I know… Lots of people wrote about their experience with 9/11. I read so many beautiful pieces about love and heroism. They’ve said it all, and I can’t hope to match all those beautiful sentiments. I doubt there have been many dry eyes in the past few days, leading up to (and then just hours past) 9/11.
I don’t live in New York, though I’d love to see the city someday. I do have friends who live there, and I know friends who were supposed to be there. But, 9/11 is a milestone event. It feels like Pearl Harbor (my grandfather was there), and the Challenger disaster (my high-school had hoped to be on that flight). It’s an event that we’ll always remember, that we can’t possibly forget.
For me, it was just a call. Rose woke me with an early morning call, and told me to turn on the TV–my world would never be the same. That day, I went to work, and a bunch of us walked to a prayer service down the street.
Why? What did it all mean? What was happening?
We didn’t know. We couldn’t know… Those were scary moments, filled with uncertainty. What would the next days hold?
The Rest of the Story… How do we remember?
My heart goes out to all those who will forever be affected by 9/11–those who were there, who lost loved ones, and all the rest who will forever be scarred by the events that took place on that day. There will never be enough words…
But, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do… Here’s how I remember, and cherish:
- Read. I read everything I can get my hands on. Right now, there are so many books and articles about 9/11! But, reading also offers solace to me (it makes me feel better!), so that can’t be all bad, right?
- Write. I write about what I’ve experienced. Even for those who don’t consider themselves “writers,” getting it “out there” can help.
- Thank a hero. I’ve known so many heroes in my life. Through my son’s experience with cancer, I know the most extraordinary nurses, parents, kid, and every other hero.
- Cherish. There’s nothing quite like a disaster to make us realize what we have. When our worlds come toppling down, we count our blessing and hold each other close.
I know that we all have our favorite quotes about tragedy and disaster, but here are a few that I’ve found…
It’s the hard times in life that teach us the greatest lessons, but we also hold onto those simple (and most basic) of human qualities:
“There are no greater treasures than the highest human qualities such as compassion, courage and hope. Not even tragic accident or disaster can destroy such treasures of the heart.”
– Daisaku Ikeda
I know… not everyone believes in hope. I think it’s just too hard for some to believe that there could be any hope (when such devastating events have taken place. They ask, “Where is God? Where is human kindness? Where is everything I’ve held so dear?”
“There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.”
– Dalai Lama XIV
I’ve known tragedy, but I also know that others have experienced loss that’s so much deeper-and-more devastating than anything I could possibly imagine. Both the tragedies that I’ve experienced (and also those I’ve only experienced indirectly) make me cherish those wonders in this world. My life gives me hope (and makes me remember it ALL).
“This is part of the involuntary bargain we make with the world just by being alive. We get to experiences the splendor of nature, the beauty of art, the balm of love and the sheer joy of existence, always with the knowledge that illness, injury, natural disaster, or pure evil can end it in an instant for ourselves or someone we love.”
– Jeff Greenfield
All the disasters make us realize that we are living these lives in a transitory way. We’re living on borrowed time. Life can end at any moment–not because of a vindictive God, or because we did anything wrong (necessarily). Children are taken in a moment, and we watch the terrors of the world reach us.
“It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style. They affect us just as vulgarity affects us. They give us an impression of sheer brute force, and we revolt against that. Sometimes, however, a tragedy that possesses artistic elements of beauty crosses our lives. If these elements of beauty are real, the whole thing simply appeals to our sense of dramatic effect. Suddenly we find that we are no longer the actors, but the spectators of the play. Or rather we are both. We watch ourselves, and the mere wonder
of the spectacle enthralls us.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
Life’s greatest tragedies leave us in shock–in something like disbelief. We can see what is happening. We can see some of the force of it like a wave that washes over us (threatening to drag us into the depth of the sea… to be swept away in some dramatic fashion). Then, I find that I’m somehow still standing, and others seem unaffected. The sun still rises and sets, and I’m still breathing. Tragedy (the real horrible events in life) should rock EVERYONE, shouldn’t it? How does life go on?
“That was the day my whole world went black. Air looked black. Sun looked black. I laid up in bed and stared at the black walls of my house…Took three months before I even looked out the window, see the world still there. I was surprised to see the world didn’t stop.”
― Kathryn Stockett, The Help
But, then, we all have our forms of tragedy. We all have our moments of despair, times that seem so unbearable. And, at the end of it all, Death takes us all.
“Life is the tragedy,’ she said bitterly. ‘You know how they categorize Shakespeare’s plays, right? If it ends with a wedding, it’s a comedy. And if it ends with a funeral, it’s a tragedy. So we’re all living tragedies, because we all end the same way, and it isn’t with a goddamn wedding.”
― Robyn Schneider, The Beginning of Everything
It is the beginning of everything… to realize that in most instances tragedy isn’t intentional. It happens. It crashes into us like an overpowering wave, and remnants of that wave will stay with us forever. We WILL remember, and we will cherish every moment.
And, now, we move forward. What do you remember? What do you most cherish? And, what are you doing to transform those memories into action?