i’ve been weeping all morning. the memorial coverage of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has been gut-wrenching. we can all remember exactly where we were, what we were doing, and who we were with when the gleaming twin towers were struck. the sheer terror and unprecedented trauma in our collective hearts lingered for months after, as the footage was replayed over and over and over again.
eventually the coverage turned from tragedy to triumph in the battle of good versus evil, us against osama bin laden. for those of us who weren’t in NYC during the time of the attacks, the image of those dreaded planes hitting, the smoldering fires and the mushroom clouds of smoke, ash, debris and human bodies crashing to the ground, was seared into our minds. yet the brutal reality—the devastating impact on human lives—years after the event, seemed to fade.
for many, the impact of 9/11 on our lives has been reduced to enduring the litany of political chest-thumping on TV, longer time spent in airport security lines, taking off shoes and submitting to body scans and the occasional pat down in the name of safety.
but today’s memorial coverage reminds us that, while the motive for the attacks was political, the impact from that fateful day was on people. from the unimaginable horror came honor. from every day human beings emerged true heroes and genuine acts of courage. that the very worst of times brought out the very best in each other. i was reminded, then and now—10 years later—that we are resilient.
the stories of 9/11 teach us that more than a country, a race, a religion, we are people. who need each other. who help each other. who show us goodness in the face of so much bad.
light in the darkest hour. last night we sat riveted to the TV screen watching a special on TLC entitled “9/11: Heroes of the 88th Floor.” the show recounts the utter selflessness and bravery of two “ordinary” men who risked their lives to save over 75 people when flight 11 hit the north tower, before dying on their way to save more.
better and stronger together, than alone. a heartbreaking, utterly inspiring account of the “9/11 babies 10 years later," who lost their fathers, but have discovered the deepest of bonds with the other kids who now call themselves “BFFWAD": Best Friends Forever Without a Dad.
lucky beyond measure. countless survivors shared stories of the devastating, eerie, war-torn scene surrounding the collapsed buildings. amidst suffocating smoke and debris, artifacts of daily life were strewn across the ground, papers floating in the air, schedules being trampled underfoot as people raced to get away from the carnage. the sense of powerlessness over your own life, your fate, was visceral…and yet, with that utter lack of control, there were examples of light. and hope. the story of “stairwell B” recounts how a group of firemen went up into the burning north tower to rescue an injured woman on the 73rd floor, only to find themselves directly in the midst of the building’s collapse. miraculously, huddled together in a section of stairwell B, with the walls disintegrating around them and trapped under debris for 3 hours, they survived.
everyday heroes. “The photograph of the little girl in a red velvet dress with her late mother's NYPD Medal of Honor hanging around her neck and dangling past her knees tugged at heartstrings across the world. Patricia Smith was 2 years old then, when she walked across the stage at Carnegie Hall to accept the honor for her mother, Moira Smith, a New York City police officer who was killed in the Sept. 11 terror attacks that felled the twin towers in lower Manhattan. Smith, 38, was the department's only female police officer to be killed on 9/11. After helping people escape the burning buildings, she went back again and died when the south tower collapsed.” (abc news). now she is 12. her biggest wish for her mother to be a part of: not her graduation, wedding or other major milestone. no, something much simpler: “to be part of a family dinner.”
in my household, dinner time is often far from idyllic. food on faces and on floors. scowls about stir fry instead of mac and cheese. but i wouldn’t trade the chaos for anything in the world. 9/11 reminds us: life is about simple things. goodness. gratitude. little moments—perfect in their imperfection. cherish them.