Remembering, ten years later

As the 10 year anniversary of that terrible and life changing event is upon us, we have been inundated with news articles and reports to remind us of just how scary life in the real world can be. I remember that day clearly. I was at a conference in Atlanta, and when I first heard the news, I remember being confused. What do you mean a plane crashed into theWorldTradeCenter? I imagined the nose of a small Cessna jet jutting into the side of the glass and concrete building with the people inside the plane completely fine and unharmed, poking their bodies half out of the circular-shaped windows with arms comically waving in the air like you might see in a simply animated cartoon. It took a second for the seriousness of the matter to hit me, and then I immediately thought about John Kennedy Jr. and I immediately felt a sadness tugging at me. The idea of a full sized airline jet still hadn’t entered my mind. It was simply unfathomable. There were no televisions near us, and since this was pre-smart phone, we were completely clueless as to what was really happening. It wasn’t until almost an hour later when we starting walking back to our hotel, and we saw a large group of people crowding into a small restaurant bar to watch the live news reports on the television, that we saw the horror and devastation. As I watched the towers come tumbling down, a numbness washed over me. For the rest of the afternoon, I sat there glued to the little tv screen. People gasped, and murmured around us. My colleagues were on their cell phones with their families offering assuring comments like “it will all be okay,” and “I’ll be home soon.”  When I was back in my hotel room, I cried. Not just a few tears. I’m talking about a drop down to my knees, gut clenching kind of sob. A few days later, after they let us fly again and I was home, I cried the same way again.  For several weeks, I found myself emotionally distraught and crying at random moments. I didn’t personally know anyone who died that day, and I am so thankful for that. Because the anguish I feel for those thousands of strangers was paralyzing enough.

It’s now 10 years later. And there have been hundreds of tragedies, including a few personal ones that have affected me since then. Let’s face it, terrible things happen every day and there isn’t all that much we can do about it. Yet, every year around this time we hear stories of the souls that lost their lives in that dreadful attack, and stories about the people they left behind. And every year I find myself crying again.

This morning, I was standing in front of my closet picking out the clothes I was going to wear to work. I had the news on in the background as usual, waiting for the traffic report so I could figure out just how much time I had to lollygag around before I had to start my commute. I was in the middle of contemplating between wearing the grey top or the bluish grey top -because there is a difference and it matters- when on came a news story about 9/11. They talked about how a man, despite being told to stay in the building that day, directed and helped the people he worked with to evacuate, so that by the time the first tower collapsed, they were all safely out of the building. But the former military officer didn’t make it, because he went back in to try and save more people. I realized the triviality of my morning dilemma, and already there were tears welling up in my eyes. I stopped what I was doing and walked over to my television monitor to get a closer look at a picture of this hero.  His name was Rick Rescorla, and he was a veteran and a security officer. I came to find out that the report wasn’t only about his bravery on that day, but that the SF opera had created an Opera based on a book by journalist James Stewart on Rick Rescorla’s life story.  I had to smile as my spirit lifted in the understanding that this glorious spirit will live on. I felt encouraged by the thought that everyone has a story, and whether more of that story is uplifting and inspiring or dark and sad, each life is worth remembering. And moreover, each life is worth living.

Here’s to stories. May they be forever thought provoking and emotionally moving. Here’s to people whose actions and lives prompt us to tell their stories in many different ways. Here’s to the writers and poets who breathe life into written words, and the artists who create visions to relay those stories. After all, everything we create is about life, isn’t it?

Here’s a link to one of the news story about Rick Rescorla :

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