I remember exactly where I was fifteen years ago when the first plane hit the tower. My team and I were at Jim Garvey’s company, IIS, which at the time was at the height of its dot-com bubbliciousness. We were about to start a meeting, and someone hadn’t arrived yet, and someone else turned the TV on. We were all stunned. Clearly this would not be a day to have a marketing meeting. And yet we didn’t leave immediately. I think we didn’t know what the hell to do, and it took about half an hour for things to sink in so completely that we realized a meeting would be out of the question.
But I, anyway, didn’t realize how deep an impression 9/11 would leave on America. So deep that on this day of remembrance fifteen years later, my friend Kyle Lawson, a former journalist, would feel compelled to write that he “grew old too late,” because he never wanted to live to see this.
His words, better than mine, for this day when both aging and ageism seem like trivial subjects to discuss:
I grew old too late. I was sitting in the newsroom at the Arizona Republic when the first images flashed on the television monitors. The tower. The Pentagon. The second tower. I never wanted to see a day like that. I never wanted to feel my innocence crumble.
Nothing has been the same since.
The falling glass of the towers drove a shard into America’s heart.
We have become a nation so enmeshed in the desire for revenge, the hatred of the “other,” that we are are in danger of forgetting the words of our Pledge, “liberty and justice for all.”
Somehow, I can’t believe the innocents of 9/11 died for that.
Fifteen years from that horrific day, we face an unpredictable future. We are confronted by political corruption and corporate avarice and enemies within and without. We are pitted skin color against skin color, religious belief against religious belief, political ideology against political ideology.
We seek to legislate a morality that we do not practice. We rebel against change and fear we are being left behind in the chase for the American dream. We worry that our children and grandchildren will stand hostage to tyranny.
Yet, at its heart, unchronicled by the media or the political campaigns, there is an America that has not lost faith in the words of its pledge, that weeps at injustice, that dreams of equality and opportunity, that believes a nation can be moral and still be strong.
In times of natural disaster and personal loss, that nation lifts its hand to help the helpless. It shares in the grief, it rejoices in the happiness. It follows that elusive hope.
The words of the Stone Lady still echo in its heart, “I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” The Declaration of Independence still resonates. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We walk a tightrope, but we have been there before and come through.
On this day of reflection, I pray not only for the dead but the living. Every action we take will resonate long after we are gone.
Let us keep our eyes on the dream.
I hope I can do that. More than once in recent history I have gone out to dinner with my friend Fred, and he has said, “we’re lucky we’re old, Francine. Our children and their children will live in a much more difficult world.” I don’t want to believe that. Any of it.