September 11, 2001.
I got into the car heading for God knows where. I had just quit a job that I hated to stay home with one of my sons who was still in daycare for another week. I had never seen the sky so blue.
I turned on the radio and drove to the top of the street. Somewhere between my driveway and the less than half a block in the car, the world as I knew it changed forever.
The towers. A plane had hit one of the towers.
My first thought was that the shock jocks that I must have tuned into weren’t very funny. How could anybody joke about something like that? But something in their voices made me drive around the block and back to the house.
I turned on the television and there it was. The world was on fire.
I did the first thing I could think of. I got back in my car and picked my youngest son up from daycare. I needed the familiarity of family. I thought about picking up my oldest son from school but honestly, knowing that the world was changing before my eyes, I wanted him to have just one more normal day.
The Towers. The Pentagon. Flight 93. Nearly 3,000 people killed in the horrific acts of 9/11.
I remember. My son entered the military in large part because of the events of that day as did many of his classmates.
I also remember the time after. I remember the calls made to loved ones just to hear their voices in a time of such sadness and chaos. I remember calling friends who I knew were in and around NYC and DC to make sure that they and those they loved were safe. Not okay. I knew they could not be okay.
I remember the heroic story of passengers on a commercial flight who took their lives into their own hands and in doing so, saved many other people. The pilots who climbed into fighter jets without munitions, expecting that they were going on a suicide mission to take flight 93 down. Risking their lives so that others might live.
Boats lined up to get people out of Manhattan and over to New Jersey, where it was safe.
Lines. So many lines of people waiting to give blood and provide whatever they could to help.
Offers of assistance from all over the country and the world.
Unity. Love. Sacrifice.
We lost so many on that day. Police officers. Firefighters. Clergy. Restaurant workers. Financial people. Wives. Husbands. Mothers. Fathers. Heroes.
And since then? What would they say about where we are now?
We live in a diverse world with different people who have different beliefs. But on that day, for the most part, we were one people.
Not so much today.
Families, friends, communities, states, countries. For many, there is this visceral need to be right and to put the ideas of all others in a box. We are so busy judging that we don’t take time to listen. To understand. To try to find common ground.
To focus on what is good. And there is a lot of good in this world.
Most. seniors in high school weren’t born when 9/11 happened. They can’t be expected to remember what it was like during and after. But we can. And we should. And we must.
We must not forget the sacrifices that others made on that day and on the days following 9/11. We must not forget what it means to be part of our communities. We must not forget that it is incumbent upon us to listen to others earnestly and with respect. To do everything we can to honor those who died just for showing up at work. Or on a plane. Or running into a burning building when everyone else was trying to get out.
The beauty of a society lies in its diversity. Diversity of its people, cultures, and ideas. Instead of avoiding, demeaning and dismissing, let’s acknowledge, embrace and celebrate.
Unity. We owe it to them. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to our future.