What were you doing on the morning of September 11th 2001?
Can you picture it clearly?
I was on a plane from New York to Los Angeles on the day before. I remember that there were thunderstorms in the area that evening, and we were stuck in the airplane for almost 4 hours before we could take off. Some passengers asked to return to the terminal in NY, while I and others waited it out and arrived in LA in the early morning hours of September 11th. I woke up just before the 2nd tower was hit, and witnessed it live on TV.
Did you know how much life would change after that terrible day?
I certainly didn't.
Looking back, pre-9/11 America felt like a simpler place.
That's partially a reflection of who I was then, as well as a transformation in our sense of security in our own homeland.
The events of that single day unleashed a wave of national grief and a makeover of how we see ourselves and our place in the world.
Can we take a minute to reflect on who and what we lost?
The occupants of the twin towers and Pentagon.
The passengers of the hijacked planes.
The heroic first responders who ran into burning buildings.
The families and communities who lost loved ones. (At least ten thousand children lost parents on that day!)
The service members and civilians who lost their lives and health in the wars that followed.
Did you lose someone important to you? Do you know someone who did?
Can we learn from those losses?
I hope so.
I remember the shock and anxiety after the towers fell.
I also remember how united we were as a people in those early days.
In our pain, our grief, our support for one another, and our need to make sense of what happened.
I think kindness and growth often coexist with grief and pain.
Loss pushes us to cherish those we love and what we have in this moment.
What do you cherish today?
How have you been transformed since, and by that tragic day?
Daniel Ruben, MD, MPH, MBA