It started out like an ordinary day, like any other Tuesday morning.
The day before had been a long, tough one that spilled over into the evening. I was busily trying to arrange interviews for an executive during a visit to the Northwest. I’d landed the interest of a leading aerospace reporter, but not until said executive was already en route. It shouldn’t have been a problem, except the executive went all primadonna and wouldn’t do the interview. So I’d wasted about two hours of my day, three hours of my evening and what might have proven to be a valuable contact. Gee, thanks.
On Sept. 11, 2001, I still had to be at work around 5:30 a.m. (A time I now rise at most days.) Still irked by the events of the previous night, I arrived at the office in a foul mood. I was greeted with a voicemail from a freelancer for the Chicago Tribune who wanted to do a story I’d pitched forever ago. Wow. Pat self on back, furiously.
But how quickly both my joy and disappointment would fade. How insignificant both would become in just a few, brief moments.
It was still early and the halls were still fairly quiet when a long-gone assistant stuck her head in my door. “A plane just hit the World Trade Center. They think it was a small, private jet gone off course. Maybe the guy had a heart attack or something.”
Man, that’s terrible. What a freak accident. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before it became clear that it was no accident. I heard muttering in the hallway, and heard people asking the whereabouts of people in my department.
Barb the assistant appeared once again. “Another plane just hit. It’s terrorism. About a dozen commercial flights are unaccounted for – and we’ve got lots of people traveling today.” And I have a dear friend who, at that time, was an American Airlines flight attendant. Dear God, please don’t let her be flying today.
Thankfully, she wasn’t. And while several of my colleagues were traveling, they ended up stuck at their destinations or else grounded on tarmacs.
But a lot of people lost family and friends that day. Thousands of them. My heart goes out to them. I can't begin to comprehend their loss. I'm still to this very day taken aback by one thing: All any of the dead did wrong was to show up for work like usual. Or to board a plane. That's it. And they were murdered for it.
Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. On this day of all days, remember how quickly your life can change. Tell the people you love that you love them. Get that extra hug. Be patient with someone you don't know. Smile -- at everyone. (You might make their day.) Say please and thank you.
There's any number of little things all of us can do to make life better for ourselves and for others. And none of us know for sure just how many chances we have to do them.