9/11 - Where were you is not the question. Where were you not?

5 years ago

As the grim anniversary of the horrific acts of 9/11/01 approaches, I see "where were you?"posts  all around me. Not that there's anything wrong with that. People need to share, I understand that. I do. And I think that more than reading others' accounts, they need to get their stories out. I find that people I know will repeat their story every year or every time the day is brought up. I am sure I do. We need to share about where we were, how we felt, everything. But I often think about where I was not. I was not in the World Trade Center. I was not in the Pentagon. I was not on  United Flight 93. And I was not at home or work or school awaiting word about my loves ones.

Recently, I have watched a couple of new programs about 9/11. One took you inside the building, recreating the conditions inside the World Trade Center. Another recreating the conditions on United Flight 93. I tried to put myself in the position of some of the people who were there. And I can't. I mean, I kind of can. I can imagine myself on an airplane, as I have been dozens of times. Sitting with my family, next to Jakey, and I think, "How on earth would I have kept him calm?" How tight would I be holding him when it was clear we were going to crash?" "How would I shield him from seeing a person stabbed?" And if I had been without my kids on the flight, "What would I have said to them on the phone in those final minutes?"

I imagined the hundreds of times I have been in a highrise -- I worked in highrises for many years. I imagine going in, having the usual "office banter", "Working hard or hardly working?" "How was your weekend?", etc. Going to my office, stopping for coffee, chatting with my co-workers and sitting down to go through messages and mail. And then the horror of what happened that day. Can you imagine all of a sudden realizing you have to make a choice of jumping from your office  window to your death or dying in an inferno? All you did was go to work!

I imagine being at home, as I, but for the grace of God, was, but rather than being horrified and heartbroken as I (and the whole country was), and realizing that my children or husband or sibling or parent might be directly in danger and feeling the feeling the sheer panic and terror of not knowing where they were. How they were. If they were.

So as the anniversary approaches, I would suggest that in addition to remembering where we were, we remember where we were not and take an extra moment -- after we have spent a million moments honoring those who were there -- and be grateful to whatever God or forces you may believe in. And maybe pick a name from the too-long list of victims and say an extra prayer or send extra good thoughts to their family. Because we can't truly know what pain they endure.

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