It’s one of those dates that immediately when you hear it, your shoulders feel heavier. Such is the power of one date on the calendar. You feel the collective loss: loss of a person, loss of the sense of safety, and ultimately the loss of innocence.
I lived in Toronto when it happened. Like most people, I remember everything about it.
I remember listening to the radio, shocked that navigation equipment had malfunctioned. I remember the second plane hitting and thinking ‘Oh my God, what’s happening to all of the equipment?’ (it was simply beyond my comprehension that something so horrific – terrorists- could happen).
I also remember going into a waiting room, where I had an appointment and telling people what I’d just heard. And I remember one response: ‘Oh, those Americans bring it on themselves…always in other peoples wars’. Now, had that woman not been five times bigger than me, I would have felt compelled to kick her ignorant shin.
But she was so much bigger than me. And so much more stupid. (stupid is as stupid does).
The hardest part of being outside of the U.S. was feeling ‘removed’ from the collective experience of it. I really wanted to be there, in person. To be able to share the grief and be a part of the emotional connection that quickly became apparent.
Now that we’re back on the states, we always take something down to the local firehouse on 9/11. Nothing fancy, just a token of appreciation.
And as I get older and as time moves on, I have started to think more about things.
On a deeper level. Sometimes. But not always.
I was watching 60 minutes on Sunday, and it featured an English man named Nicholas Winton. Mr Winton had rescued hundreds of children from certain death during the World War II. He was remarkably humble. One of his comments struck a cord with me, and I keep replaying it in my head. To paraphrase him, he said that he ‘didn’t care for the past…it’s over with. Too many people dwell on the past, they forget to be in the present – to look out at the future.
I love that sentiment. I would much prefer my family to remember the day I came into the world – rather than the day I left it. I don’t think it would be a show of disrespect, but more of a sign of celebration for who I was.
I just wouldn’t want to be defined by my death.
And I can’t help but wonder if some of the people, who were taken away so cruelly that day, would also prefer not to be defined by it.
I think today, of all days, I’d like to think about the positive.
What the human spirit can do.
It doesn’t take away the grief. The truth is that grief deserves to be honored, and felt. But grief also needs to bring about healing. And with healing, comes rebirth and through rebirth we learn to celebrate.
So today the sun will shine, and life will begin for some and end for others. And, hopefully, at the end of today we take the time to show love to someone.
Because today is today.
And that’s all we have.
And that’s probably all we need.