The Lessons of September 11, 2001

The morning of September 11, 2001 was not unlike today, 10 years later. The sky was a stunning blue and the air hinted of Autumn even though we insisted that Summer had a few weeks left in her. My wife and I were doing our usual late to rise routine as we always do when on holiday. Unlike most post Labor Day mornings there was a lot of commotion in the house and as we descended the stairs of the B & B we think of as home when in Cape May, NJ we were shocked to hear of the events that had only just begun to unfold.

Earlier that morning a young couple from towns neighboring our own boarded United flight 175 at Logan Airport. Lynn Goodchild and Shawn Nassaney were en route to Hawaii via LAX. Their flight ended abruptly about 1 hour after take-off as their jet flew into the south tower of the World Trade Center.

This morning I walked to the nearby cemetery where the remains of Lynn Goodchild are interred. It is a walk I make quite often but on anniversary dates such as this I am reminded just how visceral the effects of the events of September 11, 2001 really have been.

Some say the country has been changed incontrovertibly. There are two things I remember most of the time surrounding and following September 11, 2001. The first is the profound quiet in the skies and amongst people all around me. The quiet was palpable as if a blanket had been thrown around me. It seemed that not even the ever-present laughing gull of the Jersey shore was up to task. The other and even more amazing effect evolved slowly and steadily; the abundance of camaraderie that spread in the wake of this tragedy was unlike I had ever seen before. In times of crisis I have seen it but never with such depth and breadth as this. It was more than an act of uniting to shield ourselves from an enemy we neither knew nor understood. Perhaps it was a collective acceptance of our vulnerability or maybe we realized that looking out for each other was one way we could soothe the confusion, raw pain and fear that we faced. The event, tragic as it was, galvanized a country that had been showing signs of instability for a long time.

With the passage of time our country does not seem as galvanized as it was then. We have gone back about business as usual, always in a hurry to do what we must, ignoring strangers even though they are every bit like us. Perhaps a day like today will bring us back for a bit, I could only hope.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families of Lynn and Shawn and the 2975 other souls who perished that day. There is no way to bring them back but perhaps the lessons learned can positively impact those of us who remain. For me the most powerful lesson is this: never forget the loss, never forget what it means to stand by your fellow man.

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