We ran this post last year, on the 10 year anniversary of September 11th. We thought we'd run it again because it says everything I would say today.
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It’s been ten years since the day that changed our lives. We all remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard, watched and experienced the news. No matter where you were living, it affected you. It shook our sense of safety, security and made us all examine policy decisions and geopolitical actions more critically. What began as a crisp, clear, blue, cloudless day marked what felt like the end of our innocence just a few short hours later.
Everyone has a story. Adam and I were living in Capitol Hill a few blocks away from the Capitol back then. He had a front row window seat to the events in DC, as his office was directly across the river from the Pentagon. My office was a couple blocks from the White House. We were in lock down in an internal conference room trying to figure out if it was safer inside or out, preparing to have those who couldn’t get home stay there. The roads and bridges were closed. No one could get through on cell or phone lines. Adam didn’t know where I was and vice versa. We didn’t know what was coming or if we would even be safe at home. After several hours, he was able to walk from his office to mine. Together with several friends we walked home in a daze on the most eerily quiet streets and talked about what those doing the same thing in NYC must have been feeling. We met more friends at our house and huddled together around the TV, talking to neighbors and being grateful for one another.
This past Friday morning, some friends and I met for coffee. Two of us had brand new kindergartners that started school that morning, so we were a little weepy. That, coupled with an NPR piece on the firefighters from the most iconic photo from 9/11, prompted us to talk about life and that day. One of my friends said she felt guilty that morning for enjoying the warmth and joy that enveloped her in the school when she dropped her daughter off, because there are so many issues in the world that need fixing. Another friend said, “But you have to embrace them both -- those moments of joy and the concern for the world.” The weight of feeling a responsibility to fix everything in the world can engulf you at times. But it is precisely our moments of joy that inspire us to want to change the world for the better.
None of us knew each other on 9/11. One had taken her usual train through the World Trade Center and stopped to get bagels there for a meeting just an hour before the first plane hit. She is still bothered by the fact that she was standing shoulder to shoulder with people she knew headed to their offices in those towers. Another friend’s sister lived in Manhattan and planned to go to the World Trade Center that morning, but got sidetracked. The windows of her student apartment were left open and the place was blanketed with dust. She never moved back in.
I recognized a familiar thread through our stories that I hear and read in stories from people all over. That thread is the goodness in people. The stories of making it out of NYC to your sister in Poughkeepsie and weeping in each others’ arms for hours. The stories of coworkers and friends who huddled together in homes to support and nurture one another. The stories of first responders who risked everything to save a life. I believe in the goodness in people. I believe in the moments of joy that come from that goodness. Moments of joy are what make life worth living.