There is no doubt in my mind that we all remember where we were, ten years ago today. I remember walking into class at SUNY Albany in my pajamas, only to have my professor tell the entire class to go home and turn on our TV’s. Not knowing what was going on, I turned my TV on just in time to see the second tower fall. The next few days played out in slow motion. I remember checking in with a friend whose father and uncle worked in one of the towers. Relief swept over me when he shared that he was able to speak with his uncle who saw his father get out of the building. And I remember the sense of helplessness when, weeks later, his father still hadn’t turned up. It was assumed that, after getting out of the first tower, his father wasn’t able to get away from the chaos quickly enough and became one of the many fatalities that day. My entire life, war was something I just read about in a text-book. Suddenly, it became very real.
A good friend of mine responded on that day as a volunteer firefighter. I didn’t sleep for days when I couldn’t reach him. I remember calling the firefighter emergency number about every ten minutes to find out if he was still presumed alive. When he finally called, I was at work. My roommate heard him leaving the message on my answering machine and called me at work to play the message over the phone. I literally collapsed on the floor in tears. I remember moments of silence in the days that followed and, maybe it was my imagination, but everyone seemed to be a little bit kinder and more patient with one another.
That day changed everyone’s lives, even those who didn’t know anyone who was anywhere near the towers that day. We take off our shoes at the airport, go through full body scanners or subject ourselves to getting felt up by security without even an empty promise of dinner. Suddenly, we all know someone close to us who has traveled overseas in uniform to Iraq or Afghanistan. Some of us are fortunate enough to have huge, emotional welcome back parties. Some were less fortunate and only have their memories. Many of us here in New York watched our friends and loved ones become part of the FDNY like it was the most popular frat on campus. One thing is for sure; we will never have the luxury again of believing that war is something foreign to us.
Now, a decade later, we are pulling together again as a nation. There are fundraisers, remembrance walks and runs, dedication ceremonies. What I can’t understand, though, is why it takes a tragedy to pull us together; to remind us how much the people in our lives mean to us and how much even the people we don’t know affect us every day. We shouldn’t need colorful threat level codes across the bottom of our TV sets to remind us to say “I love you” before we leave the house in the morning or to be understanding to the new girl making our morning coffee who mixes up our latte with the caramel macchiato the woman behind us ordered.
From the guy who makes his living picking up our trash to the person we can’t wait to get home to at the end of the day, our lives are impacted by each and every person we come across during any given day, but we are so quick to take advantage of them all. The increased airport security has remained a permanent part of our lives, why haven’t we also held on to the increased level of compassion?
This being a dating blog and all, single people, myself included, are always complaining about how difficult it is to meet people. But when is the last time you paid attention to the people around you when you’re food shopping for this week’s carton of ice cream to drown your sorrows in? Or got to know a little bit more about your local bartender instead of just whining to him about your bad day at work? How much do you really know about the people already in your life? I know that my friends surprise me every day with things I never knew about them. And we are all guilty of sometimes not appreciating what we have. I know that when I have been in relationships in the past there were definitely times where I was too stressed or tired or just plain grumpy to say “I love you” or kiss someone goodbye. If that fateful day ten years ago should have taught us anything, it should be that the most important part of our lives should be the people who make up our worlds.
So, today, while remembering where you were ten years ago, don’t forget where you are today. Pay attention to the people around you at the store and gas station and getting your morning coffee. Take a second to say “I love you” to the people who truly matter to you. Even if you take the lazy way out and do it through a mass text, Facebook status or throw it up on Twitter. Or put it in your blog.
To my friends who risk their lives as firefighters and law enforcement, thank you for being braver than I could ever imagine.
To those who are or have been overseas, thank you for putting my freedom and safety before your own. Even the Army Ex who still makes me want to strangle him sometimes, I am overwhelmed with pride to say that there are people in my life so selfless and courageous.
To my friends who are just there for me when I need them, to listen to my latest boy problems or crazy scheme, to bring me lunch when I’m sick or to play with my hair while I cry. I love you all so much that sometimes, you actually leave me without words.
To my readers whom I have never met, who check in every week even though we don’t know each other (well, I guess you all know a lot about me if you’re reading every week!) Your support and encouragement touches me in a way I don’t think I could ever fully express. You put a smile on my face that is sometimes hard to find and you push me to get back to working on a book and actually make my dreams possibly come true one day. I am so grateful for each and every one of you.
Who do you need to be grateful for today?
“You’ve been so kind and generous I don’t know how you keep on giving For your kindness I’m in debt to you For your selflessness, my admiration And for everything you’ve done You know I’m bound… I’m bound to thank you for it” Kind and Generous ~ Natalie Merchant