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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11: Building Communities On Love And Hope

Today is a day of remembrance, reflection, and revelation for me..  and I hope it is for you, too.

I promise this will not be "just another 9/11" post.  No, today is different.  It's been a decade since the tragic events of 9-11 and, surely, our thoughts and prayers should be with the families affected by the deplorable acts committed that day.

But I'm here to share another side of this story.

You see, my financial loss and distraught that day is nothing compared to those that lost loved ones and heroes that day..  But the events are finally catching up to me and I now see what I was scared to face all these years.  I feel a solace and reverence for that day, which says a lot considering I tend to subside negative feelings with the potential for growth; that is, where others see loss and pity, I see an opportunity for something positive.

Reading Ken Mueller's reflections on 9/11 and lessons in community reminded me that today is a day for everyone, not just those mourning losses or claiming patriotic pride, though those causes are admirable and encouraged,  I reckon.  I whole-heartedly agree with Ken that tragedy tends to bring out the best in people but, with a decade now gone since that day, I lament more than the loss of lives, I lament the loss of heart we see in the world around us. 

Why is it that great tragedy and adversity have to strike before we can see the goodness in others? 

The reminder here is that we are each charged with the responsibility to care for others, regardless of creed, color, or convictions.  We must put aside our differences and remember that we all bleed, cry, and eventually die.

These realizations should humble us all.

This day, for me, is more about remembering to be human.  Let's dig deep within ourselves and remember to have a heart and soul.  Care for others and show appreciation, before tragedy befalls us.  You just never know what could happen.
Today could be your last day to show someone that you care.  Are you spending your time wisely?
Prior to the events of 9/11, I was living and working in New York City doing Information Technology consulting and moonlighting as a ghostwriter, web developer, and small business consultant.  I had many clients and friends in World Trade Center (2WTC, specifically).  I grew up in NYC.  This was my home and part of my heart, perhaps moreso than those moving to NYC to "make it big".

On that day, I remember I wanted to go to 2WTC to get some photos developed and check in with some clients before I made my first service appointment.  I was running a bit late and, for some reason, I decided not to go to WTC.  I'd like to think it was a greater power at work. 

I recall feeling some tremors and smelling smoke in the air.  I heard a faint crash as I was still miles away.  It did not click just yet. 

As I walked to the job site, I noticed everything was still.  It was as if I were in a dream.  When I saw some buildings burning on the televisions I passed by, the surreal feeling was further amplified.  Still, it did not click.

Then I finally stopped to look at one of the televisions.  I believe I was at Rockefeller Center, if memory serves me right.  The big news building there had the event broadcasting live.  I could not hear anything but everyone stopped and, in this hurried city, that's a big deal.  Everyone is on the go all the time.  No one stops to smell the proverbial roses.

After a while, it finally clicked: those familiar buildings were right here in New York City.  Could that really be World Trade Center?  Then I looked up and saw the smoke.  Was this for real?  My jaded cynicism told me it was some sort of guerilla marketing stunt for the next big Hollywood production.  At least that is what I hoped.  We New Yorkers are invincible.  No one attacks us, right?

Alas, it was real, but I did not want to believe it just yet.  Then I saw the second plane crash.  The shock surmounted.  This was not a dream nor was it "pretend".  Even after seeing this, I still looked at the televisions as if this were all staged.

I rushed to the client's office.

When I got there, everyone was silent.  I don't think I was even acknowledged, at least not initially.  I just walked in.  No gatekeepers or paperwork to complete.  I could have came and left without anyone noticing.  I walked around a bit, making sure I did not disturb anyone, when I encountered a friend of mine.  She  spoke with such sadness and could not even force a smile.  I felt her  pain deep within me, even though we were not that close.  I choked back some tears and tried to be "strong".

My contacts at the client site finally snapped out of their frozen state long enough to acknowledge me.  I think they were just happy to see a friendly face.  Business would have to wait.  We stood together and prayed, hoped, and wished that everything would turn out all right.

Then we saw the first building crumble.  This was really happening.  I could no longer hide the tears.  Watery-eyed, I watched from the massive wide-view window as the tower fell.  For a moment, all time stopped and, again, silence took over.  Then my boss called and said that all appointments were canceled.  We were to report back to home base where there would be food and shelter for us.

As crazy as it sounded, I went downtown, just close enough to get a better look and confirm what my heart was still trying to deny.  Somehow, I got there in time to see the second tower come down.  From a distance, I could see people were running from the smoke and dust cloud chasing after them.  But that wasn't what really caught me.  Seeing total strangers comforting each other...  Wow...  Was *this* real?

That was when the magic happened.  People stopped being hurried and "too busy" to be kind to each other.  People talked to total strangers and made new friends.  It was amazing.

When I got back to the office, we shared some stories.  We tried to focus on all the good in our lives and not let what was happening really get to us.  We weren't worried about the loss of business or how this would make our commute even more painful.  Instead, we wished with every last bit of us that everyone in our fair city would pull through this.

I can't tell you just how gruesome it was to see people jumping out of windows to escape a more painful death.  Believe me, I am not trying to be morbid here but I hope that, in sharing that detail, I remind everyone that things could always be worse. 
Do not take for granted what you have today.  Be content, if not joyful.  Life truly is too short to spend it focusing on things that do not really build up our hearts and souls.
As much as it is a blur to me and still seems like some bad dream, I can probably go on a bit with personal reflections and how 9/11 affected me but this is not about me.  It's about all of us.

Today, I hope we can all remember what it is to be a human being, not just an American.  I hope we can build stronger communities and help those out that are not in as good of a position as we find ourselves in.  I hope we can remember to love and care for others.

Let's not wait for another tragedy in our lives to remind others that they matter to us. If you believe in this message, please share your love on your social platform of choice using the tag "#youmattertome".  Together, we can spread some positive energy and hopefully touch some hearts and souls.

I appreciate you.