I wasn’t planning to write anything on here about the 8th anniversary of the attacks of 9-11. But, as I’ve gone through the day, thinking about where I was and what I remember, I just felt moved to add my voice to the many who are commemorating this day in some way. Sitting at my desk, eating lunch, I ended up watching some videos on youtube from that day and the weeks following. Videos of CNN trying to figure out what was going on; Paul Simon performing on the first SNL; Letterman’s amazing monologue on his first show back etc…
It is hardly surprising that the first thing I thought of was where I was on that fateful day. So please indulge me as I recount it… I remember that my second period class that day (senior year of High School) was focused on the Middle East and the various violent factions that had risen up in recent years. During that class is when both towers were hit. Every day, between second and third periods, we had an all-school tea break (yeah, yeah, I know…) in our “gym.” As I reached the door a friend came up to me to see if I had heard about what was going on. When I said I hadn’t, he told me that both towers had been hit by jumbo jets, a bomb had gone off in the Pentagon (which is what we thought at the time) and that there were at least 8 planes unaccounted for. A few minutes later, our headmaster announced what was going on and instructed us to not leave the school, for any reason. You see, our school was in the heart of Copley Square in Boston and there was concern that planes might be headed for some of the buildings nearby. The rest of the day is a bit of a blur with some clear moments I remember. Being pulled out of a class to go be with my sister who had just started her freshman year. Being gathered around a small TV watching news broadcasts in the Headmaster’s office. Piling I don’t know how many kids into my parent’s car when they decided they were going to drive into Boston to get us. Driving out of Boston with the roads being eerily quiet and the only sound fighter jets flying overhead. Waiting nervously to reach family and friends in NYC and the incredible concern when a good friend said she thought her Dad may have been on one of the planes (he wasn’t). Watching the TV for hours when I got home, as they replayed those horrible scenes over and over.
Above all though, what stands out to me from that day are the individual actions, both small and large, of so many heroes that day. Rescue workers racing into the buildings, putting their lives at risk, for complete strangers. Friends giving each other exactly what was needed – a hug, an ear, a shoulder – and extending the same to people they didn’t know. My parents picking up as many of my classmates as they could so their parents didn’t have to drive into the city and they could avoid the T. It is said that our true nature comes out in moments of extreme stress or crisis and I think we saw it that day. In the days following, the outpouring from around the world was extraordinary. Petty differences were put aside and the focus was on uniting against this extraordinary evil. It was something I will never forget.
However, as we look back, it is important for us to look forward and understand that thousands of people are killed every day, all over the world, by people as evil as the 19 9/11 terrorists. There are people who wake every morning feeling the same terror that so many of us felt on that September day eight years ago. I’ll never forget, the following day, having bomb-sniffing dogs in our school, because the FBI was concerned that there were criminals hiding there. The lack of security I felt that day is nothing compared to the challenges so many of my fellow human beings feel everytime they step outside their homes. (and even sometimes in their homes) After the Holocaust the oft-used refrain was “Never again.” We resolved as a world community to not let evil reign and, as demonstrated by 9/11 and other atrocities we have failed. Today, as we remember the thousands who died on 9/11, and the many more who have died since as a result of those tragic events, let us resolve to do anything and everything in our power to build the bonds we had on 9/12 and honor those we’ve lost by preventing evil around the world. Yes, I know this is a bit idealistic and we will never be able to truly eradicate evil, but at least we can resolve to, each of us, do what we can to make the world a better place. Through that resolve, we can do our part to save lives and improve the quality of life for all our fellow world citizens.