It is difficult to capture the feeling that is in my heart today. There is an aching stillness, a hurt that is hard to express with words. I can still remember so vividly the shock, the rush of panic, the feeling of despair and hopelessness that morning and into the next few months afterward. Even after ten long years, and another lifetime of new memories that have happened since, the events and images of that day are still burned into my soul… and it still hurts.
"For me and my family personally, September 11 was a reminder that life is fleeting, impermanent, and uncertain. Therefore, we must make use of every moment and nurture it with affection, tenderness, beauty, creativity, and laughter." - Deepak Chopra, M.D.
Life truly is impermanent and uncertain. Each day is a gift, and after September 11, 2001, that lesson became very meaningful and real. Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing at the moment the planes hit in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. I was working downtown in DC at that time, and I took the metro from the Pentagon station every morning and then again in the afternoon. I had just arrived at work when the first plane hit one of the towers in New York City. It had to be an accident, I thought. Then the second plane and I knew. I knew and in an instant everything I had once known and believed was shattered.
How could this have happened? At that point, I was in shock, but then when they announced that the Pentagon had been hit, my world came crashing down. My sister taught at a school just a few miles away. My daughter’s school was within a few miles and my parents lived less than 5 miles from the impact. What were my sons doing, thinking, and how were they reacting? Suddenly, I desperately wanted and needed to know where and how all my friends and loved ones were! And I couldn’t. My mother had flown to Germany the previous day and she was agonizing over what had happened. And there I was, in the middle of L Street, trapped and unable to move as the world seemed to be crumbling around me.
"You can be sure that the American spirit will prevail over this tragedy." - Colin Powell
Mercifully, all of my loved ones were safe and well that day. In a matter of hours, we were able to speak to one another and be together in our horror and grief. But life was never the same. Not for our country, our state, our city or the little world within our hearts and minds. We had lost innocence and a belief that nothing like that could touch us. But it also brought us together and would steel us against future loss and tragedy. It would help us to get through other family tragedies which were to come. It gave us perspective and strength. Rebuilding the mangled buildings that the terrorists had sought to bring to ruin was a reminder to us that when faced with destruction in our own lives, you rebuild. You don’t leave broken, shattered ruins for your enemies to gloat over. You pick yourselves up and you begin again.
“Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children" - George W. Bush
My heart still breaks for those who lost their lives, their loved ones, their sanity and peace of mind during those terrible attacks and the days, months, and years which have followed. The Soldiers who have died fighting the wars which followed, and knew what they were up against after September 11th are a testimony to the incredible bravery and passionate love of our way of life and our deep desire to preserve it for future generations. They, too, inspire me and remind me of the cost of freedom and liberty. Their sacrifice, and that of their families, reminds me to honor and cherish every day and to live with a sense of honor and dignity and to work towards being a good, decent and productive citizen and human being.
Today is a day to remember and reflect, but each and every day is an opportunity to honor those who lost their lives and those who continue to sacrifice for others. Let the spirit and message of September 11th be with us perpetually and mindfully. Let it live and let it grow within us.