother, Vernon Cherry, in June.

    They found Vernon in December and officially identified him in May. That he was found and identified made him one of what they refer to as the "lucky of the unlucky."

    I wasn't sure if I wanted them to find him. Now, I realize I feel more comfortable knowing.

    Vernon was with Ladder Company 118 in Brooklyn. It seems every step of the way, his group was documented somehow. Someone took a photo showing the towers after they had been hit. In the front of the photo was the Brooklyn Bridge with Vernon's truck going across. Then the elevator man at the Marriott hotel behind one of the towers remembered Vernon's company. In a newspaper article he talked about the six of them, big, burly guys with 118 on their helmets, three with heavy mustaches. They were prying open the elevator doors and rescuing people. The pool upstairs had cracked, and water was rushing down.

    I would love to find the elevator man and talk to him. I would want to know every detail, but then again, I don't know; maybe I just want to be close to the person who saw him last.

    They found four of the firefighters, including Vernon, together. The wives decided to bury them side by side.

    Vernon had 28 years with the fire department. He could have retired at his 20th year, but just loved that job. He was planning to retire in three months.

    He had such a big life --- like three lifetimes rolled into one. He was a firefighter, a father and husband, and a grandfather. He worked part time as a court reporter. He was the official vocalist for the fire department and sang the national anthem at events. He had a band and performed at weddings and bar mitzvahs. He made a record for a young girl with leukemia --- got some of the firemen together and did a song for her --- an uplifting and cute song about how she likes cookies and dogs. When I hear the song now, it's joyful; I feel better.

    In July, a builder dedicated a housing development he is building in Brooklyn and named it the Vernon Cherry Houses. Councilmen and senators were there. So many people knew Vernon.

    I am the youngest child and the only girl of the six children in our family. We grew up in Queens, and there is one brother between Vernon and me. My father died when we were young, and my mother is in her 80s, so we were concerned about her reaction. But she's been the rock through all of this.

    This past year, I have driven to New York so many times --- September, October, November, December, January and June. I was just exhausted. I wasn't sure I wanted to go up there today.

    New York is an amazing city; there's such a tangible feeling. You can feel the electricity any time of the day. But going after September, there was such a hush in the air, so unreal. That also was tangible. Now the city doesn't have the same life for me as before. And I am hesitant to get on a plane.

    I was here in Atlanta, teaching, on Sept. 11. I think some sense in me knew Vernon was at the World Trade Center before I actually heard, because I felt sick. I couldn't breathe. I had to get my daughter and go home.

    I grieve for my brother. It is very different without him. He was so vital.

    I feel anger, although when people ask me who toward, I don't know. I don't have any hate, because I don't understand why it happened. I would never think to do such a thing as fly a plane into a building, so I don't understand how they did it to us. Hate is such a costly emotion. To do something like that, they must hate us very much.

    Sometimes I feel lost. But I will feel better. I still feel his presence, like he's hanging out with me. I know his spirit is still here. I just think he's somewhere I can't get to right now.

    The staff and kids at my school have been so supportive. They held a bake sale to pay for my expenses for the first trip up to New York.

    But I wonder about kids today. I grew up in the Vietnam era. This is like their Vietnam. I wonder how they'll feel in 20 years. I hope we're in a better place then. I hope we can look back on it from the position of something bad that happened but didn't happen again.

    One of the firefighters who cleaned out my brother's locker found a letter my brother wrote years ago to the fire department. They read it at the funeral. The letter was apparently written at a time when there were political issues in the department. I don't think he ever intended to mail it; he just meant to leave it in his locker. It was a beautiful letter.

    It started out by describing the physics of fire, how it can spread and take hold. It used that to symbolize how problems can spread and take hold. He talked about the Constitution of the United States --- how it was so well-written, how it should be respected and observed. It was almost prophetic.

    I believe the prayers from people all over the world helped victims' families stay sane and alive. People got together and counteracted the evil that was done. Love --- that's what you put your hope in. I really believe it.

  2. #2
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    Sep 2006
    I joined the Fallen Brothers Community because I saw a PBS Special last week (on channel 25 in Cleveland, OH) about the fire fighters from FDNY Ladder 118, who lost their lives on 9/11. Then I saw the posting about or from Vernon Cherry's sister. I was truly moved by the stories that were told in the special and by the firefighters who survived and had to deal with planning funerals and memorials and just going on with their lives after their "brothers" were gone. I was particularly touched by the story of Vernon Cherry and in seeing his wife try to cope with this lost by being around the other firefighters. I could actually "feel" what his daughter was going through as well, because it's hard to know how to comfort your mother who has had a different type of relationship with her husband for all those years; and be in mourning yourself. I can't imagine what it must have been like to lose someone that you had been with from the age of 16 to 49 years. I was in suspense, as the story unfolded, and Vernon Cherry's family were able to identify his body with DNA. I was sad for his wife, but also felt some comfort for her in that at least she and her family could have some sort of "closure" -- if that's ever possible; by his being identified. I guess I related to this story mostly because, my father passed away 3 years ago, and at his funeral, everyone relayed how he would always whistle -- and I remember he could whistle any song from start to finish. And in the documentary, Vernon Cherry's family and friends kept saying that he loved to sing, and would sing all the time.

    Although, there are no words that one can give to someone who has lost their loved one, I wanted to say, especially today, to just keep his songs in your heart. I always imagine my father up in heaven whistling away -- so I'm sure your loved one is singing amongst the angels as well.

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