I didn't know how I was going to mark this eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It had to be with holiness, somehow. And quiet. So I got out my candles from Notre Dame de Paris. They're the holiest thing I could think of.
Two candles. For two Towers.
I lit them and started remembering. I remembered all the faces and voices in all the documentaries and television specials about the event. I've watched them so many times I can parrot the interviewees. I know when to turn the channel when it's going to be too much.
And then I spent time with my own memories.
When the first plane hit the first tower, I was at work. On the third floor of the building, which was the top floor. I was writing about a new product that was going into one of our catalogs. It was a white satin ring bearer pillow. 8" square. It was studded with silver beads in the shape of a cowboy hat. For couples celebrating Western weddings. Our cost was probably next to nothing. We were going to charge something like $37.00 for it, non-personalized.
Then my friend Barbara emailed me. The World Trade Center had exploded. The Pentagon was on fire. Pray. Then Mom called me, just to check in. It turns out that a plane hit the Trade Center. Then another. This was deliberate. This was war. She told me she loved me. I told her I loved her, too. Then I called my Dad. What was going to happen next? I asked him. He's an army veteran. He would know. "Well, somebody's probably about to get their asses blown off," he replied. When? I wanted to know. That, he couldn't answer.
I logged onto the news on my computer. Images, news reports, rumors, misinformation, real information. For the next hour, the silver-studded ring bearer pillow sat untouched on my desk. And then a voice came on the office intercom that though this was a national tragedy, we shouldn't let it affect our work. Our deadlines. That's the first time I cried that day.
Because people were jumping to their deaths half a country away. A tower was falling. The Pentagon was collapsing. Another tower was falling. Thousands of people were dying. A plane was crashing into a field in Pennsylvania. And I was supposed to focus on finding the words to sell a silver-studded ring bearer pillow made of white polyester satin. Not even real satin. Polyester.
It wasn't the first time I was caught between the details of my work and the larger aspect of "what really matters." But it's the time that made the difference. I did some desperate, deep thinking after 9/11. It mattered that I had a job. I was dedicated to my job. (In fact, I still work there.) But what also really mattered then was that there was life with meaning outside of it. And I had to find it. I had to.
What I had at hand with which to make that difference were my harps. My music. And I began to use them. I began to take risks. I made a second recording in honor the man who gave me my harp, to say thanks to him. To say a universal thanks for all the gifts in my life. I gave a concert to release that CD. 800 people came. I sold a thousand CDs that night. I planned another concert. And another. Made another CD. And another. Gave more concerts. I played and I played and I played and I played those harps and through them I send out my love and my highest wishes for good in the world.
And it's mattered. I can see it matter every time I play. It affects people positively. I affect people positively. I found my calling. Perhaps I owe it to being picked up by the neck and shaken and tossed to the ground and stomped on by the events of 9/11. Perhaps it would have happened no matter what because it was simply meant to be. Nonetheless, it happened.
And so I look back on these 10 years since 9/11/01. I remember the horror. I hear the voices. I can see the Towers falling. I see this country struggling. I am agonized by the warring that has followed.
But I also see growth. Change. Purpose. In myself and in others.
I hesitate to post this because I'm not a New Yorker. I don't know anyone who was in the Towers. I didn't lose a loved one. My small thoughts and feelings about this event pale in comparison to those who suffered directly, immediately, horribly.
But I am an American. I stood in the center of this country and felt the shock waves of the events occurring in New York, absorbed them. I took in this horror, this tragedy and I changed my life. I changed my life for the better. I don't think I'm the only one who has done so. And in this way, I think, we have proven ourselves better.
In this way, perhaps, we have won.