Sunday, September 10, 2006

James Berger - At the Top of Hero Hill

The 2,996 Tribute to the Victims of 9/11

When your father is six foot three it is quite easy for a young child to worship his dad as his hero. In the case of eight year old Nicholas Berger his father really was a hero.

On the morning of September 11, 2001 James Berger was working in his office in the World Trade Center. He was a Senior Vice President at Aon Corporation, an insurance firm that employed 1,100 people in the south tower. Understandably, there was no safety handbook on what to do if the building next door to you is hit by an airplane. So after the first jet hit the north tower it was very wise of James and the Aon executive staff to make the decision to evacuate their personnel.

James Berger felt an overwhelming responsibility to his employees. He could have made the easy decision to leave while there was still time, but he knew that someone had to stay behind to coordinate the evacuation. His unselfish sense of duty was emphasized when a crowd of evacuees tried to drag him into an elevator. He firmly stated, “No. I’m going back”. Thanks to his efforts only 175 out of 1,100 Aon employees perished in the attacks.

The decision to stay behind was difficult for his son, Nicholas, to understand. As a person of authority it was James’s responsibility to make sure that all of his employees were evacuated. Nicholas expressed his bewilderment that if his father saved all of those people so they could get home to their children, why didn't he save himself so he could come home to his own children?

Despite the misgivings he had about his father’s actions, Nicholas knew that his father was a real hero. When Suzanne Berger wanted to tell her children that their father wasn’t ever going to come home again, she took them to a local hilltop where James used to take them to play. After she broke the news Nicholas said that the hill reminded him of his dad so he declared that he was going to name the spot Hero Hill to recognize the fact.

When he was alive James Berger was literally larger than life. Now that he is gone it is only fitting that his monument would be such a majestic hill top that faithfully stands watch over those below.

James & Suzanne Berger with their sons Alex, Nicholas and Christian

For the stories of other victims of the 9/11 attacks please use this link to go to the 2,996 website.

Thanks to D. Challener Roe for this fantastic project that he put together, joining thousands of Bloggers to commemorate of the victims of those cruel attacks.


Freedomnow said...

There is a lot more to the story than what I wrote. However, I felt that I should focus on the relationship between the father and his son.

I felt it was too sacred to throw in any other topic.

James Berger’s story received a great deal more press than most 9/11 victims because of the kind actions of Bruce Springsteen for the Berger family.

While I may despise Bruce’s politics, that was not the reason for excluding these generous acts from my post. So I will write about it here in the comments.

I am sure that James Berger would get a small measure of satisfaction that someone who hates the Boss is now forced to say nice things about him.

This part of the story began when Bruce Springsteen read James Berger’s obituary and saw that it mentioned how much James loved his music. That inspired Bruce to give Suzanne Berger a phone call to offer his condolences.

Bruce also created a specially made video of “Thunder Road”, which was James’s favorite song. It was dedicated to the Berger family and was played at James’s memorial service. The next year Bruce penned a song called, “You’re Missing” to honor the Bergers.

Bruce stirred a bit of controversy by dedicating a whole album to the victims of the 9/11 attacks. He was accused of profiting from their suffering. I am strongly against partisan politics so even though I consider Bruce to be a political opponent I whole-heartedly defend him on this issue.

The Berger family and many other 9/11 families strongly objected to these accusations. His actions were greatly appreciated by Suzanne Berger.

The subject of 9/11 touches the hearts of most Americans and such a tribute to our fallen is a worthy cause. In the memory of James Berger maybe I will give Born in the USA another listen after all these years.

The Merry Widow said...

Very good, Fern, beautiful tribute!
It is about what the families, their friends and ultimately all of us have been robbed of! "Greater love has no man, but that he should lay down his life for another." He laid down his life for others, a great man!
Good morning, G*D bless and Maranatha!


keda said...

a wonderful tribute to an incredible man.
i wrote about another aon empolyee who stayed to help others also.. so they were probably together at some point near the end.
such a terrible loss.
thank you for introducing this wonderful man to us.
we won't forget.

Always On Watch said...

James Berger felt an overwhelming responsibility to his employees. He could have made the easy decision to leave while there was still time, but he knew that someone had to stay behind to coordinate the evacuation....Thanks to his efforts only 175 out of 1,100 Aon employees perished in the attacks.

What a man! What a hero! Selfless, fearless. I've been moved to tears.

Please don't hold it against me--I'm a Springsteen fan. Not a rabid fan, but a fan. One of my favorite tracks on The Rising is "You're Missing," and I'll be listening to that song today as part of my private tribute to 9/11. Now I can put a name and a face to the words of that song! Because I'm not a rabid fan of The Boss, I didn't know that the song was written for James Berger's family.

Thank you, FN. Thank you, thank you.

PS: When Springsteen performed "You're Missing" here in a concert in the D.C. area--the only rock concert I've ever attended--all of us held up cigarette lighters to honor those who were declared missing as a result of the 9/11 attacks. I don't have the words to describe how I felt during those moments at the concert--sad, angry, determined to do everything I could to make people understand that the enemy is still determined to kill Americans and to dominate the world, to make sure that we NEVER FORGET.

Freedomnow said...

Ha haa could be a fan of anyone you want. You dont have to come to me for approval.

Besides the Boss is the boss at this blog today.

Lets not forget that the enemy isnt just Al Qaeda. The enemy is hate. As long as people hate there will always be terrorism.

If we are to cut out this sickness from our hearts we must stop making excuses for the justifications behind these actions.

Freedomnow said...

Hi TMW and Keda,

Thanks for your warm comments.

The Merry Widow said...

Ya done good, Fern, so you should be told. To encourage you in speaking out!


kev said...

Freedomnow, thanks for covering this story. Thank God for the heroes who are willing to step forward for others. And also, thanks for the information on Springsteen. I admit that I, too, like his music, absolutely hate his politics. But from now on, I will remember his kindness.

nanc said...

oh fern, i just knew you were busy on something big. this is perfect. no one could have said it better than you. thank you for this tribute.

take a moment - this is me being speechless...

Freedomnow said...

Hi Kev and Nanc,

Its a sad day and it is very important to honor the victims so that their love ones can be assured that they are not forgotten.

I take it as a sign of weakness that Al Qaeda declared that Israel is their next target.

We should thank everyone who is working to protect our country for that.

They will probably get lucky someday, but they are not going to find it easy.

nanc said...

fern - have you noticed how clogged the 9/11 tribute sites have been today? it's been hell even trying to comment - i've only been able to comment at about half since yesterday. a very good sign indeed.

Freedomnow said...

Yeah, theres a lot of traffic out there. The freeways are bumper to bumper, even in Arkansas.

The guy who did the 2,996 tribute emailed me back to explain the situation of how his server was overloaded and his hosting service refused to cut him any slack under the circumstances. So they just shut down the site.

This is what he said,

"Currently we're in the process of installing a new permanent 2,996 website with a pretty much uncrashable server capacity. Hopefully this time next year, this project will run assured, this will NOT happen next year.

Thanks for understanding & all your support for the 2,996 project."


nanc said...

mighty big of them, eh fern?

btw - have you seen the great post linkster has made in memory of 9/11 down in oz?:

Eitan Ha'ahzari said...

Freedomnow: great post. I will always remember where I was and what I was doing that horrible day. My thoughts and prayers are with the murdered sons and daughters of the great nation that is America.

Nanc: I didn't respond to you because you make it all too apparent you're know little and say a lot. You stated that because I'm not religious I may as well not live in Israel. Well, let me tell you what: take all the secular Zionists out of Israel and you will have Hamastan instead of Israel. Ever thought of that?And besides, who the hell are you to tell me I might as well not live here!? I've put my life on the line for this country. You don't evne live here.

nanc said...

i did not say that, greg - i disagree with your choice of avatar and this is not the place to make it all about you.

Freedomnow said...


I think you are just digging up old blood that you let slip by awhile ago.

Your point is valid that Nanc did say,

"It does no jew good to make aliyah (a Jew that goes back to his/her Israeli homeland) if he does not live by the law. he is but a tourist."

But she said that over a month ago. To come up with that now is a little out of place.

I have no problems hosting people who want to argue their point of view and I understand that it does get personal at times. I defended you on that point because you have put yourself in harms way in order to honor your people. Therefore, you have my respect.

Nanc is angry because of your altercations with her friends. You were correct that they were a bit out of line.

However, I was dissappointed that you banned them for insulting your Palestinian and leftwing friends because Gert and Andrew insulted me many times (as well as others), but you didnt ban them.

Nanc is very civil, but not afraid to express her feelings. I dont mind if you two discuss your disagreements. Under the circumwstance, her statement above was quite respectful. In light of the fact that these comments are a part of a memorial to a fallen hero, I would hope that the comments here do not get out of hand.

Hopefully, you can both come to an understanding. If not, that is life. Lets not get hung up on disagreements. If it works itself out or not, we still have the gift of life...

Eitan Ha'ahzari said...

nanc: the picture sympolizes Betar or Brit Yosef Trumpeldor. I don't know whether you're familiar with Trumpeldor's history or his amazing heroics, but I'm a huge admirer of the man and of Betar, Zhabotinsky's revisionist Zionist youth movement. Maybe you're right after all...the menorah is a little out of place. So, in light of you making a good point instead of telling me I've done Israel no good, I will replace it.

Freedomnow: While Andrew and Gert made some insulting remarks, they did not cross any borders. They were rude on some occassions, which I did not appreciate but they never made any racist of bigoted remarks.

In your title you state: Fascist sympathizers, beware...MZ and the gang of ultra-nationalists surrounding him are just that: fascists. I realize you try to put a humoristic spin on all this but at the end of the day, you'll have to come to terms whom you're dealing with here.

This is, as you said, a little out of place. I've just been sick for a long time and just started blogging again. I hope this doesn't take away from what James Berger did. And you're right. The man was bigger than life. He gave the gift of life to so many while sacrificing himself. That is phenomenol courage. I wish I were like him.

G-d bless America!!!

Freedomnow said...

If you dont mind I would like to move this discussion to the original post that it come from.

Just out of respect.

Link to August 25th Post


Dont take it the wrong way. These conversations are a growing experience, but everything has its time and place.

Thank you very much

beakerkin said...

I agree with Freedom Now. This thread should be left as is.

I will open a small post on my blog tonight.

nanc said...

thank you, fern for the heads up - i've taken the battle to the proper field.

beakerkin said...

Freedom Now

This was an excellent tribute to one of many whose lives were ended way too early. The people who died that day were either going to work or trying to save lives.

9-11 will be remembered by all of us.

Raggedy said...

Wonderful Tribute!
Thank you.
These are heartbreaking stories and difficult to read....
I am honored to be a part of this project.
Mine is posted also...

Bless you...

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Solid Surfer said...

FreedomNow, thanks for the wonderful post. James Berger is a true hero and it's great to see the word spreading about him and the many others who also saved lives at the great risk to their own.

Good to hear about Bruce Springsteen's tribute too. I don't agree with him much politically either, but there's no denying that he's very proud to be an American.