9/12 matters because it is Monday morning and I have already forgotten.
It is hard to believe that I can return to the ordinary affairs of the day without even a blink of the eye, already violating the solemn and ubiquitous slogan – We Shall Never Forget. It’s not that I have forgotten 9/11 or everyone that was directly and indirectly impacted in profound and subtle ways. I have already forgotten that today should not be the same.
As I watched show after show over the weekend where survivors from the buildings were interviewed, first-responders recounted their feelings, or those touched by the tragedy explained the impact – several compelling threads emerged.
What also emerges is the recognition of punishment for evil deeds. When the firemen went up they accorded themselves worth of praise. When the towers came down they accorded to the terrorists eternal condemnation. While I heard many express solace in the fact that the terrorists would be punished in some form or another I heard none that said their actions were okay in their eyes so they must be okay in our eyes. That their truth and choices were as valid as ours.
Finally, and most importantly, every story involved a statement that 9/11 made you question what life was really all about, whether the life you had built was really the one you should be living, that we must live every day with the knowledge that there are no guarantees and that most of the stuff we spend our lives for probably doesn’t matter at all.
I didn’t hear one person say that when they were pounding down the steps of Tower One they realized it was a good thing that they never saw their kids, put their family second to the their careers, spent every waking moment on the pursuit of money, or abandoned the things that they really loved about life.
Yet, one day later, I was back at my desk. 10 years later we are back at our lives- spending many days on stuff that doesn’t matter, mortgaging today for a future that in the face of 9/11 is anything but certain.
The problem is that more people die every year from car accidents than died on 9/11. In 2010: 32,708. In 2009: 33,808. In 2001: 42,196
A friend of my wife’s was murdered this year and another friend just died by lightening strike – both very rare occurrences – but both an end to life.
It is estimated that 560,000+ people died of cancer in 2010. One day you wake up without it - the next you find out it might kill you in 3 months.
Life is extraordinarily fragile and for the most part we live in constant denial of that fact.
In Dead Poets Society, a movie worth watching again or for the fist time today, Mr. Keating – the teacher of a group of boys at an east coast prep school reminds his students, while looking at a photo of a much earlier class, to “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” You should watch the 5 minute clip here:
Intuitively we know that we get one shot at this story – one go around – and we spend it one day at a time. We occasionally get big and small reminders of this fact, but most days we wake, waste the day, and don’t even think a second about it. Most of my friends suffer through the week and live for the weekends. Many of us focus on retirement because we can’t stand our lives. None of the people that died on 9/11 got to retirement and none of them lived to see another weekend. You and I have no better a guarantee.
9/11 was the last day for many and the first day for the rest of us. We can choose to Never Forget that we get only this day, or can we return to living with the illusion that our towers will never come down.