True heroism is remarkably sober and very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost. But the urge to serve others at whatever cost.
September 11th 2001 was a day I won't ever forget. It was a tragedy, but out of tragedy came stories. Stories of courage, love, compassion, loss and sacrifice..and stories of everyday people becoming heroes. Please allow me to take the time to introduce you to one of those heroes. He was a 46 year old deputy fire safety director at the World Trade Center. His name was Robert J. Mayo. His life was lost when the second tower collapsed. But before I tell of his demise, I'd like to share a few things I learned about his life..a life taken far too soon. He was a husband to Meryl and a father to an only son Corbin. He had a big heart and took in and nursed stray animals back to health. He loved planning family vacations. He enjoyed landscaping and working around his house. He and Corbin were both huge Giants fans. So much so that they turned their family room into a "shrine". They put on Giants hats, drank from Giants glasses and watched the games together. He was a thoughtful and loving father to his son. Leaving notes each day to his son..scraps of paper, backs of envelopes or napkins..just anything to leave a message on..whether it was good luck on your test, have a nice day or most importantly...I love you..he made sure Corbin knew he thought of him. And on the second anniversary of the attacks..Corbin was able to say all the things he never got to say to his dad before he died.
Corbin Mayo wanted to speak to his father again.
Two years ago, on Sept. 11, the boy began calling his father's cellphone. He called for days. Robert J. Mayo never picked up. Mr. Mayo, a contract fire safety director for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, had helped evacuate a building and stayed on duty despite his wife's pleas over the telephone to leave. He died in the south tower.
Yesterday, a slightly taller, tougher Corbin Mayo, now 13, strode across the stage at ground zero to read the names of some of the missing. His gray suit was a touch too big, as if waiting for the boy to grow into it. Then, before a sea of tear-streaked faces, he said: ''And my father, Robert Mayo. I love you.''
They were words his father needed to hear, he said earlier -- words that held a new and bittersweet meaning. It was through Mr. Mayo's death, and only after Corbin's anger began to thaw, that the son could touch the truth about his father: He was a brave man.
''I want to tell my dad that I care about him much more than I did before,'' said Corbin, an only child who lives with his mother, Meryl, in Marlboro, N.J. ''I care about him a gazillion times more.''
September 9th, 2002 Corbin was presented the Medal of Valor at the White House in honor of his dad. He spoke of how proud he was of him because of his bravery. I have little doubt that Robert Mayo is looking down on his son and wife and is equally as proud of them.
When you sign up to write these tributes it's difficult because you are truly writing about someone you never met..a total stranger. But once you research them, you feel as if you are somehow connected. And although I never got the chance to meet him, I am connected to his family now...after seeing the Early Show piece about my USO work his wife made a donation in my honor to the USO. It truly touched my heart to have someone who had lost so much be willing to honor me. I just hope this piece doesn't let her down.
Robert Mayo could have easily ran from the building and saved himself. Instead he chose to stay behind and help others get out. No one knows exactly how many lives he saved on that day. All I can say is he sacrificed his own so that others may live.
What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.