This is Mr. Bear
A week or two after September 11, 2001, the day the towers fell, a very small portion of the World Trade Center site was opened to families of those who were still missing. Although the mission at the site had not officially been changed from a rescue – recovery mission to a recovery only mission, most of us were aware that any chance of survivors being found was gone. By allowing families to go to this small section of the site, we were able and say a prayer for our loved ones and feel closer to them and what became the final resting place for more than half of the almost 3,000 innocent victims murdered on that horrible day.
The families would meet at a dock/terminal and were brought to the site by a ferry. Each ferry held maybe 75 – 100 families members, crew members, social workers and volunteers. Members of the Red Cross met the families at the terminals and escorted them to the ferries. When my family and I got on the ferry, the Red Cross Volunteers handed each of us orange teddy bear. I don’t know if they did this for every ferry that went out, but they did it for ours. We learned that the teddy bears were donated and that they wanted us to write our loved ones name on a bow around the bears neck and tell the bear a memory or story about who we lost. We were then asked to leave the bears at the site so they could be taken to a pediatric hospital or shelter. The bears, which now held our loved ones names, memories and stories, would be giving to children in the hospital and shelter.
After writing my brothers name on my bears bow and whispering childhood memories to it as I held it close, the thought of leaving it behind was the furthest thing from my mind. As I stepped off the ferry I continued to hold the bear tight to my Chest. I cried to the bear. I silently prayed to the bear. I focused on the comfort of the bear to keep me grounded. When getting ready to go back to the ferry, I could not leave the bear. It was my security and I needed it to keep me from losing any strength and courage I had left. So as most people left their bears at the designated site, a few of us did not. We took our Bears home.
For the last almost 20 years now this now fading Orange bear has been with me almost every single night. This bear is the keeper of all my secrets and the guardian of my dreams. It has been with me through every up and every down I have had in my adult life. It was with me my last year living in my childhood home. It made it through two apartments and now the house I share with my husband and three children. It has come with me on weekend trips, vacations and even on my honey moon. It spent countless nights in tents and campers during our family camping trips. It has been on weekend visits to see friends and family, hotels for ice hockey tournaments, and quick overnights just because.
It was with me when I was sick in a hospital bed for almost a week due to food poisoning. Spent the night with me on a surgical floor after having spinal surgery on my neck. It offered comfort when I lost loved ones and never complained when I would sob on its arm. It was with me on the maternity floor for all 3 childbirths, one of which was a 4 week bed rest stay.
My orange bear, who I call Mr. Bear, is old now and has lost a lot of his firmness over the years. He doesn’t look as good as he once did but over time we have all aged in one way or another. My children know the story of Mr. Bear and have all spent nights snuggled up next to me with him in their arms. I like to think of those nights as my brother being with them. I’ve had to sew a few holes and he lost his orange bow, but over the years Mr. Bear has been there for every tear, yell, laugh, hug, snuggle and the occasional throw of frustration across a room. I know that one day Mr. Bear will be too old to withstand even the gentle hugs and he will need to sit on the nightstand instead of on mine or one of the kids beds. Until that day, I will continue to bring him to any overnight, sports tournament, camping trip and vacation. He will continue to be the security and support for me and my children who sometimes need him as much or even more than I do.
What started as an Orange Bear given to me on a ferry ride to the World Trade Center site back in late September of 2001, has become my Mr. Bear. 20 years of tears, snuggles, laughs, hugs, throws, and love from me and my children. The Orange Bear that was meant to comfort a child in the hospital became a bear that has comforted me and my family in all parts of our lives.
I think we all need and deserve a Mr. Bear.