Today, I did what I always do on September 11. I watched some of the memorial service and cried. I read news articles and cried. I thought back to that terrible day and cried.
I’ve never written about my experiences that day because it’s not the type of thing I write. I write satire and feel uncomfortable when I’m not at least trying to make readers laugh. Comfort aside, here is my story. No fine tuning, just me remembering.
I was already grieving the morning of September 11, 2001. A few months before, my boss of 11 years was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. He and his wife were both lawyers and I was one of two legal secretaries in the small law firm. I worked for his wife.
After his diagnosis, Frank had to work from home. Since he made the most money for the firm, they made the difficult decision to lay me off and keep his secretary. It was heartbreaking for all of us because we were like family. I found a job at a much bigger law firm in another town.
On Friday, September 7 I got a call from the other secretary telling me Frank had died unexpectedly. His funeral was scheduled on September 11.
On Monday I had to tell my new employers I would have to take off half of my second day to go to his funeral. That morning in a place where I knew no one and was fairly terrified I might not be able to make it in such a different atmosphere, word began coming in about the attacks in New York. By the time I left the towers had already collapsed. As I walked out the door I passed the receptionist’s desk and a video of the second plane hitting the tower filled her computer monitor.
I sobbed the entire 45 minute commute. I got home and turned on the television because I had about an hour to get to Frank’s funeral. My daughter called collect from a pay phone in San Antonio where she attended college. She has panic disorder syndrome. I could hear in her voice that she was having a panic attack. For some reason the call messed up and we weren’t able to talk, which added to the pain I felt about everything because I wanted more than anything to comfort her.
After the funeral, I came back home and watched the rest of the horrific day unfold. I did eventually get to talk to my daughter and tell her how much I loved her.
The main thing I took away from September 11 wasn’t the pure rage I felt. It wasn’t even the sorrow I had for all the victims and their families or the admiration I felt for the fire fighters, police officers, medical teams and ordinary citizens who passed out water and gave blood.
The take away came from what seemed like the entire world joining together with us as Americans. Their outpourings of grief, compassion and solidarity amazed me and gave me insight into what this beautiful planet could be if we’d remember that we have more in common than all our differences put together. We’re all human. That day and for awhile in the days that followed I had such hope for all of us.
On this 15th anniversary of that tragic day, I’m as guilty as the next person of forgetting to remember. We forget that unless we put aside our differences and work together to make this a better world, we’ve learned nothing. We forget to teach our children by example that to be human is to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. We forget to take a moment to be grateful for all we have – a tiny spot on a small planet in an infinite universe. We forget that we don’t have all the time in the world to make a difference.
After 15 years, it’s time for me to never forget to remember.
“If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” – Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, in 2002.