I had a really cool Writer's Workshop planned for 9-11 today. I wanted the opportunity to share about getting a phone call from my mom when I was driving down I-85 to AUM for morning classes. She yelled into the phone, "We're under attack. We're under attack." At the time, she was babysitting two little girls. I thought she meant an intruder was in our home. Then, she explained a plane had hit the World Trade Center.
I realized (or I thought I realized) she was, as usual, overreacting. Certainly, there was just a malfunction with a propeller. When I arrived on campus, I heard another plane had hit the towers. Classes were cancelled.
This is when I realized my initial reaction was the accurate one. There was an intruder, as scary as if it had entered my own mother's home. This intruder had stepped on American soil and rendered a death blow that would shake the very core of who we were as Americans. It boggles my mind (and makes me feel really old) to think that my current students were yet to be born. I wonder if they will ever know the impact such a day had on all of us. I hope they never have to live through something so catastrophic, but I also don't want them to be blind or numb to the fact that it did happen.
Sometimes, out of the blue, something happens that changes our lives forever. Impacts us in unimaginable ways. While we have been very fortunate here in the Panhandle of Florida to escape Irma's wrath, the rest of our Floridians have not been as lucky. Today is their 9-11. The day they had to wade through rubble to find pieces of broken dreams and promises. Trying to put pieces back together of a life that no longer makes sense. The thing I will always remember in the aftermath of 9-11 is the same thing I remember about the destruction of Ivan, the same thing most of Florida is experiencing right now in the wake of Irma. It's a weird thing, really, probably something not many other people would even think to mention, but it has stood with me all these years: the silence, the eerie silence.
No football games, no electricity, no chatter about plans for the weekend, or the latest sale at Macy's. Nothing seemed to matter, except what really mattered. That is what I will remember most.
The thing I have learned about 9-11 lessons is that they don't seem to have the same impact on 9-12 or 9-13. Because of Hurricane Irma, I will have to forego this year's lesson, but I don't think it's ever untimely to teach the lessons that 9-11 (and natural disasters) have taught us. The lessons they still teach us every single day. Here's my Decalogue of Disaster's Lessons.
1) It's always the right time to be kind and flexible, but especially in light of a tragedy.
2) Things can be replaced, even really expensive ones. People cannot.
3) The resiliency of the human spirit is a marvel.
4) We can never control the uncontrollable. We can only choose how we respond to it.
5) True courage is going in when everyone else is coming out.
6) Tomorrow is not a promise. We must make every day count.
7) The silence of suffering is the most wretched and beautiful sound on earth. It means we are all suffering together.
8) We will get through today and the next day and the next day by staying bent towards the light.
9) The foundation of who we are is shaped by what has happened to us and how we have responded
10) Empathy towards others is the greatest gift we can give others and ourselves.
Help someone out this week. Be a friend. Be flexible. Be patient. Treasure each day.
I am so grateful to know you.