September 11th just passed. I don’t know that I really sat with that memory on the day. I don’t recall taking a break in the day to reflect.
Maybe it was the distance of time. Maybe I was too busy – work, practice field, snack stand, dishes, home, dishes, laundry, lunches. I know I acknowledged it in thought but didn’t tap into that space like I had in previous years. So here I am now taking that break.
The emotional impact was far greater than the impact of the airplanes. Everyone watching was aware of nothing else but that moment. Whatever thoughts were scrambling through our minds, none were disconnected from what was happening before our eyes.
Millions of us watched as the second airplane hit, not believing it even as we saw it. Who could begin to comprehend? We watched horrified as people so desperate for escape, jumped from the building. Throats choked and burning, tears steaming down our faces, confused and helpless, we could do nothing but continue to watch.
We may or may not have known someone who lost their life there on that day but we probably all know someone who did.
I remember I couldn’t stop thinking about the people who jumped. How terrifying it must have been. I could never ever truly know my own mind in that situation as I’ve never been stretched to that point. But I did fully imagine how it might have been.
I felt a deep compassion for everyone involved. And that was everyone. Everyone who lost their lives, everyone who lost someone in their lives, everyone who watched helplessly, everyone who held their family a little tighter, everyone who saw us all as family.
That is something I remember most about the aftermath. I don’t remember anger in people or outrage or even fear. I remember compassion. I remember everyone being so sensitive to their fellow man in the fragile days that followed. We were touched by the truth of life, that we are all in this together.
I remember carrying my son in a grocery store parking lot, pushing my cart. My son dropped his sippy cup and it rolled underneath the car. When I started to get down to get it, a man ran over and told me he would get it for me. And he did. Other people stopped just to smile. I was so grateful I cried. So thankful to see the good in people. My son gripped the cup with his chubby little hands and shined his 1 year old, gappy-toothed grin. I’ll never forget that.
I doubt this simple act had the same effect on anyone else around. And maybe no one remembers the following days in the same way. But my eyes began to seek contact with everyone just to somehow say, “I’m here with you”. I now wish I could have somehow preserved that spirit within myself, that awareness of the connection we all share. All the meaningless distractions, all the time I am blind to the people around me as my mind races over my to-do lists, that obliviousness was suspended in the wake of 9/11. The event made clear what was truly important in life. I felt a deep sense of community as we all tried to make sense of the tragedy.
In reflection now I long to recapture that feeling. I am hopeful the world doesn’t need the deep hurt of a fresh wound to stir that compassion again, that I don’t need to imagine such an experience to snap out of the daze brought by the daily grind. I need to open my eyes to the community of good people around me. Shake off the weight I pick up when I focus on all that is wrong, unfair, hateful. That good I saw is always there. I just need to remind myself to look.