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September 11, 2020

To Never Forget, we must Remember.

Never forget is an understatement.

As I watch the replay of live news broadcasts from the tragic morning of 9/11, I reflect upon the number of lives stopped short that day.

Working in the largest and most populated office building in the financial district of Boston at the time—with two towers—I recall vividly the beautiful sky that morning, the optimism I felt for the day ahead until the moment we heard the news of what happened. If there was any building in Boston that so closely mirrored the World Trade Center, it was International Place.

The day was idyllic—blue sky, lovely temperatures. The city was a bustle with people going about their business, hurrying off to work, and preoccupied with many thoughts, but I’m sure none involved a terrorist attack that would change our lives forever.

Then the news reports came in. Shock. Denial. Questions. Fear. Hope. Sadness. Chaos. I tried desperately to get a hold of my father who was attending an EMT refresher course, on duty that day—his birthday—taught by a paramedic from New York City who had family on the Fire Department of New York City and got the call—that call. But I couldn’t get a line out of the building. Most of us could not.

I had not driven to the office that morning.

My father had given me a ride into the city at the crack of dawn before he went to the firehouse. A perfectly normal day. And I can still recall every face I saw as I walked to the T when we evacuated the building—the frantic human beings who had colleagues doing business in NYC, the fearful humans who were on the streets, and the somber faces of each person on the train. I remember every single one as if it happened today.

Yet when I arrived home, I felt this unyielding need to be back in the city, back in the building, even if I was just 15 minutes away. I needed to be a part of this. I needed to know what was going on, to feel the pulse of it. I needed to connect with those who knew that if this had been Boston, it would have been us. To sit at home and fear returning was defeat. It was allowing the terrorists to win. It was to let my fellow human beings down.

So the next day, I returned at the crack of dawn, purchased my coffee at Au Bon Pain from the other patriots who refused to check out—whether because of want or need—and sipped it slowly, absorbing the eeriness that surrounded me.

The emptiness, the deafening silence, the surreal emotions. I recall the building acquaintance who joined me at 6:30 a.m., sharing an exchange of sentiments that bonded us—for life.

People post, “never forget.” Yet how often do they remember? In years past, I recall this tragic day replayed on many a television channel. On many a news station. The memory seems to have diminished. I had to search for recounts and reminders. I don’t know why. But I did.

My father is a firefighter—retired, but active that day. When he and his fellow jakes go to work, they are mentally prepared for the possibility of not coming home that day. As are the cops, paramedics, and so many first responders who put their own lives on the line each day for us.

How grateful am I that my father returned home at the end of his final shift? He and so many traveled to NYC to help, enduring the pain and suffering of their brothers and sisters.

My heart bleeds for the barista, the dental assistant, the marketing team, the courier, the accountant who don’t go to work every day expecting to die.

The first responder family—we are prepared. We get it. It is painful, but the solace is that our loved ones may sacrifice their lives for what they lived for: saving you. And we pray that call—that day—never comes.

On 9/11, there was no color. No race. No gender. Nothing but trying to grasp how such hatred could take our people down. But we rose above it. Americans united and found the love.

Never forget. I won’t. But do you actually remember?

~

A mindful life take on 9/11:

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