Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Journeys, Paths and Bridges

There are events in everyone's life that I believe lead us to places we're supposed to be. Kind of pre destined journeys that maybe were designed by things we don't totally understand. I had one of those incredible journey's this past week.

I started this journey nearly 2 1/2 years ago. It began with a glimpse of a woman on the television news talking about her son Mark Bingham, one of forty people on board United Flight 93 that gave their lives to stop the terrorists that hijacked their plane and planned on crashing it into our nation's capitol on September 11, 2001.

A few days ago that same journey had me standing in front of the Marriott in San Francisco, all the way from my home state of Connecticut.
I was there to meet a few people I made friends with while walking this road. These friends were an important part of my life in how I've gotten to this point. Even though we've talked dozens upon dozens of times in the past couple years and supported me through one of the most liberating yet frightening points in my life, I never had the honor to shake their hands or look into their eyes and say thank you...until now.

As I rode the elevator up to the 39th floor to the View Lounge my heart was pounding out my chest because I was so nervous and excited about meeting these friends face to face for the first time.
The second we saw each other it felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. It was as though I was supposed to be there. The hand shake I planed on giving Todd turned into a huge hug with the feeling of old friends finally finding each other. It was as though I've known him forever. I still don't know if he realizes how his words, even though meant for his best friend, who he lost on September 11, 2001, effected me so positively 2 1/2 years ago. But what I do know is that every step I've taken since our lives crossed paths has been an adventure, from standing in a field on a chilly September morning in Shanksville, PA to letting my friends and family know who I am for the first time in my life.

The second important person I met the following day is someone I see as the heart behind this journey I've been on. His name is Joe. He's the person who I first came to talk to when I came across this man named Mark Bingham. Joe was Mark's friend and the one who first reached out his hand to help guide me in the right direction. Joe was someone I talked so many times and a man I could call a dear friend. Like Todd, I had yet to shake Joe's hand.
I owed Joe a lot, even though he would somehow always turn that statement around and say he wasn't the hero, I was. Joe was the man who put me in contact with Alice, Mark's mother. In turn, she was the one that walked me through the very first steps down a path that was life altering and told me to hold my head up high and to never look back.
Joe and I talked over the phone and internet more times than I could count. Over the past couple years we developed a true friendship.
Even though we never met face to face, he's been with me from the day I told my friends I was gay to the day I met Alice at an international rugby game held in her son's honor. From birthdays to the birth of his baby to understanding who he was and how we all faced prejudices in life. His view on life is so positive that I embraced it and learned from it.

As I walked up to the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park to meet Joe and his family I was more excited than anything. From the moment I saw him looking out the front window of the building I recognized him. Although I've seen him in pictures shared over the computer, I was struck at how seeing him face to face for the first time seemed to have been like looking at someone I recognized as though I've been with them as a friend for years.
It was an instant feeling of friendship. There was no awkward moment, no stand off feeling when two people meet for the first time. It was a comfortable feeling as when long time friends come together.
I met Joe's lovely wife Liz and two beautiful children who all seemed to fit with ease into the group of wonderful people I've had the pleasure of meeting on this journey.

As I think this "San Francisco" part of this journey over, I come to realize once again of the incredible people that I've had the honor of crossing lives with since it all began 2 1/2 years ago.
From a man who proved that being gay made no difference when he gave his life to save hundreds if not thousands of people, to his friends and family that loved him unconditionally and shared his courage and love of life with me.
As I looked into the camera while being interviewed for a film about the life of Mark Bingham, I spoke of how a man who I never met. A man who gave his life to save so many people and how this man would save me nearly five years after he died.
This is why this man and these people are so special to me and why I call them my heroes.

It seems fitting that San Francisco is known for it's famous Golden Gate Bridge and how I crossed a major bridge in life by coming to San Francisco and finally met the people that were so important to me.
I know this journey will never end as long as I'm alive but crossing this bridge in life and seeing these people that made me feel so welcome makes every step, stumble and turn worth it.

(Below I've posted my original blog about Mark Bingham and how this journey started.)

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