Remembering Our Unsung Heroes

All across America on September 11th, communities took pause to remember and honor the unsung heroes who died that day and the thousands who risked their lives so that others would live.
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All across America on September 11th, communities took pause to remember and honor the unsung heroes who died that day and the thousands who risked their lives so that others would live.

September 11, 2001 was probably the most tragic day in American history. So many innocent people died; so many families were forever changed and burdened because of terrorism and hate. It was probably one of America's darkest days, but also one of our brightest. Thousands upon thousands of Americans gave of themselves on that frightful day to support the innocent victims and their families.

We were reminded of the courage and bravery of so many of our neighbors and friends, especially those in Emergency Services and the Fire and Police Service. These men and women run the risk of danger every day. So many who died that day knew the risks and courageously said yes, knowing their lives were in jeopardy.

As a nation, we stood tall and strong amid our tears and profound sense of loss. After 9/11, so many people continued to courageously reach out as a powerful tribute to those who were so senselessly and violently killed that day.

Five years have passed since that tragic day. There have been many memorials built; streets, parks and buildings have been renamed to honor those who courageously died that day.

As we mark this painful moment in our history as a nation, we must never forget the sacrifice, the courage and the bravery of those thousands of Americans who died that day. We must always remember, continue to tell stories and be inspired by their lives to live more courageously for others.

Emergency Service Workers, Fire and Police Service Workers know that when they sign on, they run the risk of losing their lives. Obviously, they do not choose these career paths for the money, but rather because of their commitment to serving our community and wanting to make a difference.

Commitment to public service is so powerfully expressed in the lives of those among us who volunteer for our local Fire Departments and Ambulance Service. These men and women are on call 24/7, with no material compensation for the risks they take every time they respond to a call.

Their commitment to public service is a real gift to our larger community.

We live in a world that too often loses sight of the good things people do. Too often, television heroes and the printed media are consumed with negativity. They tend to exploit everything that is wrong with our society, paying little attention to the good things so many people do.

There are every day heroes all around us. Unfortunately, sometimes we don't appropriately acknowledge their goodness until they pass away.

On Monday, September 4, 2006, on his seventy-seventh birthday, such a hero passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. Throughout most of his life, Vincent Bove was committed to public service.

In the 1970's, he became involved with health care. In 1975, he was elected Chairman of the Board at Mather Hospital, a position which he held right up until his health made it impossible for him to serve.

Being Chairman of the Board at Mather, a highly respected community hospital, was not a paid position. Vinnie took that commitment very seriously.

Every day he would visit the hospital. Over time, he knew all the staff. It did not matter who you were. He greeted everyone and made all the staff feel valued and respected.

Over thirty-five years ago, the Bove's settled in Belle Terre Village. In the early seventies, Vinnie became a trustee for the village. He went on to be elected mayor and served in that capacity for more than twenty-five years before retiring in 2005.

In addition to his public service, he spent a tremendous amount of time and energy raising funds for so many worthy causes. Two projects close to his heart were the Contessa Nadia Farber Emergency Pavilion and the Matthew and Debra Cody Pavilion.

Vinnie was excellent at raising money. He was personally very generous, but his passion for the important causes he supported moved so many others to be equally as generous. That passion and commitment made him a most effective fund raiser.

However, probably his greatest gift that made him a true hero to be admired and looked up to, was not his outstanding fund raising skills or his decades of public service, but rather his exceptional people skills. The way Vinnie Bove treated others is what really set him apart and made him a true man for others.

Mayor Bove never used his power, influence or position to make you feel less than. As the present Mayor of Belle Terre, Ted Lucki, recently said, "Vinnie was a hands-on guy, a humanist."

If you met Vinnie on the street, in his parish church or at a community event, you always met the man with the compassionate heart, who always presented himself as an average guy who wanted to help.

Since his death, so many people from so many different walks of life have commented on how when he spoke to you, you had his undivided attention. If you came to him with a problem, whether you were rich or poor, you had his undivided energy in trying to resolve your problem. Vinnie treated everyone with dignity and respect. He always had words of encouragement and time to chat, if you met him on the street.

The Friday before he died, I visited him at Mather. As I left his room and made my way to the elevator, a volunteer stopped me to inquire about how he was. She said she visited him every day he was in the hospital, even if it was just for a moment to let him know that the volunteers cared and were praying for him.

This woman was so proud to share that she had over 26,000 hours of volunteer service. She spoke about how every year she would frame her letter from Mr. Bove thanking her for volunteering. She was touched at how each letter was so personal. She further commented on how Vinnie went out of his way to shake hands and greet all the volunteers every day he visited the hospital.

However, her greatest tribute that really celebrates the heart of Mayor Bove, was her comment about how he treated you. She said he always treated everyone, no matter who you were, whether you were a doctor or a volunteer, with the same dignity and respect. She said, "every time I spoke to him, even if only for a minute, he made me feel special."