11 September, 2002
"Where were you when the world stopped turning, on that September day?"
Do you remember what you were doing on September 10th, 2001?
It seems like another place in time, doesn't it? I can tell you that I have no clue what I was doing on September 10th, 2001. There's no memory of that day at all in my mind.
But we all remember what we were doing on September 11th, 2001.
There are events in our lives-personal ones, or events in our world, that shape and sculpt our existence. Personally, it can be your wedding day, or the birth of your first child, and, suddenly, you can't remember what life was like before that. And there are events that define not only our personal existence, but those that define us on a broader scale as human beings: in this country, such events have been Pearl Harbor, the deaths of Presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy, the Challenger Disaster-and, of course, September 11th, 2001.
It seems like nothing really existed before 8:46am, Eastern time that day. I do remember being on here, reading the online edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and my youngest son was watching the Disney Channel. A friend from Los Angeles came on IM and told me to turn on the news.....and the world was changed.
We all know the events of that day: the horror, the confusion, the feeling, at least here in the States, that the world was indeed coming to an end. All that has been recorded for history, and I won't go over the individual or collective events of that day. But whether we all like it or not, we have changed. Our outlook on the world has changed. For many of us, our very existence have changed. And, each of us recall that day in our own ways, and have drawn our own lesson from that day.
What are some things I've thought of since that day of infamy? Seeing the images from New York, I came to realize, maybe for the first time, how really fragile and fleeting life is, and how precious life is. Seeing the images of fireman, EMT's and Police officers running INTO the burning buildings, I also am more aware that, as precious as life is that, sometimes, random acts of mercy and kindness are even more important than life itself. I can imagine giving up my life to save my wife or any of my three children, but for strangers, as those people did that day? I do not think I could be as courageous and selfless as those men and women.
I was not in New York, Washington or Pennsylvania that day, but the effects have been felt by me personally and by colleagues. Shortly after these events, many of my colleagues were laid off of work. The effects of September 11th, combined with the already-slowed economy have devastated the airline industry-far more than people outside the industry will ever believe. I saw the frailty of life in that event. When you see the looks on a friends face seconds after they found out they're not going to be at work the next week; the desperate hugs of a close friend, when she knows her job is gone. Maybe not as devastating as the events of September 11th, but devastating to them and their life. Again, even events such as these show how fleeting our existence is in this frail, small planet.
I saw in the immediate aftermath the heroic strength that was felt far beyond the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville. It was self-evident in the massive line to give blood at our local center-so long that my wife and I couldn't even get in to give ourselves; it was evident in the thousands of candlelight vigils that very evening, as American came together to grieve and console each other; it was evident when firefighters from around the country put out firefighter boots in cities and towns, collecting money for their fallen comrades in New York City; it was evident when colleagues of an air traffic controller in Boston, who's wife was on American 11 and was killed-just two months before his retirement-gave up THEIR vacation and sick time to him, so that he could make it to retirement following her death; it was evident in the renewal of pride of patriotism in our nation-the belief that, however imperfect America is, it's people still see it, as their 16th President once said "the last, best hope of the Earth."
I think of how fate plays such an important role in such events. I have a cousin who is a Vice President in her company. On Friday, September 7th, her 8:30am meeting in the World Trade Center for Tuesday, September 11th, was changed to 8:30am on Wednesday, September 12th; a friend of mine, and a member of this forum, volunteered to be bumped off a DL flight going EWR-SFO, and, being a Gold Elite on SkyMiles, offered to take the next DL flight First Class, instead of the flight offered by DL that day-United Flight 93. I have another cousin who's wife is a Commander in the United States Navy. She was in the Navy Wing of the Pentagon that day-one seciton away from where AA 77 crashed into the Army wing. Perhaps, had she been appointed to attend the Military Acadamy at West Point all those years ago, instead of the Naval Academy at Annapolis all those years ago, she might be dead. Those things leaped to my mind that night, as I lay in bed, trying unsuccesfully to get some sleep, and to shut out the gruesome images of that day.
All of us on here have our own different "take" on the fallout of that day, a day that has, like so few before it, put a stark mark on history. And, those arguments, gentle sometimes, rancorous at other times, let us save for another day, and another time. Today, no matter what our beliefs about the aftermath of 9/11/01, need to be set aside. Today, they are not what is important. Remembering the horror and the agony-and the heroicism, of that day, is what should be paramount in our thoughts, and, for those of us of a faith, in our prayers for the dead, those left behind, and those of us who are left to contemplate.
Many abroad-and a few at home-have asked "why can't Americans move beyond 9/11?" Well, we are moving beyond that fateful day. But, on this day-the first anniversary of an event that changed the world, I ask those of you abroad, and at home who wonder about this, no matter what side of the debate you've been on, to allow us this day to mourn; to reflect; to take stock of our lives and our country; to pray to our God, if we so believe in one, or to silently contemplate, if we don't believe in God. Do not use this day, I beseech you, to use as a day of argument, but as a period free from such rancor. Lord knows, we'll have other days for that-but not today. Let us dedicate this as a day of peace and remembrance. Maybe, if we do that, we'll find in each other, a part of our common humanity, no matter what side we find ourselves on in the raging debates of the time.
Let me and my fellow Americans who want to mourn and to remember, have this day for ourselves to pray, to grieve, and to reflect on that mind-numbing day and the year that has passed. We are moving forward, but we need this day to stop and look back at the year just passed.