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Ten Years After Tragedy

My family was incredibly lucky on 9/11. Some of us were periodic users of the Chambers Street subway station — but not that day. A dear friend worked right near the Pentagon — he was totally fine. I wasn’t even in New York — I was away in Richmond for business.

Yes, I was scared and disrupted. Couldn’t get through to my family on cell phone or landline. Couldn’t get home as planned. Just put my head down and worked. Did not look at a TV or screen. Minimized my exposure. Got home only 24 hours later than expected.

So it may seem overweening, even precious for me to write personal musings on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Which is probably why I waited till after the day was over. Till after reading the New York Times and listening to WNYC all day, and absorbing truly gut-wrenching personal stories of loss and heroism, grief, and coming-to-terms. Till after experiencing the shared grief for the death of innocents. Till after Monday morning, when I focused on starting the household off on a solid footing for the week and getting to work.

I have no patience for politics or hatred: The losses are too great. Maybe that’s easy for me to say because none of the losses were mine — except for the loss of my sense of invulnerability, my confidence in architecture and engineering, and some ideals.

But here’s what I know as we take our showers, fix our breakfasts, and pack our bags for school and work:

We are all the same. If you believe in God, we are b’tselem elohim — all made in God’s image. And if you don’t believe in God, then consider genetics, which shows that we all have common ancestors — no matter what we look like, what we believe, or who we love. We all contain perfection, along with every possible human weakness and potential emotional response. It’s our actions that make us different.

You never know if you’re coming home. Or if the people you love will make it back. As it happens, I rode the Long Island Railroad in and out of the tunnels under Penn Station on the 8th, 9th, and 10th — during the lead-up to the anniversary of 9/11. I saw troops in camo holding their assault rifles in that “ready” position and the extra police with dogs, and it was very clear that none of us is assured of safety, that tragedy is still possible.

So here’s what I want for myself — besides good luck, security without loss of liberty, and peace for all humanity: I want to behave well every day. To do the right thing, whatever it is. To be ready, but neutral. To be kind and loving. To be with the people I care about. To be at peace with my choices. That’s exactly what I’d want anyway, even if 9/11 had never occurred. But because it did, I want these things even more.

Because you never know, when you get up each morning, what will happen that day that you’ll look back on 10 years later.

Onward and upward,


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4 thoughts on “Ten Years After Tragedy

  1. Liz
    This is a beautiful, thoughtful and moving piece. A tribute to our interconnectedness, our fragility, the preciousness of life and our need for greater empathy and compassion.
    As it turns out, we had recently moved from NY (after years in Greenwich Village and the towers in our daily sight lines ….. Not being there was a relief and a terrible isolation. I made the pilgrimage less than a month later to all my old firehouses and the wall of pain at my local hospital, the former St Vincents.
    There are so many ways we can remember and honor — and living well and consciously is one of the most important – thanks!

  2. Louise, you’ve named so many aspects of what humanity is. I only hope part of it is learning from our mistakes so we can reduce the suffering in the world — including our own. Thank you for adding to the consciousness and introspection in the world.


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