Some people remember where they were standing when the Challenger exploded. Others recount their lives and exactly what they were doing when they heard the news about President Kennedy. I remember hanging on every word when my grandfather retold his perspective of the story of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and how the United States was drawn into World War II. Perhaps the most current event in my recent history that had a profound impact on my life was when I got the phone call about the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
I did not personally know anyone in the airplanes, the towers or the response units that rushed in to help those in need that day, yet I spent the day standing in the living room watching TV with one hand on my forehead, the other over my mouth and tears streaming down my cheeks. Although this terrible occurrence hadn’t hurt anyone I knew specifically, it did hurt, and it hurt as a whole.
Perhaps there is a network, a mesh, a fiber, an energy, or a spiritual breath that vibrates through us all; but regardless of what you subscribe to and believe, we are all genuinely and closely connected.
Not so much does it astound me that I was so deeply affected by what happened that day, but in addition to remembering the tragedy, I have a very vivid recall of how we as a whole were drawn together. Something happened to me and to those around me that, at least for a little while, changed how we acted and cared about each other. The busy guy in a car stopped and let me in front of him at an intersection. The woman at the checkout aisle turned and began conversing with me like we were old friends. I stopped on the side of I-95 (along with 2 other people) to help a stranded motorist change his tire. It was like suddenly no one was too busy to give the best of themselves for their family and their fellow man. It was a gorgeous glimpse of how great things could be if we weren’t always too busy, too impatient or too self-important.
A violent act that had been engineered and orchestrated to inflict hurt and harm did more to draw each and every one of us closer together than anything I had ever experienced before. I remember missing family and friends more, I remember loving deeper and holding and kissing my wife and daughter like I hadn’t done in years. It was a very poignant ‘Ah-Ha!’ moment, and we suddenly realized the bounty of life that sits right in front of us, and the gifts we seem to take for granted, should not be ignored or squandered. I sometimes think that days like that one exist to remind us of how we are supposed to embrace life in the best possible way ... and it shouldn’t take one like 9/11 to remind us of how good we can be and how we should live.
I would think that the good people that lost their lives that day, whether in an airplane, in a smoke filled office or a crowded stairwell would have given anything and everything to love and hold their spouses, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters, aunts, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers just one more time. When we hug our loved ones I think we should keep in mind how really lucky we are and how we have a chance to do things that those whose lives were lost won’t ever get to do again.
So on this day when we remember what our brothers and sisters endured, think of how lives were cut short and how hugs and kisses were missed that morning. I think we are supposed to love ‘that’ much more because we still can. Make today’s hug special, make today’s kiss last longer and mean more because when we are being the best we can be, our connection to each other makes this world a better place.