Tuesday, September 11, 2012

One Day That Defines Us

Every generation has it's day.  The day that lives on forever in our collective memory.  The day we will always know exactly where we were and what we were doing when an event unfolded that changed each of us.  Changed our perception, attitude, outlook and often our very way of life.

For our parents (and some grandparents) that day is December 7, 1942 - the day that will live in infamy - when Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor and brought World War II to America in a very much more personal way.  I remember my parents stopping, even 50 years later, to reflect on what had happened that day and to recall friends and family who died on ships just off the Hawaiian coast.  And it's right to remember.

As awful as the event was, so many good things happened as a consequence.  Young adults of that era went on to be the innovators with the dead-on hard working ethics that drove America to newfound prosperity.  They become known as 'the greatest generation' because they earned that title by sacrifice and doing things that had never been done before.  They set the stage for the accomplishments we enjoy today and we owe them a debt of gratitude so huge that it can never be repaid.  With so many of them now passed on it's right and good for us to pick up their torch, to remember and to mark this solemn day even if it is not part of our own memories.

My generation, so called baby-boomers and younger, have a different defining day.  For us September 11, 2001 is when our world changed.  That's when we can each recall with near perfect clarity where we were and what we were doing when news broke that terrorists had flown planes into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington DC and if not for the heroic acts of passengers onboard another hijacked flight, the White House.  Agents of hate brought their war to our own soil.  For many of us, it was the first time we really tasted the fear and horror of war.  And still today, those emotions are raw and so near the surface.

Events were happening as I was getting up and ready for work.  It was a day like every other at the bank when I walked into the office early that morning.  Then almost immediately I was called over to the reception area where a television usually played market news and a continual stock ticker tape.  As I walked up to the desk to see why everyone was huddled there I saw the second plane crashing into WTC. There was a moment of utter disbelief and denial and hope that it was some kind of hideous accident but it soon became clear that the planes had been flown into the towers purposefully as an act of war.  It was stunningly chilling to realize that America was now in a war at home.

Some of my next thoughts were for the members of my work team who were in training meetings in Boise.  They should still be at breakfast... Did they know?  What did this mean for them personally and as far as continuing on with the training?  In the end, their flights home were cancelled.  They rented a car and drove back to Salt Lake a day or two later.  Luckily everyone I knew, and their families and close friends, had escaped being touched directly by this event.  No one close to me had been killed or injured in the initial attacks or when the towers fell.

Yet, emotionally and mentally we were dazed and confused and angry and hurt.  And some combination of thousands of other emotions ran through our minds.  But there was no physical connection.

Or so I thought.

Yesterday, for the first time, I read this account of the day by my friend Mashell Jolley Anderson:  http://www.squidoo.com/911-changed-my-life-forever.  Mashell's husband worked at the Pentagon and was there when that plane was purposely crashed.  I bawled reading her account of the day.  I cried for the suffering and distress her family experienced and then I cried for a whole different reason.  Out of all this horror, Mashell has found something so positive that she can look back and call it a good day for her family. She learned lessons that we all need to know about what is truly important.  I encourage you to read her message, let its poignancy touch your heart and then make changes in your own life so that 9/11 is a good day for you, too.  I know I am.

And I know it is a day I will always remember.  Amid all the messages telling us to 'never forget' I think we sometimes lose sight of just why its good and right to remember.  The past can be an amazing catalyst for the future if we learn its lesson and do what is necessary.  So now it's up to us to make the consequence of these horrific actions something worthy of our collective memory.

1 comment:

Sharon said...

You have captured my thoughts also. I remember very well that day.