Friday, September 11, 2009

Lest We Forget

Could it really have been eight years ago? That seems so long ago for a day whose events still burn so brightly in my memory. I guess we all remember what we were doing, where we were when the Twin Towers were hit and I guess we always will.

I wrote last year about what had been going on with me until then and how I watched this diabolical act unfold, so I won’t do that again here. But what I didn’t write about was the sheer terror of it all. I remember watching coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing, thinking how horrible that was and how almost unfathomable it was that such a thing could even happen.

Then came 9-11. Talk about unfathomable.

And that, that little point right there, that is how terror gets its strength. It gets its toehold in the very notion that any of us care about anyone or anything. To know fear, you have to have something to lose. Terror then is fear on steroids more powerful than any ballplayer has ever ingested. Terror is making people afraid to do anything. It is, by design, meant to paralyze people.

Terror is having something to lose … but not knowing what mundane act can rub it all out in a heartbeat so that you can avoid it. Something as ordinary as going to work. Or hopping a plane. Or meeting someone for breakfast in a skyscraper in New York.

Do we need further evidence that life isn’t fair? I don’t think so. We don’t always get that break, that second chance, that opportunity to make it all right. We curse our luck when things don’t go as planned.

I guess that’s why even this many years later, I’m still rocked by the “what if” stories I heard in the days and weeks that immediately followed 9-11. The man whose shoelace broke so he stopped to buy a new one. The mother whose child was particularly “slow” that morning, making her run late. The guy who overslept and missed his flight.

All people who might otherwise have been dead but for that one thing that kept them from their “plans.” One little ordinary thing, a little thing that made a world of difference … to someone.

That’s why I’m heartened by today being designated as a national day of service.

People will be doing all kinds of mundane things today – painting houses, manning foodbanks, picking up trash – volunteering or helping out in a variety of ways. I can't think of a better way to honor the memories of those who died just doing their jobs.

Doing good is like Kryptonite for terror. And there’s nothing ordinary or mundane about that.