Ask not what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go and do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. - Howard Thurman September 11, 2000 was a night like no other for me sitting in Sydney in my cozy apartment. Tucked on the lounge with my husband and a glass of red wine we watched Australian comedian, ROVE, do his regular Tuesday night show. It was one of our favorite times of the week.
A News update between commercials "broke" the news, with footage of the first Tower of the World Trade Centre being hit by the plane and it showing the sky blacken above America's most famous city.
We starred silently. I remember saying "this is no accident". As an American citizen, my knee-jerk reaction was of concern and fear.
I don't remember exactly how long it was between planes, but when the second plane and Tower connected, I saw it, live. I felt it in my soul. I knew I had lost someone. I had at the time three siblings living and working in NYC. The phone lines were down or jammed, and there was no one I could call to put my mind and my blindly grieving heart to rest. I was crying but I didn't know who the tears were for.
Still with no word on my family after four days of waiting on Saturday I wrote an email; one expressing sadness and sympathy for my fellow Americans, and offering courage and asking for societal change through collaboration. I also asked if anyone had word on my family that they would let me know all were ok. I sent it to 5,000 in my Contacts. I needed to be heard and to feel connected with others sharing my pain.
On Sunday after my email circulated the globe, I received many emails of friend sharing my horror and wishing to help to heal.
One email, a mixture of English and Spanish from a distant cousin in Puerto Rico informed me that my brother, Michael Rodriguez, an architect working in the city, was unharmed. The next few lines informed me that my sister Lisa, now under her married name King Johnson, was presumed missing but unidentified. She worked in the second Tower. She saw the smoke, was told to evacuate and got as far as the mezzanine to change elevators as she was descending. She worked in an investment firm.
After a week of hospital searches by my brother, Lisa's DNA was matched at Ground Zero.
September 11th is always a very sad day for me. I run my fingers over the stripes of the American flag and wonder what this was all for. In the weeks to come after the sad news, I never felt more alive, passionate or committed to making the world a better place. The spirit of America and the core values of freedom and justice remain with me even across the vast Pacific Ocean as I watch her in these times of transformation. In my sadness I reach for renewal, and in her memory and those who died with her, reaffirm my personal goal to foster compassion, cooperation, and community in word and in deed.
After ten years, how do you feel about September 11th?