September 11, 2001.
Like most of us, I know only second-hand horror related to that day, that time, that place. From my desk at the Cabinet Press in Milford, NH, I didn’t hear the screams, didn’t feel the ash on my skin, didn’t smell death by the thousands.
I felt September 11 in two dimensions, not three, and I recall it that way still today.
I suppose in most ways I’m grateful for that distance, but at the same time I want to keep those two dimensions that I do recall intact. The planes (too low). The smoke (too much). The faces (too scared). The colors (too gray).
And the jumpers, the images of whom will always be the most permanently seared into my mind’s eye, having moments earlier been faced with a choice that I’d have only thought fathomable in fiction. Be incinerated, or jump.
We’ve heard that phrase ever since, haven’t we?
What do we do with it?
We’ve all got our ways, and our reasons. My way, since I began shooting these free throws 10 months ago, is to pause after the 911th made shot of any given day, say a brief prayer, and carry on. But my reason isn’t so much about September 11 as it is about September 12.
To my way of thinking, we honor all those innocent men and women who died on September 11, and those who have died as an indirect result since then, by recalling, and more importantly emulating, the fellowship of September 12.
I think of the kindness on the faces of strangers in traffic. I think of Democrats and Republicans standing, unified, on the steps of the United States Capitol. I think of the run on American flags. I think of a nation with unwavering and genuine hope that its President would succeed. I think of a knowing glance in the grocery store.
I know that to many, the prevailing emotion to be carried forward from that day is anger, but to me the rage that many of us felt then serves little purpose now. On the other hand, the cousin of that rage – which we call passion – can do worlds of good in its place.
Passion for helping another person. Passion for civility. Passion for empathy. Passion for brotherhood. Passion for goodness.
September 11 was a day of unimaginable terror and incalculable loss, and that we will never forget.
But September 12 was about a renewed spirit, for our country, for each other. And that, we must always remember.