September 11, 2001 is just a few days away. I can’t believe its been 10 years. My sons remember every detail of that day, which is remarkable since they were just 4 and 6 at the time. As teenage men, both excel in US History. They grew up visiting every monument and civil war re-enactment the DC area could offer. They believe in the wise debate, have faith in our leaders, and know that good government starts with respect and an open mind. Our daughter was still two years away, not alive at that time. She can’t understand why bad people would steal planes and blow up buildings because they don’t like America. She is very patriotic, firmly believes she could be the first woman president, and loves summer holidays best for their red, white and blue decor and plenty of fireworks. Our daughter prays every night for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to come home safe to their families. Our sons pray for a world without terrorism and ask themselves if they might be servicemen someday.
I have no pictures from September of 2001. I’m sure I took them, the first day of school if nothing else, but while searching through real photo albums for this post, that section of my photo box is eerily empty. By the end of the month we had a family photo shoot. I had not had family photos taken of the 4 of us in a few years and now everything that meant tradition meant more than anything to me. Nothing of material value, nothing visible or praiseworthy, nothing rooted in business or success. Family. Knowing where they were every minute of every day, keeping them close and trying to feel safe, that was what September 2001 was.
We lived in the suburbs of DC. Our principal lost her son in the World Trade Center. He worked the futures market which means overnight, and as I understand it, he had stayed that morning, later than usual, to help a friend. He worked on a floor that was too close to the direct hit to have hope. When I got to the school to help the office manage the waves of parents demanding release of their children to the safety of their arms, I stopped in to see her. Selfishly, I asked to hug her and uttered the words “Don’t worry, the school is fine.” She wasn’t worried about the school. She said nothing. When she returned months later, as I fussed over my son’s challenges with school, she simply said “Molly, all the worry in the world will never change the outcome. I worried my son’s entire life and it couldn’t possibly have saved him.”
For 5 days the sun shined through a brilliant blue sky, not a cloud to be found. We lived on the back side of Dulles airport and the silence was deafening with air traffic grounded, yet I almost shook at the sound of fighter jets screaming overhead. Like so many Americans, in the days that followed we lit candles in the early evenings outside filling our sidewalks, neighbors standing side by side, trying somehow to show our unity, that we would stick together through the uncertainty and come out victorious on the other side. Today we remember Patriot’s Day by visiting our local fire station with our daughter’s brownie troop, deliver baked goods and thanking them for their service. I make it a point to stop and thank a service man or woman when I see one in uniform, teaching our children to do the same. And I still light candles.
September 14th, just a few days after, was supposed to be my big moment. It was my time to take my business to the next level with an appearance on Good Morning America. I had taped a segment earlier in the summer and had put all my eggs in my big media break basket that this would be the tipping point for my young business. In the aftermath and coming days, I was mortified at how self absorbed I was, investing so much of my heart in something so seemingly meaningless in comparison. To this day, while I am always grateful, I am exceptionally unaffected by the media aspects of my work.
I’m not sure when American’s stopped singing the national anthem. Maybe it was after September 11th. Maybe it was in awe of the meaning of the words and too much emotion to sing along. I grew up knowing that when it was played at any event or gathering, it was my job to sing along and know the words. Today, I sing it proudly, loudly, and make sure my children do as well. I get teary when I hear any rendition of Proud to be an American and get goosebumps from God Bless America.
I’m still hesitant to be in large crowds in major cities near major holidays or special events. Especially Washington, DC. I want my kids to know that they are always safe yet to know how to handle the unexpected, to have a plan b. Even as a past Disney College Program alum, as familiar as I am with Walt Disney World, even there I have to talk myself down from “What if?” And then the magic takes over and I remember not to worry. That worry can’t change the outcome of what I don’t know is on its way. That all that matters is living my life loving everyone that is in it completely, gently, and full of as much joy as we can find each and every moment.
Join me in remembering those who sacrificed their lives so that we live ours so often without thought of their acts of unimaginable courage. Join me in praying for all those who lost loved ones and whose lives were changed forever. God Bless America.
This float is the last float of the Electric Light Parade. It is a wonderful tribute to the symbols of American freedom and yes, it gave me both goosebumps AND tears.