Saturday, September 09, 2023

A Day to Remember

It’s hard for me to believe that next week we’ll mark the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. 

Harder still to comprehend that there are individuals now in the workplace who weren’t even alive on that day, and others so young that they have no memory of it. Other significant dates on the calendar have names affixed to them, two decades later—and likely forever—this one remains simply “nine-eleven.” 

While the events of that day remain seared in my memory, human beings are, for the most part it seems, wired to forget, to “move on,” from our worst memories. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, though this is one day I never will.   

In fairness, that wasn’t a “normal” day for me. I was flying—cross-country—on an American Airlines flight to speak at a conference in California. I learned about the attacks while I was running from one terminal to another in Dallas, Texas. Oh, I had out of the corner of my eye wondered why everyone was gathered around those airport TV monitors so early on a Tuesday morning—but it wasn’t until my wife called on my cell (while I was running) to make sure I wasn’t on one of those planes…that I learned the awful truth.

I wasn’t on those planes of course, though I might well have been.[i] There were, after all, a couple of hundred individuals that boarded early flights just like mine that had no comprehension as to how that day would end, not to mention those already at work in the World Trade Center and Pentagon. And of course, there were the 343 members of the New York City Fire Department and 71 law enforcement officers whose work took them to the World Trade Center that fateful day. A day they went to work—but never came home. 

On not a few mornings since that awful day—and pretty much every time I’ve boarded an airplane since—I’ve thought about how on that horrible day so many went off to a normal day of work, how many boarded a plane—as will many on this anniversary—not realizing that they would not get to come home again. How many sacrificed their lives that day so that others COULD go home. How many put their lives on the line every day still, here and abroad, to help keep us and our loved ones safe. Let’s face it—planning for a long retirement is a laudable goal—but sometimes those plans are… “interrupted.”  And more often than not by things as “normal” as a traffic accident, a drunk driver or an unanticipated heart attack.       

We take a lot for granted in this life, perhaps nothing more cavalierly than that there will be a tomorrow to set the record straight, to right wrongs inflicted, to tell our loved ones just how precious they are.

As we remember that most awful of days—let’s also remember to take a moment to treasure what we have—and those we have to share it with still.

- Nevin E. Adams, JD


[i] I’d spend the next three days living out of a hotel room in Dallas, with flights all cancelled for the foreseeable future, and me unable even to find a car to rent—literally separated from home and family by hundreds of insurmountable miles for three interminably long days. As that long week drew to a close, I finally was able to acquire a rental car and begin a long two-day journey home. During that long, lonely drive, I had lots of time to think, to pray, and yes, to cry. Most of that drive is a blur to me now, just mile after endless mile of open road. I’ve shared before the story of that drive home—where, somewhere in the middle of Arkansas, a large group of bikers was coming up around me—the kind you generally aren’t happy to see coming up behind you on a lonely, deserted highway. But unfurled behind the leader of that group on his Harley was an enormous American flag. And at that moment, for the first time in 72 hours, I felt a sense of peace—the comfort you feel inside when you know you are going…home.

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