I was not intending to write about 9/11. I was going to leave that to so many other eloquent writers and to those who had grave and triumphant stories about that day to share. What more could I add to so many heart wrenching tributes? I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to watch any of the tenth year documentaries on the subject. I have a tendency to want to avoid things that I know will make me sad. But I did watch. And it made me cry again to remember so many people’s pain and loss. It also made me remember something that I learned about myself that day.
In September 2001, I lived in in a Virginia suburb of the Washington D.C. area. I was working as the Assistant Director of a Preschool/Daycare. Our school was directly across the street from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) building. I was at an appointment when the news about the twin towers hit. Upon hearing of this tragedy and the confusion surrounding it, I rushed back to the school. By the time I entered the parking lot there were snipers stationed on the roof of the FAA building. This seemed bizarre and disconcerting to say the least. My school was in lock-down mode by the time I arrived. All of the children and teachers were moved into the basement classrooms, doors and windows locked, blinds closed. I must say that the teachers did an excellent job of keeping the children and themselves calm and occupied throughout that tense day. The Director and I stayed upstairs to keep apprised of further instructions from our main office, manning the phones and assisting frantic parents who came to pick up their children. As the day unfolded we learned of the attack on the Pentagon, which was not too far away, the heroic crash of flight 93 and the fears of further attacks. This is when I realized that I would do it. I would put myself in harm’s way for the safety of the children in my charge if I had to. I was determined to be ready if the situation presented itself. I would not have known this about myself had I not been put in that position. I did not end up having to test my resolve in this matter, but I’m glad that I know this about myself. If I was ever in a similar situation (God forbid) I know that my brain would loop back to that day and grab that same resolve. Even as I sit here writing about it I can feel the determination welling inside.
My part in the tragic play of 911 is tiny and insignificant. So many people had tremendous and harrowing roles in this unfortunate Act. However, I do believe that anyone who shed tears for the losses or tried to make things even a little bit better are all glittering stones in the amazing mosaic of the Human Spirit. One shiny pebble of kindness or care is beautiful, but put all together it is a piece of artwork that is stunning to behold. It is always startling to remember that tragedy and adversity bring out our shining best. We will not forget.