I don’t have a lot to say on the anniversary of September 11th.
Or, I have so much to say, I’m not sure how to bring it all together and make some sense out of it.
Though I had already moved to Austin by the time of the attacks, the New York area was the only other place I had ever lived other than Texas. An attack on New York was like an attack on my person.
I was visiting New York on business just prior to the attacks, and remember sitting at Laguardia just two days prior, on 9/9.
It was a gorgeous day, another of those blue September skies, and I remember noticing the Twin Towers off in the distance, which was a revelation — I knew you could see them from Newark, but never from LaGuardia.
Two weeks later, I remember flying back up to NYC for another business trip, making that turn at the bottom of Manhattan, and seeing the still smoldering ashes and now ghost limb of a skyline.
As so many had said it would, things had changed during those two weeks.
The drumbeats of bloodlust and revenge were pounding. I landed at LaGuardia this time and it was a ghost town, like something out of a Stephen King novel. The only seeming inhabitants were the National Guard patrolling the gates with their assault rifles.
When I went down to the Ground Zero area, I remember passing by Canal Street and seeing the hundreds of missing persons postings, and crayon drawings of planes flying into buildings.
Once at Ground Zero, I remember the troops announcing that you could no longer take photographs, that this was a crime scene.
It was at that moment I knew we were headed for some slippery slope territory.
I was also impacted by all my New York friends’ stories — some who were in or around the Towers that day, some who were on their way there, one who had been scheduled for one of the ill fated flights and cancelled at the last minute, one who lost someone in one of the Towers.
There were too many close calls and coincidences than I cared to count.
On that day, my biggest priority was making sure all my friends and colleagues in the New York I had loved and left were okay.
And, thankfully, they were.
That is what I choose to remember about 9/11 on this, today, the 11th anniversary: The gestures, big and small, that were about reaching out in concern and caring for others.
Whether loved ones or strangers, there was a compassion and outreach expressed during those days and weeks after the Towers fell that revealed an inner kindness normally masked by our tough American exterior.
That was some of the goodness that emerged from the ashes, and that goodness is something I think we’d all like to see more of in our everyday lives.
Though it may have taken great tragedy to bring it about it, there’s no reason we have to wait for another such tragedy to reveal that goodness.
Perhaps the revelation of that potential for good is the one precious gift that rose through the horror and blackness of the ash and soot on that beautiful, blue September day.