How My World Changed 9 Years Ago

Taking a moment today to remember the utter disbelief and the terrible fear of 9/11/01.

I was a law clerk at a private firm in the next county. We had a television set in the conference room. I don't remember the very first news I heard of the World Trade Center disaster, but I distinctly recall wandering in and out of the conference room as we tried to concentrate on work that day. Every time I walked in it seemed NBC was just replaying the loop of the plane exploding into the tower. We stared. We couldn't say anything. What we were watching was incomprehensible even as the news reporters were trying to give us information. Everyone was in a daze.

I vaguely wondered if Los Angeles or San Francisco was the next target.

I was divorced, a single mother with one child attending the local community college, one at the high school, one at the junior high school, and the youngest at the elementary school. All of us were separated from one another as we absorbed the news. I had an overwhelming urge to gather my children and to run. Or maybe just to hide.

Where? I didn't know then. I don't know now.

Until that moment I had resisted having a cell phone. I accomplished only two things on 9/12/01. First I obtained a cell phone so my children could reach me anytime, anywhere. And I donated blood. There was a long line at the blood bank. I waited over two hours for my turn. Neither of those acts were much, but they were significant on a personal level.

Five years later 9/11/06 found me with Mr. Last on the top of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states. It was a great personal event for me, but we also reflected on 9/11/01and how our personal lives and the world had shifted since then.

It's a different world now. I did not lose a loved one in the disaster, but I have nevertheless experienced loss and grief because of it. More and more I believe that whatever hurts one, hurts us all. And the inverse, too. Any single act of goodness or kindness ripples beyond the immediate actor to spread indefinitely. I am more conscious of whether my actions, small though they may seem, add to the good in the world or if they cause injury. Connectedness and permeable boundaries are things I think about often.

I'm practicing being the best human I can be. It's practice because I'm far from mastering perfect goodness. I fail and try again, over and over. But it is change in the right direction. It's not entirely attributable to my reaction to 9/11, but something about that day nine years ago did shake me awake.

Did your world change 9 years ago? If not, why? If so, how? 

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