September 11, 2001. A day that is seared into our minds forever. What a day that was. My experience of it was likely much different from most other people’s, however…
You see, just a few months earlier on April 1, 2001 my newborn daughter died in my arms. She was born with a heart defect and was unable to have the life-saving surgeries she needed due to an apnea episode shortly after her birth. When she was 23 days old, we made the agonizing decision to bring her home to die. The months after that were a blur of grief and pain.
And then September 11th arrived. I was on my way to work when I heard the news over the car radio that a plane had hit the first tower in New York. Dear Lord — how could a pilot make THAT big of an error? How in the world did that happen? Then I heard that the second plane hit the second building. That is when I knew that it was not pilot error that we were witnessing.
I, along with probably most other Americans, never experienced terrorism quite so up close and personal. I remember feeling so unnerved that our great country could actually be vulnerable to terrorism. My naive self thought that only happened other places. But not America, right?
My husband and I were in the middle of IVF treatments to try for another baby. We were so hopeful and so desperate to have a child, especially after the death of our daughter just a few months earlier.
After work that evening, my husband and I went out to dinner with my co-workers. We all sat around in shock and disbelief, not quite sure what to make of what had transpired that day. That was the general sense I felt from most people in those early days.
When we got home from dinner, I took a shower. As I stood in the shower that night, I remember thinking about our attempts to have another baby, and I found myself asking a very big question:
The world was feeling quite crazy at that moment. And the very first answer that came into my mind was an unequivocal YES. Without a doubt, I desperately wanted to bring a child into this world. I knew that I would do my best to raise my child the best I could and that I needed to bring a child into this world, for one reason to try to neutralize a bit of the evil I felt in the air that day. I would shower my child with love and raise him or her with kindness and love. THAT is what I felt the world needed that day.
I didn’t say this earlier in my story, and it took me quite a long time to feel comfortable admitting this to anyone post-9/11, but the first thought I had when I saw all the death and destruction that occurred that fateful day is “now every American understands what I’VE been going through for the past five months. Now every American understands at least a shred of the deep, raw, searing grief I have been dealing with.”
Sounds kind of raw and strange to you, maybe.
For the time between April 1, 2001 when she died and September 11, 2001, I walked around feeling like an alien living on Earth. Other than fellow bereaved parents (who I was blessed to meet) I felt as if no one I encountered could possibly understand what I had gone through. But that day, I suddenly felt like other people could once again relate to and understand me.
I’m thinking most people didn’t have quite that reaction on 9/11/01.
It has been 17 years since that traumatizing day. I know, because that’s also how old my Sydney would be. What has changed? Well a lot actually. We have had a few more presidents, technology has grown by leaps and bounds, we are more connected than ever, and our economy has basically recovered from the devastating hit it took post-9/11.
And what is the same? We are still a human race that needs connection to others. We are still more alike than we are different. We still feel fear, and we still need support. There is a lot of divisiveness in our world today. Moreso than pre-9/11 even.
Some things have definitely changed, but the basics have not. We are all connected. When one of us hurts, we all hurt. When one of us heals, we all heal.
On this day 17 years ago I dedicated the rest of my life to doing what I could to make this world just a little bit nicer, just a little bit kinder and to heal the pain just a little bit whenever and wherever and however I could. And looking back over the past 17 years, I feel pretty good about how I have honored that promise. And I don’t intend to stop now.
What can we collectively do moving forward to honor all that happened and all those we lost on 9/11? For starters, we can consciously choose what kind of media we consume. When we fill our hearts and our minds with fear and hate, that is the energy we create in our bodies, and that is what we will spread.
When we fill our hearts and minds with uplifting stories, that is the energy we fill ourselves with and spread out into the world. I consciously choose NOT to share fear-inducing stories on social media. The only stories I will share are ones where we can collectively learn a lesson or be inspired. I want to spread only kindness, inspiration and hope.
Next, we can get to know our fear and how it shows up in our lives. When we are driven by fear, things never go well. It is important that we learn to recognize when fear is driving us and find ways to neutralize that fear so that we can move back into a place of love, where we always make better decisions.
And we can just do small things to make the world a little kinder, a little nicer, and little brighter.
Smile at the person standing in line behind you.
Greet the cashier as if you are genuinely grateful for their service.
Help your neighbor.
Apologize to that person.
Donate your time and your talent.
Hug a little longer.
Hand-write a thank you note to someone you care about.
This list could go on and on, but I challenge you to come up with your own ideas about what you can do to spread a little more sunshine. Because 17 years later, God knows we could all use a little more of that.
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Originally published at medium.com