As I was going to write about gratitude my mind went back to September 11, 2001, and I had to stop and just sit for a while and think back to that horrific day.
Where were you?
I was at The Country Place Retreat Center in Pa with four other people planning to start our very first Total Leadership Connections program at 5 pm with wine and appetizers, dinner, and the opening evening program.
That morning the 5 of us who were to facilitate were in the gathering room filled with last-minute ideas and details. Our wonderful maintenance man, Don, walked in, apologized for bothering us, and informed us in a quiet, almost reverent voice, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center in Manhattan.”
He had to repeat this several times before we could grasp what was being said.
We all ran to the TV never realizing what was in front of us as we watched the plane and smoke and fire and fear and…
The weather that day seemed to mock us. It was a magnificent early autumn day on the east coast, more like what we call Indian summer.
Of course, we could not start the program and told local staff to take home the food in the jam-packed refrigerator with food for 25 people for the next 4 days.
The five of us stayed together for comfort, no one wanting to be alone. The beauty of the day and the horror we would watch on television over and over of smoke and fire and falling buildings made us feel disconnected from reality. Yet, we needed the touch of human connections.
We stayed up late, addicted to the news. We wanted to hear and yet we wanted to pretend it hadn’t happened.
The enormity of it all was impossible to grasp. However, it brought up old personal sudden painful incidents of the past: accidents, deaths, sudden decisions that were life-changing for each of us.
What did you think about?
Who were you with?
How did you cope?
Back to the idea of gratitude now, 18 years later.
In my work, I always suggest that each morning you take a few minutes and give gratitude for at least 3 people or situations in your life.
I want to give gratitude to the following:
- To all the first responders who risked (and the many who lost) their lives to help in this hell-like situation.
- To Jon Stewart, comedian and former host of The Daily Show, a 9/11 First Responders advocate, who went to Congress and in an emotional, angry speech shamed the lawmakers into reauthorizing the 9/11 victims fund.
- To the people of Gander Newfoundland who played host to the world when 7000 travelers were stranded there after 9/11 and showed the dignity and decency of humans helping each other during a time of need.
- BONUS: To Irene Sankoff and David Hein for writing a riveting and heartwarming musical about what happened in Gander in the aftermath of 9/11. If you have not seen Come From Away, go, yes go as soon as you can. It is an experience in what happens when the best of who we are shines through tragedy and ugliness. And take the kids who were not here yet or were too young to truly understand.
Please, please, get in the habit of waking up and giving gratitude to those who matter to you. The most glorious day can turn dark in the blink of an eye. And please remember this…
We are all connected, and no one wins unless we all do.