I remember reading about the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. The people that were trapped in the floors above the point of impact gradually came to realise that their chances of getting out of the building alive were remote. They began to call family and friends. These calls were taped. Of the hundreds of phone calls that were made in those hours before the towers finally collapsed, not one was a message of hate. All of the calls were to say how much they loved another person. All were calls to say goodbye and to share final thoughts and feelings. Amidst one of the world’s greatest tragedies there was honesty and love.
Sometimes we get so caught up in what is going on around us, that we forget what is truly important. We are concerned about the plane delay. The price of petrol. Getting a pay rise. Getting a promotion. Buying a new outfit.
As I write this, I am in India. You may think that the most confronting thing here is the poverty. The desperation of so many people. The wretched lives of many of the people with no foreseeable future. Just living day to day. But, today, I have had a far greater reminder of what is truly important.
I am staying on the second floor of a hotel here in Ahmedabad. It is quite a comfortable hotel – probably four stars I guess. The staff is very helpful and efficient. The hotel is very clean and it has a couple of restaurants and a swimming pool. It is always busy, with a variety of different people staying here – businessmen, sportspeople, families, young couples and so on. When I was allocated my room here I was very pleased to be on the 2nd floor. We had stayed here before and not being a massive fan of heights, I couldn’t believe the feeling when I looked over the railing from the 7th and 8th floors. It is one of those dizzying heights that has you leaning backward as you peer forward – catching a glimpse of the drop downwards just to satisfy your own curiosity. No, the 2nd floor is high enough for me.
Over the past couple of days, I have noticed a family staying in one of the suites on the 7th floor. It is a regular family with two young children – a boy about 12 and a girl around 8. I have been away from home now for more than 6 weeks and it reminds me of the times I have been in this type of environment with my wife Natlee and two children Callum (9) and Caitlin (7).
The two children always appear happy. They amuse themselves up on the 7th floor by playing games, watching TV and entertaining each other. I saw them playing video games just this morning as I walked past their room. They had the door wide open. They were laughing, as usual.
Today I had a gym session for the players. When the session was over I made my way back to my room on the 2nd floor. I was lying on my bed with the TV on and thinking about what I needed to do for the rest of the day and that lunch was probably next on the agenda. I heard a call from the corridor “John. John. Come quickly. John!” I was on my feet pretty fast and was out of my room to find some of the team at the end of the corridor. “What is it?” I asked.
“The boy from the top floor. He fell out of the window!” one of the players replied. We all peered out of the window in disbelief.
Apparently the two children had been playing with a Frisbee on the top floor. I had seen them doing that the day before. But today, the 12 year old must not have been able to stop when chasing the Frisbee and lost control. He hit the window. It gave way. And he plunged out of the building, landing on the steps to the meeting section of the hotel. The drop would have to be more than 80m.
He didn’t die straight away. I was told that he hung on for 2 hours before passing away in the local hospital with his distraught parents by his side. It is a tragedy of the highest order. I have not been able to stop thinking about that boy. That happy child. His family. The loss.
In David Beckham’s book “My Side”, he talks about living in a bubble. In fact, he called it ‘Bubble Beckham’. I think I live in a bubble too. We all do. Our own self important little bubbles filled with our desires for personal comfort and the individual world’s in which we all exist. And then you are confronted by something like the death of this young 12 year old boy.
I don’t know what his name was. I probably never will. But I will always remember this laughing, happy child that died so tragically. He will forever remind me of what is truly important in this life. And, like the poor souls that were lost in the Twin Towers, it is a reminder to love the people that you have with you now. Tell them now how you feel about them. Show them through your actions how important they are. Hug them. Kiss them. Love them. It is unfortunate that sometimes the most important things in life are the very things that we take the most for granted.
RIP young boy.