Some of my fellow docents decided to develop our friendships outside of the time we spent volunteering together. I was excited to be included. The TLA—Tribute Ladies Auxiliary, as we call ourselves—was born. Michele, a fellow docent, took the idea of “Let’s be tourists in our own city” and ran with it. She researched and scheduled events.
Every other month or so we participate in the kind of activity—walking tour, museum, or landmark visit—that tourists enjoy. We explore our own city. We’ve taken tours of Madison Square Garden, the Waldorf Astoria, Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Radio City to name just a few. A meal together is usually part of our adventures. The added time together has expanded our knowledge of our city immeasurably and, even better, grown our friendships. I cherish each one of these bonds.
One of these friendships came as a complete surprise.
If you had told me years ago that Brenda Berkman and I would be friends, I would’ve found that hard to believe.
As a 9/11 first responder, Brenda was a fellow docent at the Tribute Museum. I knew of Brenda because she was the first female firefighter in the FDNY. Her lawsuit against the city caused a hiring delay that resulted in Bruce waiting years to become a firefighter. At the time all I saw was a roadblock to my husband’s dream. What I understand now is that an amazing human being fought for the rights of women to be firefighters not by lowering the standards but by making the requirements fit the job.
When Brenda and I met as docents, I knew who she was, and she knew I was Bruce’s widow. As I came to know her as a person, I knew I had to say something.
I eventually said to her, “You know at one point you were a swear word in my house. Now you are a friend.”
Amazing what getting to know someone can accomplish.
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