Sixteen years. Sixteen years. It is surreal to be on a plane today, to be safe today, to be alive today.
I remember September 11, 2001 as if it were yesterday; my father’s early morning phone call dropping the unbelievable (in the truest sense of the word) news like a bomb, the paralyzing disbelief on my mother’s face, and then the flood of escalating tears, the alarm, the hysteria, the fright as the magnitude and severity of the unfolding tragedy set in. The phone calls to loved ones in New York City, first those who worked in lower Manhattan, the questions about what was still occurring with incomplete news in real time, the fear of further attacks on our side of the country as snipers descended upon the Golden Gate Bridge and military planes circles overhead, the threat of a war that would put American troops in harm’s way for a still-unforeseen period of time, the gratitude for the unparalleled bravery of selfless first responders, the mourning of nearly 3,000 innocent, beautiful lives lost on American soil.
We. Will. Never. Forget. Nor will we be terrorized, divided or broken. We will not cower in fear or find ourselves consumed by violence or buy into a rhetoric of hate. We will neither live in perpetual panic, nor succumb to extremism. "If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate,” to quote Sandy Dahl, the wife of Flight 93 pilot, Jason Dahl.
We choose love, unity, inclusion. We are strong, diverse, courageous. We champion peace, service, action. We thank the heroes among us who protect and serve in visible and invisible ways, on the front lines and behind the scenes, professionally and in moments of need, in a multitude of uniforms and roles, at home and overseas.
We stand with those sacrificed their physical safety to save a life, those who relive the traumas in mind and body daily or on painful anniversaries like today, those who face terrible health repercussions as a result of being at ground zero or near impact, those whose loved ones were taken cruelly on September 11th and in its aftermath; you are not and will never be alone, neglected or forgotten. You have our eternal, unwavering respect.
I am tremendously grateful for my shelter, for potable water, for my health, for a reliable food supply, for roads, for connectivity, for my safety and that of my loved ones, for freedom of speech, of movement, of press – and am taking absolutely nothing for granted amid this tumultuous social, environmental, political setting. One day can change everything, fundamentally and forever shifting personal, national and global landscapes. So live with dignity, passion, love and purpose.