What have you done to make world better?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Amazing how life changes in the space of what, in the grand scheme of things, is a short time. Ten years ago, my youngest child was nine-years-old, my oldest grandchild, three. Daddy was alive and I was a reporter for the local paper.

Fall was in the air 10 years ago. Everyone was glad for cooler mornings and beautiful clear days. Life seemed fine and we moved through the world in our normal, “get-the-kids-to-school and ourselves to work way.

The morning of Sept. 11, 2001 started like days before it. I rushed getting dressed, hurried Mikelyn to the car and headed for Straughn Elementary School. As usual, we had the radio tuned to her favorite station.

My mind was on the day ahead, what needed doing at work, what to have for supper. I was so caught up in planning I barely noticed when a news report interrupted the music.

I heard plane and New York City, but what the newscaster said didn’t quite register with me. At school, I hurried my daughter to her room, hopped back in the car and returned home to pick up something I’d forgotten.

For some reason I flipped on the television as I gathered my things for work. What I saw stopped me cold. A picture of a skyscraper with smoke boiling out of a top floor filled the screen. The emotional voice of a reporter described what was happening.

I moved to a chair in front of the television. All thoughts about running late evaporated when I saw the panicked face of another reporter as a plane hit the Pentagon building near where he stood. In disbelief, I saw the first Twin Tower collapse in a storm of flame, dust and debris. I called my husband, wanting to hear his voice.

“Have you heard what’s happening?” I asked when he answered.

“Someone said something about airplanes crashing in New York,” he said.

I told him what I’d seen. We were silent, concerned about what else might come in the hours ahead. On my way to work, the radio newsperson said the second tower fell, too. Later I learned about a third plane crashing in a field.

I sat at my desk looking out a tiny sliver of window at the beautiful day, wondering how something so awful could be happening. Under a brilliant blue sky, a nightmare unfolded while the world watched.

Ten years, it’s been almost 10 years since that nightmare morning and the days after when the realization of what happened and how many died settled over the country and the world.

Now my youngest child is almost 20. My oldest grandchild is a teenager. Daddy is gone and my days as a reporter are over. Life moved on, but it seemed different after that September day.

This weekend the world stops to remember 10 years ago. Husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, wives, mothers, sisters, daughters and friends disappeared that day. We lost a part of ourselves and we came together, linked by a deep sadness that made us feel our connection, our sense of being a human family.

How do we honor those who died and those who tried to save them? Perhaps by understanding what hating does, by acknowledging the horrors we inflict by forgetting that divinity lives in everyone, and by remembering that connection we felt to each other.

Life changed over the past 10 years. Now memories of Sept. 11, 2011 challenge us with questions, “Has life changed for the better?” And, “What are we as individuals doing to make the answer ‘yes’?”