Here we are, the day after the 10th Anniversary of September 11. Yesterday was akin to September 11, 2001 with a blue, cloudless sky and an eerie calm, yet it came and went without incident, unlike the fateful day a decade ago.
The eponymous question of “where were you when it happened” is a hand-in-hand comment to tragic historical events, as are the degrees of separation to someone directly impacted.
I was living in Richmond, having just graduated from college, and sitting in a job interview when the first plane hit. A woman ran into the office, informing us that a plane had hit and at the time, we were unaware that it was an attack. It appeared more as an accident. When the second one hit and we knew this was more than pilot error.
Driving home from the interview, the radio was playing “Beautiful Day” by U2, which I found odd and unsettling. While the weather certainly was, the events which were unfolding before the world’s eyes, made it anything but…
A colleague from the University of Richmond’s brother was on Flight 93. He was one of the five heroes who bravely plotted to overtake the hijackers. I watched his family on 20/20 later in the week. The boy, who I had always thought of as equally tough and sophomoric, was crying on the TV with his family. Sadly, the day united many thorough not only patriotism, but through tears as well.
I heard later that Ian Thorpe, the Australian swimmer called the Thorpedo who sat with our family during the Beijing Olympics in 2008, was supposed to be on the top floor’s observation deck at 8:30am, but he had left his camera in his hotel room, which he turned around to retrieve. A friend of a friend’s, whose Dad was slated to be in a meeting that morning, had overslept. Another, who decided to take off that day, because a mental vacation was needed are all stories that warm the heart. But, then there are the storied of those who weren’t as fortunate.
One of my first thoughts on that day, was how many parents were rushed that morning and forgot to kiss those they love the most. Or the spouse who stormed out after a morning argument, only to never return home. The mother who forgot to tell her child how proud she was of him or the children who now will grow up never knowing one, or both, of their parents. The pictures pulled at your heartstrings but the stories made you hug those you love a little tighter.
On the one-year anniversary, I was working in Washington, DC and I remember wearing a navy scarf with stars to work. Everyone slowed down that day to smile at a stranger. Ten years later the Pentagon has been rebuilt and memorials erected in New York and Pennsylvania, with all visible signs of the day gone.
I don’t know if I feel safer, because I never felt unsafe when the planes hit ten-years ago. I don’t control our presence overseas, nor do I have a say in how we allocate funds for domestic security, but I do have the option to live my life without fear. I actively make the decision to tell those who matter the most that I love them and I say I’m sorry when I’ve hurt someone I love. I don’t ever want to wonder “what if” or “should I have” because life it too short and we never know when it might be cut short by something outside of our control…