NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — “Sacrifice” is a word we’re hearing a lot this week.
On Thursday, CBS 2’s Lou Young met a remarkable young man who has managed to maintain his good humor and humanity in the face of terrifying injuries.
To gauge just how much difference a decade can make, spend some time with Brendan Marrocco. The war veteran who lost all four limbs in Iraq was all of 15 when the New York towers fell. Although he has paid a higher price than most for the country’s 10 years of war, that seminal event — the 9/11 attacks — seems distant to his young eyes: already receding into history.
“I mean it’s a terrible day, don’t get me wrong; horrible tragedy, but it doesn’t … I guess I really don’t have that much of a connection to it? Kinda weird, I guess as a New Yorker,” Marrocco said.
Marrocco was injured on Easter Sunday 2009. A photo in his bedroom shows him as he looked that day alongside friend Michael Anaya, who died in the roadside bomb attack. Any sense of regret or hint of pity you will find in him comes attached to that truth — that he lived and his friend didn’t.
“He was just a great person. A great soldier. A good American. It sucks. It just sucks. I wish I could change it,” Marrocco said.
He said he thinks a lot about the men and women still patrolling the dusty roads and rough terrain for an elusive enemy. He doesn’t keep track of the wars, but of the warriors he knows personally.
“The most attention to it I pay is the fact that the unit I was with is back in Afghanistan now. That’s pretty much it. I would give up anything to be back there with them,” Marrocco said.
Marrocco lives now in a specially designed house built by the Stephen Siller Foundation — with wide hallways, an elevator, and a special kitchen that has allowed him to cook the first meal for himself since his injury. Donations are helping with a job that has no end in sight.
“After we finish Brendan’s we have five more this year and we could work now until the end of our lives and not do everyone that is deserving of it,” Frank Siller said.
The house is an expression of gratitude prompted as much by Brendan’s remarkable attitude as by his physical sacrifice because when you meet him in person you realize he has a balance and perspective many of us can only hope to attain.
Although he’s grateful for the help and respect he receives he is insistent that he does not deserve our hero worship, especially in connection with the 9/11 attacks.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate because, like I said, I didn’t join because of 9/11. I wasn’t involved with 9/11 directly,” Marrocco said. “I don’t see why people make that connection. I don’t understand why people see me as a hero or anything like that because I was doing my job, doing what I loved.”
And young man that he is, Marrocco is anxious to get on with the rest of his life. He advises us to do the same as we pause to remember 10 years after.
“I think people need to not forget but maybe not dwell as much. I think moving on is definitely something that needs to get done. Like I said definitely not forget, we should never forget what happened, and it’s terrible thing but people should stop dwelling and move on, like you said,” Marrocco said.
“I’d say New York is stronger than ever, definitely the people in New York have a huge bond and I think that, dwell on that. Dwell on the good not on the bad.”
That’s good advice from a reluctant hero on 9/11.
Marrocco is currently on a list for a breakthrough double arm transplant.
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