Has it already been ten years since the September 11 attacks on America?
The media, which recycled the story like a plastic grocery bag, often using the word “anniversary,” to describe the significance of the ten-year mark.
Anniversaries usually connote a celebration, which certainly seems inappropriate, in this case. I don’t know what word to suggest instead; there has never been an event like the terrorist attacks that sunny, autumn morning.
It was an event so significant that it is now remembered through its own syntax that is both grammatical and dramatic. Journalists refer to the day as “9/11.”
Everyone has their 9/11 story. Here’s mine…
Where I was on 9/11
Ten years ago, I was teaching public seminars. The travel schedule was horrendous; you couldn’t work any harder in the speaking business. I would fly out on Sunday night and be in my seminar room at 7 AM, Monday morning.
The class would run until almost 4 PM, at which time I would pack up and drive to the next city. Upon arrival at 7 PM or later, I would repeat the schedule the next day.
Five cities in five day. The schedule was brutal.
I would fly home on Friday evening and fly out again on Sunday night, usually working three weeks out of the month.
I was learning a lot about the speaking business, but my social life was crap and I wasn’t taking very good care of myself.
“One of the planes crashed nearby!”
Engrossed in my work, I began teaching a leadership course in Pittsburgh hotel on Tuesday, September 11. Registration was at 8AM. I used the restroom just before the class began, one of the few practices employed by both professional and amateurs speakers.
On the way back to the seminar room, I noticed a bunch of hotel employees clustered around the lounge television set.
Something bad had happened to a skyscraper in New York City. Early reports suggested that a stray airplane had flown into the building. Some sort of freak accident or an attack of some kind? It was a very strange occurence, but not what we call in the speaking business a “show stopper.”
I hurriedly returned to my classroom and made a quick phone call to my brother, Dave. He had more news on the event than I did and I remember feeling a quick succession of emotions: surprise, concern, fear, vulnerability.
I started to tear up as the call ended.
“I’m scared, Dave,” I said. “I can’t explain it. I feel very alone right now.”
Dave offered some encouragement and we promised to talk later. I hung up and began teaching 40 Pittsburgh-area business leaders to be pro-active problem solvers, efficient communicators, and better role models.
By our first break, some of the attendees had heard the news, but the calamity didn’t merit mentioning to the class. Information didn’t travel as fast in those days. Texting wasn’t the rage and smart phones didn’t exist.
None of us knew that United Airlines flight 93 crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, about 90 minutes from our seminar location.
America would never be the same
I completed the seminar, packed up and headed off to the next city. Instead of flying home on Friday evening, I drove the rental car home and kept it so I could drive to all my seminars for the next two weeks. The airports were closed for a few days and rental cars were impossible to come by, if you didn’t already have one.
Travel in America would never be the same. Security measures in public buildings would never be the same.
I some ways, I would never be the same.
Unhappy anniversary, everyone.