Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Time Stands Still on Sept. 11

Time will stand still for me this morning around 8:45 a.m. when the clock will remind me that twelve years ago today, the first plane, a hijacked American Airlines jet flying out of Boston, crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, setting into motion national events and policies that permanently changed the way we as a nation live.

All I need to do is look at a picture of the Twin Towers and it all comes back to me.  Not only the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City, but also the terrorist attack on the Pentagon in the nation's capital and the downing of the fourth plane in Shanksville, PA.  Here in Washington, DC I remember a surreal and scary day that was filled with school lockdowns and the constant sound of low flying fighter jets.

Today my heart is with those who tragically lost friends, families and their futures.

People gather in Union Square to light candles and leave notes
 for those affected by September 11, 2001 attack(Magnum Photos)

September 11 also reminds me that it's healthy to allow your emotions to come to the surface in order to work through them because in blocking a grieving process you block the efforts used to try and rebuild your life and find new meaning in a life that you now must live without your loved one.

Let today be an opportunity for us to reflect and remember this sacred day and how far we have come in our own ways. 

For a guy in my office, it is a day for him to remember that he was scheduled to attend an early morning meeting in the financial district of New York City on September 11, 2001.

The meeting never happened.

He and two of his clients were in a building near the World Financial Center and heard the explosions of each of the planes separately hitting the towers of the World Trade Center.  Immediately they went outside to find the eerie site of a clear, crisp deep blue sky filled with ever increasing, billowing clouds of white and black smoke.

He says that at that point he didn't know that the explosions were caused by planes crashing into the building because you couldn't see the planes inside the buildings.  People stood on the streets frozen, staring at the burning buildings unable to process what had just happened.  Sirens filled the air.  People ran.  People cried.  Cellphones jammed.  Unbelievable amounts of paper floated from the buildings.

My colleague and his clients started slowly walking uptown through the chaos and away from the Twin Towers but didn't get very far.  Eventually, they found their way into a hotel where they went inside to get more information.  Their timing was incredible because they were lucky enough to be inside when both towers shockingly and incredibly collapsed.

As the cloud of debris from the collapse of the Twin Towers filled the air and roiled down the narrow streets of lower Manhattan, it reached their hotel.  He said some of the glass windows and doors blew out as the debris cloud passed by his block and afterwards everything stopped.  Grey and white dust covered everything and it looked as if it were night time.

No one went outside because you couldn't breath.  The dust in the air was that thick.  Hours later, the three went outside, covered their noses and mouths with cloth napkins, and walked their way to Chinatown, spending the night in a hotel room my colleague had checked into earlier on September 10.

His September 11th ritual includes a telephone call to the two people he spent the day with.  For the past twelve years, my colleague and his two clients reach out to each other on September 11, no matter what part of the world they are in, and take the time to stop and remember what happened that awful day and how fate put them together.

They catch up on each other's lives, talking about each other's families and share stories about the unique events that have happened in their lives since they last spoke.

They know that life is fragile and they remember how lucky and blessed each one was to wake up alive in New York City on September 12 and travel back home.

May we all connect with the special people in our lives today and continue to heal.

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