One Year Later...
It has been a year now since that fateful Tuesday we now call, simply, 9/11. We have all changed, and been changed, in so many ways. We remain resolute in our commitment to live free, to have lives that are not controlled by murderous madmen from countries far away, and yet we are concerned, sometimes even afraid. The world is a far more treacherous place than we had thought, indeed more than some of us could have imagined in our worst nightmares. We have not brought those responsible for the attacks to justice; it appears less and less likely each day that we ever will. What was unthinkable a year ago now seems inevitable: there will be other attacks. We will see terrible things again.
Many of us , especially those of us in the New York area, remain deeply affected by the events of 9/11. We sleep more fitfully. We startle more easily. We look up when we hear a plane in the sky. We wince at the sight of a low flying jet. We turn for comfort to things we hope will make us feel better -- to comfort foods, sometimes even to alcohol or to drugs. It doesn't take much to bring us to tears. We have been deeply injured. We have not yet healed.
And yet... and yet... there are some things that have changed for the better since 9/11. Some things I hope will not change back even as we regain some greater portion of the sense of security we had in those golden days before the World Trade Center was attacked. So many of us seem to care more, to reach out more, to consider how very precious are the lives of those we love and how little it might take to lose those people in a blinding flash of an instant. We seem to be taking time to say those very difficult words more often: "I love you." And we even seem to mean them more. And that may, by itself, be the greatest lesson we were taught last September 11th.
Always before we've had certain priorities, or perhaps more accurately certain things we thought were important, but we were always ready to put them a little lower on the list of "things that must be done" because -- God help us -- we thought there would always be time to get everything on the list done. But 9/11 drove it home, in a powerful way, that the time any of us may have to do the "things that must be done" may be a whole lot shorter than any of us could have imagined.
So it seems we've all sat down with our lists of "things that must be done" and scratched off every last one of the "things that really don't matter much" and re-prioritized the rest, with most of us putting people-things much higher and thing-things much lower.
It really DOESN'T matter if we should perish suddenly with the leaves still on the ground in the yard or the wash undone or the checkbook not balanced. But an afternoon spent romping in piles of leaves with a parent may be the one memory that carries a child through a lifetime without that parent if something terrible should happen. And I would not think back with regret about the chores I didn't get to, or the things I didn't have, or the work successes that eluded me. But I would regret not getting up at 4:30 a.m. to see the Leonids, and not taking my family to New York to see a play and so missing the chance to watch everyone's faces light up, and not taking time to be with them every chance I can.
In all the cellphone calls made from the Twin Towers or from the airplanes on the morning of September 11th, not one person talked about missing the chance to close one more cutthroat business deal. Not one person mentioned the car he/she didn't buy, the computer/electronic toy he/she didn't get. Nobody mentioned an enemy; nobody spoke of hate.
I guess there really isn't any more powerful evidence than that of what really does matter in life.
I've tried harder in the last year to let my family know how very much they all mean to me. But I learned, last September 11th, that there's no such thing as saying it too often. So I'm going to use this page and this time right now to say it again -- to all of you, Evan, Diana, Paul, Kacy, Fred, Warren and Bill, Judith and Nadine and Mike and Carolyn, Gina and Tim, Rudi and Max and Stefan and Katya, Ian and Hannah and Thomas and Rose, Bobbi and Joel and Sydney, and Dennis, Uncles Bill and David and Jerry and Mike, Aunts Cladyne and Carol and Marianne and Trisha, my many many cousins who have so enriched my life (can I even try to name you all? starting with Bobbi as the eldest all the way to Chrissie as the youngest? this whole website doesn't have room!) -- I love you all dearly.
And I say the same to the many friends who have been such a part of my life: I love you too.
Family. Friends. How important you are. How much you mean to me. That's not what the terrorists wanted me to learn from September 11. But that's the only lesson from 9/11 that's worth learning.