The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I did what I usually do. I got up and went to work, just like another almost 3,000 folks did. The difference between them and me is that I got to go home.
I can’t forget that day. It shook me to my core, and it changed me.
So many people were just going about their business, living their lives, doing their things, and then they weren’t. Just like that.
My employer called from Knoxville and told us to close the office and go home. All I wanted was to be with my family and hold them close. We watched the television coverage and cried along with the folks who were there as we watched the destruction and prayed for survivors.
I remember thinking that the only difference between them and me was that they happened to work in the wrong place at the wrong time, and their lives were over. It brought home the reality of our existence and how we aren’t guaranteed another day.
This year marks the 20-year anniversary of that awful day. I still remember. My life is different now than it was then, and I am grateful for the opportunity to hopefully improve others’ lives as well. I don’t want to forget. I hope to honor the memory of those folks who did nothing wrong. They just went to work that day, and never went home again.
The other thing I remember from the 9/11 tragedy was how our citizens rallied to help and came together to overcome the horror that had been brought to our shores. Folks donated blood, they held fundraisers and prayer vigils, and they held each other closer. A common enemy united us.
Twenty years later, the opposite has happened. We’re faced with an enemy that has killed so many more of our citizens than those terrorists could have dreamed of, and it has divided us in ways they would’ve loved to have done.
In the face of a killer, we argue over rights and statistics. We become medical “experts,” getting our education from social media and websites while lounging on our couches or sitting on our toilets. We don’t hold each other close and comfort each other over the losses. Instead we spout off about how low the mortality rate is overall. And we have somehow made a virus political.
My heart hurts today as it did 20 years ago, but for very different reasons. We seem to have lost the love and humanity that 9/11 brought out so vividly.
It’s out there, though. It may be buried under fear and misinformation, but that love and basic humanity are still there, I’m sure of it.