What Has 9/11 Taught You?


Boy painting flag
It’s difficult to ignore this day in our country’s history. I remember where I was and what I was doing when I found out we were under attack. It’s an especially memorable day because whatever level of childlike innocence that existed within me, believing that good lives in everyone, was immediately erased when I saw the second plane hit the towers.

My neighbor and sitter, someone I felt was often prone to overreaction, called to ask if I was watching the news that morning. Heck no! We’ve got “Clifford, the Big Red Dog” or some such thing on the tube while my nearly 4-year-old son was building a Lego city. During my first pregnancy, the sound of the news or anything fear producing, was something I removed from my steady diet and I never looked back. T’s voice had a familiar worrisome tone that morning, but with a pitch just slightly higher. I thought she was being especially cynical when she said she thought the (first) plane was a planned maneuver. I dismissed her comments until…

Well, you know the rest.

I cried that entire day, perhaps that entire week. I could not find one shred of good in these people and now my world had no foundation. And, how could I have brought two children into this mayhem? How can all the good mothering in the world temper this?! And, I know I was hurting along with everyone else. We were all going to have to find a way to heal from this horrific event. Perhaps, the only upside was watching a wounded nation come together; politicians and those of opposing viewpoints were “United” for a brief time.

While my baby napped, my son and I painted an American flag with the word, “United” on it and posted it in our front yard where all our fellow American citizens could pass by and see (we lived on a highly trafficked road) and somehow we could mourn together and realize how precious life is. I felt so helpless as the Pollyanna in me slipped away, but there was something comforting in grieving together.

My Dad’s birthday is September 11th. I saw him that day. It was his 83rd birthday and his day would be forever ruined, we lamented. He was really sad and so was I. We didn’t talk much except to exchange how everything would never be the same. We tried to find some normalcy by sharing coffee and watching his soap opera together. But, the air was certainly different.

This day is still very, very sad to me. I think of my Dad first, how he fought in the Navy for the country he loved, and how he is gone now, having lived through much in his 90 years. And then, I think about all of those directly affected by 9/11. I was fortunate enough to not have any personal connection to anyone at the towers that day. I can still feel many people, myself included, reacting quickly from a place of fear, a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) of sorts, and making decisions in their lives from that place of fear, on high alert with a vigilante’s demeanor. But, simultaneously, I am seeing many others rising above it and not letting it get the best of them. We ARE healing as a nation. We ARE helping one another and our compassion is incrementally growing each day as we remember to take stock of all that is precious in our lives.

From a personal standpoint, my foundation was cracked, but not destroyed. I DO see the good, however minuscule, in everyone again. There is evil, no doubt. But, I am even able to look at it with a level of compassion I didn’t possess before. Often, evil shows up as an ignored or abandoned child crying out desperately for even the smallest bit of attention or as an ignorant fool who does not believe in his own worth or the worth of others. A few come to mind.

But, I don’t want to focus on that. I’m a firm believer in what we believe we create. And, the more I hear from people that our world is a wreck and we’re going to hell in a hand basket, it really bothers me. If you believe that, what a hell you will live in.

So, I humbly ask you to focus on gratitude for all the wonderful people in your community and all the love you can muster to both give out and receive. When you think about your day, truthfully, isn’t it really filled with these people?! Aren’t there more people in your corner than not? I mean, really. We hear about the whack jobs, of course. They exist. But, you, your life, right now — who is in it? Who is loving you right now and who are YOU loving? Put THAT around you! And, turn off the news!

I once heard a police officer say, “When you think about it, only probably 7% of people do really bad things or are criminals. Those are the ones I see on a regular basis. But, the other 93% of people exist.” And, that’s what got her through her work days.

Please forgive my preachiness, but collectively, I know we can create a better world, by uniting in our compassion for one another and believing in the altruistic spirit that exists in all of us. If September 11th has taught us anything, could it be just that?!

What have you learned from that day? Where were you and what have you taken from that experience? Please tell me your thoughts. Thanks for listening.