Eleven years ago today, I woke up to the most beautiful, clear sunny, pre-fall day in Hackensack, New Jersey. Like every morning, I listened to 103.5 KTU (an NYC radio station) and the DJ, Gumba Johnny, announced that today’s date was 9.11. This was my 23rd “9.11,” yet I had never noticed that the date featured the same numbers that you call when you have an emergency. The DJ continued to say, “Today is an emergency. The date is nine-one-one.” The time was about 7:15-7:30 in the morning. I was almost ready to hop in my 23-year-old self into my Honda Accord and head off to my job at Toys”R”Us corporate headquarters.
I was feeling antsy in my job … it was my first job out of college and like most 23-year-olds, I thought I knew everything about everything. A few weeks earlier, a co-worker had taken me salsa dancing in New York City at the World Trade Center’s “Windows on the World.” Every Thursday was salsa nite and even though I was an awful dancer, I enjoyed the city, the company and the drinks. ;) It was the first time I had ever seen the World Trade Center up close and personal. It was beyond words.
As we ascended up to the 107th floor, I looked out across the Hudson River, into New Jersey, along downtown Manhattan and at the Statue of Liberty, which now appeared to be the size of a cereal box toy.
I stayed out way too late and had way too much fun, just like every young, 20-something should.
There was nothing that ever led me to believe that where I was standing would no longer be standing in just a few short weeks. I had made plans to go back with another group of people in a few weeks, on September 13.
Eleven years ago today, some things happened in history that you will one day read about in school. By that time, 15, 20 or more years will have passed and learning about this historical event will seem to you as distant as Pearl Harbor or the assignation of JFK is to me. You know it happened, your parents share their stories with you, but there is no comprehension of what truly happened that day.
I saved that evening’s newspaper and the newspapers of the days following. I saved the major news magazines and will one day share all of that with you. What the newspapers and magazines show isn’t something I’d like to burden a child with, but how you live your life today was changed by the events of that day.
Flobee, you are growing up in a time where people do many senseless acts of violence and hatred. There is no reason for it, any reason I can think of. While I hope to shield and protect you from the evil of some people, it won’t be easy. All I can do is love you and raise you to be the best person you can be. Allow you to grow, to try new things, to learn from your mistakes, to grow from your failures and to be humbled by your successes.
These senseless acts can teach us all something and there is something I want you to learn from them. In the hours, days, weeks and sometimes months following a tragedy, people come together. They come together in solidarity, they show compassion, they are more grateful, kind and helpful.
I remember the first few after the September 11th attacks. There were candlelight vigils where people of all colors and background united on lawns and gave each other kind looks. People drove a little bit slower and were a bit more kind. My wish for you is that you live every day with this compassion, this gratitude, this kindness and unconditional love. Love everyone equally (well, you can love your parents a tab bit more … we did create you!) and remember you are no better than anyone else. No matter what your education, career or background, always remember that everyone is equal and deserved to be loved that way.