Remember, Reflect and Rejoice

11 09 2014

Atlanta-Journal-Constitution-9-11-front-page-jpgI was up very early this morning. I typically don’t set an alarm, being fortunate to have a pretty accurate internal clock on regular work days. But for some reason I woke up at 5:00, tossed for a while then started scrolling through my phone at 6:00.

The anniversary of September 11th never sneaks up on me. It’s always in my mind, even without the torrent of news stories and social media posts. Maybe that’s why I woke up so early today.

Thirteen years ago, I wasn’t relying on that internal clock. I was probably up and out the door by 6:00 because I was flying to Atlanta that morning on business. It was a beautiful day… I remember that well. Not a cloud in the sky. Exactly like today…

Everything about that early morning was uneventful except that I ran into a co-worker at the airport who was flying to Los Angeles. My flight left as scheduled, and I’m sure I dozed off during the two hour ride. I exited the D Gate at Hartsfield International Airport at precisely 8:45 – I remember looking at the clock. I had no idea that the first plane hit the World Trade Center North Tower one minute later. By the time I made my way throughout the airport to meet my friend Tom, the second plane had hit. And our phones were ringing.

What followed was the most surreal day of my life. We had a long drive to Montgomery, AL, with a couple of appointments along the way. After a few phone calls home, we stopped to watch the news at a Holiday Inn. But the lobby television was in use for a presentation, so the hotel manager ushered us into a nearby guest room where we sat on an unmade bed and watched the news with several other people. It was eerie… A bunch of travelers, far from home, trying to make sense of the horrific images on the screen.

The rest of the day was a collection of anecdotes… too numerous to list but a few. Driving by an U.S Army base in complete lockdown, the constant radio news with the latest developments and the realization that all of the planes involved were heading to the west coast and full of fuel – immediately thinking about my co-workers heading to LA. Were they okay? Our company had eleven people travelling that morning, and all were safe.

handI woke up in Montgomery the next morning. I slept some, but CNN was on my television all night. A local merchant was standing on the street outside his business that morning, handing out small plastic American Flags. I still have it. Somewhere.

Oddly, I had the best meeting of my business career that morning, winning a huge account. I spent the next two days back in Atlanta, and left on my scheduled flight early on Friday morning. The security that day was incredible, which made everyone feel more nervous than safe. When I got back to Philly I stopped in the office for a few minutes, then went home to my family. I was assured by my youngest son that we were all okay… “Don’t worry, Dad. It was New York, not Phillydelphia.”

But we did worry… A lot. So many things have changed since that day. So many things will never be the same.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend yesterday, who was feeling uneasy about the anniversary and the general state of the world today. As we chatted, I came to some realizations.

Sadly… We are not completely safe. Everything changed thirteen years ago. But while we should never forget the events of 9/11, it is a part of our past that we should consider over. It remains in our heads and that is more of a danger than anything offered by current terrorist groups. A prime example is the worry about safety on anniversary today. The 9/11 terrorists still winning…

flags raindropsMy friend said that this is the first anniversary that she has felt such uncertainty. Like any good parent, she was worried about her kids. The 9/11 terrorist winning again. I told her to ask yourself why… because of the constant news and information about it? (Here is when directed her to my previous blog about news sources.)

We are inundated with all of the bad news, and doomsday scenarios about what might happen. We never hear about the positives, about all of the things that happen every minute to assure our safety. About the thousands of people working here and abroad to make our country safe. We end up scaring ourselves. We think about all of the possibilities we are presented with, versus the real probability – that my friend and her children, and all of us… are protected in the best possible way. Today and every day.

I rejoice that I am where I am in this world. In my home, in my city, in my country. I’m thankful every day.

Always remember, but please continue to live.

When I was stuck in my hotel room in Atlanta that week, I repeatedly saved images on my computer. Periodically, I look in that folder. The three images in this post are from what I collected that week.




2 responses

11 09 2014

Well said, John. I was in Charlotte that day, going on the road, and stopped at a neighbor’s store to rent some books on tape for the trip. The radio was on and the broadcaster announced the first hit. I was dubious about it being an accident, thinking that it might be a suicide. I went across the parking lot and bought a small TV at Target, complete with rabbit ears and went back to the store. It was set up in time to see the second hit and we all knew. I watched all morning and then, returned the TV to Target (frugal) and drove to Brooklyn. It took forever to go over the Goethals Bridge and cross Staten Island. The Verrazano Bridge was a parking lot as every eye looked to the left, to lower Manhattan. I got pulled out of line because of my out-of-state NC license tags but I was deemed not a threat and allowed to pass onto the Bridge. Looking to where the Towers once stood, all I could see was a dense cloud of smoke and dust that hung low over Battery Park. Arnie Korfine

11 09 2014

Thanks, my friend. Living in NY and being away from your loved ones must have been crazy.

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