Remembrance on this Day of Days

I was quite near the Pentagon on the day that the planes fell, among the many who remember the shadow of a low-flying plane, and the sound and fury that followed, memories that still haunt us.  Though the active symptoms of PTSD have thankfully diminished over the years, this day has always been a personal challenge for me – as a writer, it always helps to seek the solace of words.

worldbank

My son was in 2nd grade.  When a classmate heard that I was in Washington, he told Max, “…then your daddy’s dead.”  Thankfully not, just very far away. Oddly, I think of two others on 9/11, too.

  • In an office at The World Bank as the SWAT teams hurried us out of the building and snipers were in position on Capitol Hill, Sreedhar grasped my hand for a quick goodbye “…in case we never see each other again…”
  • Also the unnamed Hertz employee in D.C. who remained at his counter non-stop for the next 72 hours, somehow finding cars for the line of people six blocks long, each of us urgently trying to “get home.”

In my case, it was a long and anxious drive cross-country through amber waves of grain that were no longer a cliché, beneath those blue and very empty skies, stopping only for gas (and a small “treasure” for Max, many of which are still in the cigar box in his bedroom) amazed how immense this country is, how different one region can be from the next, and how unified we were in the days that followed.

I have a new friend and colleague who has the Kanji symbol for “Now” tattooed on his wrist, and he’s counseled me on the importance of remaining in the moment.  He’s right, of course, as a writer, I’m inclined backward (memory) and forward (imagination), yet on this day, the poignancy of our conversation is heightened as I read his own recollection of smoke-filled NYC avenues, the loss of a dear friend, and his own recognition that today “…doesn’t seem to get any easier even after all this time.”

On this day, the present tense for me is deeply bounded, on one side by the “relentless next” of endless To Do’s, and on the other side by a profound respect for glancing back, if only to honor those families who suffered far more on than I did on that day (data center colleagues in NYC who worked non-stop to keep systems going, media colleagues in New York who painfully learned what happens when a company’s “human assets” simply disappear, and peers around the country who suddenly realized that Disaster Recovery isn’t just a regulatory necessity or a matter of locating backup tapes).

As we speed toward this morning’s agendas and tasks and headlines (whatever they may be) with our usual Silicon Valley velocity, it feels important to remind myself (and anyone who might read my words today): remember to say I Love You to your loved ones, remember to err on the side of kindness whenever you have the chance to do so, and take a thoughtful moment in silence (thinking backward, looking forward) to remember this day, before we tarry on.

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