Its been 10 years.
It began as another beautiful day in New York. We had a string of beautiful days leading to September 11th. This time of year in New York can be the best time of the year with moderate temperatures, low humidity and the sun shining with optimism.
September 11th, 2001 began that way.
The year had been a challenging one, but things were beginning to look better. It was the beginning of a new school year, the weather in New York reflected people’s mood, optimism and full of life.
I was at home that day, my younger daughter turned 3 a couple of weeks earlier, my oldest had just gone to school, and her new teacher was considered the best in the school. She was full of energy anticipating a good year. Things could not be better.
All that changed when I received a call from my neighbor who was watching the news and saw the events unfolding. I turned the television on and was stunned. I watched for quite some time until I began to realize how many of my neighbors worked in the World Trade Center, how many friends and when I heard about the Pentagon I thought about several friends who worked there.
Throughout the day phones were busy, many of us stood outside watching for people to come home. Slowly during the afternoon we saw our neighbors begin to come home. We stood there thankful for each person we saw coming from the train and hopeful for those who had not yet returned.
At the end of the night we went to the train station parking lot and saw the handful of cars remaining. It was a shock to all of us. Our town is small by most standards, seeing those cars in the parking lot and knowing who they belonged to made us all feel numb.
I began to think about the World Trade Center and my experiences related to it. I always felt it was an ugly building, no style. To me it represented a “bigger is better” attitude, reflecting much of the arrogance that New Yorker’s are reputed to have.
At various times in my career I worked in the WTC on various floors, been to the restaurant that was on top and attended many meetings there. The building swayed constantly with the wind, the elevators took forever and it just was not a place I had any desire to have a job.
I began to read stories about people who were lost in 9-11. One story changed my view on the WTC forever. The story was about a restaurant worker who moved his family from Central America to New York so his family could have a better life. I don’t recall this man’s name, but I do remember that a NY newspaper ran a story about the restaurant workers and they mentioned this person.
Like many of his 80 or so peers working at Windows on the World, he was a humble man and a hard worker. Like many better restaurants in NY, Windows had their pick of people with many more applicants than jobs. When the man was picked for the job, it was a dream come true. Unlike many workers in these positions elsewhere, Windows offered this man a stable income, benefits and if he worked hard, a job for as long as he wanted. His hard work paid off, his kids would be guaranteed a good life, one that would be full of joy and opportunities. He was on top of the world.
Until September 11th.
When I read his story, I realized that the WTC wasn’t about style, wasn’t about bigger. It represented personal achievement for many people. The American dream of improving your life and ensuring your kids have more opportunity to be live a happy and fulfilling life.
For those people that dream was crushed.
In my town people remember. We remember the families affected, the dreams lost. Our town and New York City may never be the same, but we will cope and survive and hopefully never lose perspective on what is important in life.
Take this day and reflect on those things you value in your life. Your friends, family and neighbors. Be thankful for the simple things you have and always be a value to others.