Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lessons I Learned from 9/11

For my high school graduation present, my parents took me on a trip to New York City (a tradition that had started with my older brothers). Among the activities on our itinerary was a trip to the World Trade Center. The day we visited the towers was overcast and gray. We took an elevator ride to the very top floor. The room was surrounded by floor to ceiling windows, and you couldn't help but stand as close to the window as you could to see the view below. I remember my knees weakening and catching my breath a little as I looked down to the street. It was truly staggering. The cars below looked like little matchbox cars. Unfortunately, due to high winds, we were unable to access the obeservation deck on the roof that day. "Oh well," I thought to myself, "I guess that gives me a reason to come back." I would have never in a thousand years guessed that I would never be able to visit these buildings again. In a few years, the World Trade Center buildings were gone.
I was in college when it happened. I was walking home from an early morning class, and as I approached my apartment building, some girls passed me on the sidewalk and told me some news about an airplane flying into one of the World Trade Center buildings. Not realizing the magnitude of the accident, I responded, "What, is the world coming to an end?" When I reached my apartment, the girls across the hall had their door open and were watching the news. As I watched the story unfold, I realized the gravity of the situation. I sat for an hour glued to the TV screen watching reporters describe events that were, up until then, only imaginable in the movies. Except, this was real, and real people were suffering. A fear, insecurity, and vulnerability I had never experienced filled my heart. The wickedness and hate it took to carry out this assault was unfathomable. When I could watch no more, I walked to my room and prayed for peace. I decided to take a shower and get ready for the day. Even though I knew that my university was at the bottom of the list for a terrorist plot, I still felt unsafe. While I showered, I actually worried that my apartment building would be leveled while I showered, and that my body would be found naked in the rubble. I couldn't imagine a more humiliating way to die- so I took a fast shower. Later, I listened to some comforting words, and the process of healing began.
A couple of years earlier, I had began the application process to be a volunteer at the 2002 Olympics. In 2001, I had received my assignment. I would be stationed in Solider Hollow with the cross country ski events. After the events of 9/11 unfolded, I began to worry that the Olympics, with an international crowd, would be the next venue for a terrorist plot to take place. I talked with a friend who strongly encouraged me to move forward and not to let fear guide my decisions. In the end, my fear won out and I did not pursue my volunteer assigenment any further. This is a decision I still regret.
Now with the 10th anniversary, I have reflected on the event and how it has shaped my life. I can think of two ways. The first, is that now I know that you can't depend on anything to be there when you come back. Now I try to take advantage of things when I can, and enjoy them as if I will never be able to again. The second lesson, is that fear should not be the method by which you make your choices. This is actually something that is easier said than done, but when you understand that sometimes opportunities only come once, fear will only lead to regret. 9/11 was an awful day, but hopefully, instead of reopening and nursing old wounds each year, we can instead choose to grow stronger from the lessons it has taught us, accept each day as a blessing, and then take advantage of the opportunities that each day gives us.

1 comment:

  1. I was remembering this week about how I found out what was going on when I walked across the hall to Ann and Kaity's apmt just before heading out to class. I guess you must have had a super early class...