I’ve found myself on airplanes on many September 11ths over the past twenty years. As a road warrior, flying on 9/11 is (for me) equal parts recognition of those who gave and lost their lives that day and a small bit of assurance that as a society we can overcome past atrocities to grow and thrive.
This year, I wasn’t on a plane today. I woke up this morning and had a laundry list of to-do items before rushing to an all-day conference. As the first half of the day wrapped up, I sat outside for lunch with over 1,000 other attendees. As I looked to my right I saw a flag flying at half mast.
The world slowed down a bit for me. It’s sad to say that the flag flying and half mast is not unique. There are so many tragedies lately. But, today, the flag flying at half mast is especially painful for me. It evokes memories of one of the darkest days I’ve lived through.
22 years after 9/11, my children are both old enough to fully comprehend what happened that day. My son, a middle schooler, is currently reading a book about it. The day has been an integral part of our culture for quite some time. It has inspired many to serve their country. That day has also been a continuing theme of sadness, loss, remembrance and a desire to eliminate the possibility of such a catastrophe from ever happening again.
22 years later, I remember. I’m saddened for the families that never got to see their loved ones again. I’m saddened for the families of members of the military who have dealt with months away from their loved ones. At the same time, I’m encouraged by the fact that we rebuilt the landmarks damaged by those heinous attacks.
And, I’m especially thankful that there are powerful, well-thought memorials at each of those sites. Because, above all else, I don’t want to forget. If I could forget the carnage and remember just the bravery, and the vibrant lives that weren’t allowed to continue, I would. However, that day’s devastation will always be inextricably linked to those acts of bravery.