It’s September 11, 2013 as I write this. The question which is the title of this post (and variations on the theme) is the most common one being asked on FaceBook today, as it is every year at this time.
I started to answer it there, quickly realized I would need some more space to chronicle my thoughts and feelings and came here to you, my beloved loyal readers. This anniversary is a hard one to write about, and an emotional topic for all of us who lived through it. Maybe, if I sort out my feelings through my words, I can help you work through some of yours.
We live in upstate NY. I remember it as such a lovely early fall morning. The sky was clear blue. The trees were just starting their annual turning, and were mostly green. The weather that day was warm, but not hot, and brilliantly sunny. It was a gorgeous day in every way, and the kind of day that makes me wake up glad to just be alive.
My husband Bob had an unusual day off that day. Because we knew in advance he was getting it, we’d scheduled a brunch meeting with someone to discuss a potential partnership in our business, and then planned some other things while our son was in high school. Our daughter was away at college.
While I was doing my makeup and hair, the phone rang. Bob answered it, and it was my mentor and best friend, Cindy. She said there had been what looked to be an accident in New York city, that a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center, and we should turn on the morning news.
We saw the replay of the first crash right after we turned on the bedroom television. While the hosts were talking about how all the people who worked there would get out, the camera suddenly went to the plane flying into the other tower. As a host shouted it was another plane into the second tower, I looked at Bob and said, “This was no accident. We are under attack.”
Bob looked ashen, frozen between the television and me. I saw the clock on the screen, realized what time it was, and asked him to turn it off. I said, “We have a meeting in a half hour. We can deal with this later.” As I finished my makeup and hair, I kept telling myself not to cry, not to muss what I was doing, and just get through the morning. Cindy called back in the midst of it, gave me a pep talk, and said the same things to me I was saying to myself, reinforcing my resolve.
We went to the restaurant. We had coffee and waited, watching the coverage on the television there. When the towers fell and it was quite some time after the scheduled meeting time, we called our new partner. He never showed up. He spent the day frozen before his own television, and when we finally met with him his grief prevented him from being able to see what we were showing him.
There is more, but it involves others and their stories, and I don’t have their permission to tell them. This post is about me, and my story. It will have to be enough to say about the rest of it there was a series of other hard events impacting many people, including the death of our last grandparent, during the month or so after that day.
We had a chance to go to the New York City site some weeks after it happened. But out of respect for the dead, and at the request of those others I mentioned before, we declined the opportunity. It wasn’t the right time. We did other things in New York City that day, including cheer and wave with our friends at every fire truck that passed.
When Bob and I did finally go, it was in July of 2002. It was a hot, steamy summer day, with street temperatures in the low 100’s. But when we got to the area around the site, where the operations were still going on, the air coming up from the pit was freezing cold, much colder than a place like that should have been on such a day. The pit was much less than 1/2 way down to where the foundations had been.
Most people stood in silence, or spoke in whispers. So a small voice speaking normally was very audible. “Mommy, why is it so cold here?” I heard the child ask, and the parent softly replied they didn’t know. Inspiration struck me, and I turned to the group where I’d heard the child’s question. I found the child, knelt and gently said, “Because it’s always cold where evil touches, honey. Most grownups think the evil behind the hate is hot. But evil leaves everything it touches cold. Love is warm, and leaves everything it touches warm.”
It took a long time for Bob and I to leave that day. The comment passed from group to group, from language to language, as people pointed me out as the one who said it. I have never, before or since, been hugged more in a day than I was then, even on our wedding day.
Our world changed 12 years ago. September 11, 2001 was a defining moment, one where everyone knew where they were and what they were doing when they found out. To most, it was just as defining as when President John F. Kennedy was shot, when Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated or when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. We all remember when and where we met our Significant Others, the births of our children, the deaths of loved ones, graduations and other defining moments which are the meetings and partings of life.
But where were we, and what were we doing, a year before September 11, 2001? Or a week ago last Thursday? Unless it was a day with a defining moment in it, or we keep a daily journal, most of us likely don’t remember. Did these pass by in the blur of “getting by” and doing the stuff we all have to do to live and work daily??
It comes down to whether we are living our lives on purpose. If we don’t live them on purpose, our lives pass by in a blur, punctuated only by defining moments, which are really too few and too far between. William J. Bennett spoke to this when he said,
Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always, even death itself. The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?
So, what were you doing 12 years ago? And what are you doing now, this day, to make today and the future worthwhile for you and those who come after you?? How are you living on purpose???
I invite you to continue the discussion in the comments.
- Where Were You on September 11, 2001? (jamesandcindirunyon.com)
- The 9/11 Attacks: A Terrifying Spectacle, Viewed from Afar (samirchopra.com)
- 12 Years Later (blackbunchedmassmom.wordpress.com)
- Where I was that day (teepee12.com)
- September 11th, 2001 and Beyond (continuouslykb.wordpress.com)
- Never Forget (tlcagle4.wordpress.com)
- September 11, 2001 (theuniversalspectator.wordpress.com)
- Do you remember 9/11? #neverforget (hwgenerals.wordpress.com)
- Remember (fulltimewritermom.com)