For most Americans, if you ask them where they were on a certain day of the week or at a particular time of day, they can’t tell you for sure. However.. if you ask them where they were at 8:46am on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, they will likely recall it with vivid detail. On the ten-year commemoration of that horrible day, many of us have rehashed the events that changed the world as we know it — reliving things we only wished we could forget. Everyone has a personal recollection, a gathering of poignant memories that are forever burned into our minds. Time has passed and while some of us only have the scars left to remind us, others are left with wounds that will never heal.
On September 7, 2001 I graduated from Flight Attendant Training School after having worked as a nurse for 10+ years. I had burned out in my chosen career path and needed a new direction that was fun and had less responsibility. My final check ride before being released to the job without supervision was scheduled for the morning of September 11th. It was just a short turn. In the world of aviation, a turn constitutes a flight from home base with only one stopover and a return back to base on the same day. That was great because I wouldn’t have to lug along my suitcase packed with a week of clothes, just a simple flight bag to carry my manual, an apron and my in-flight shoes. I was to arrive at Dulles Airport (Washington, DC) at 9:30 in the morning and would be home by 6 o’clock in the evening. I was looking forward to having the last step behind me but not eager at all about having to be in Fort Lauderdale so early in the morning. I lived an hour away from the airport, was required to be in the crew room at least two hours prior to departure and needed an hour to get dressed. I would be up long before the chickens were.
The night before my check ride, I got a call from crew scheduling telling me that the senior flight attendant that was supposed to ride with me had called in sick. I would not be going on my check ride after all. They said they would notify me later when to reschedule. Oh well, I figured i’d sleep in and think about it later. After all, I had been in training for months and didn’t mind getting a chance to sleep in. I was still sleeping in when my husband came in the bedroom, shook me into a state of consciousness and pulled me into the living room to watch the television. Unfolding before our eyes was the events of that fateful day. It struck fear in my heart when I realized that I had come so close to having such a different story to tell. I later found out that the plane I was scheduled to be on had been diverted to Ohio. Since the entire country was air grounded for at least five days following 9-11, I would have been stranded without even a toothbrush or a change of clothes.
But even though I was safe, we worried terribly about my husband’s aunt. She had worked as a flight attendant for 35 years for United Airlines and often flew between Miami, Los Angeles and New York on her routes. We tried calling her.. nothing. No answer at her house, on her cell and no return call from her husband. We were scared. Where was she? Was she safe? Had she been flying that day? Had she been on one of those planes? We left message after message on her phone and although we were tremendously relieved when she finally called us back, it was a bit anti-climatic. She was out of the country on vacation. What a relief but how dare she take a vacation without telling us in the middle of a national crisis??
For the next two weeks, I was glued to the television. I doubt this was abnormal behavior at the time but I do admit, I became obsessed with finding out each and every scrap of news related to this tragedy. I was immobilized. My husband sat right along with me, replaying that horrible day over and over. We were obsessed and in a very unhealthy way. I had just made the decision to “fly the friendly skies” and my husband was a firefighter. I questioned my decision to become a flight attendant, wondering if it would put my life in danger. He empathized with his fire department brotherhood.. they lost 343 of their own when the final tally came. His aunt was faced with the mixed emotions that affected her company as well as those passengers and their families. The future felt uncertain yet I decided to move forward. I went on my check ride about two weeks later and worked as a flight attendant for the next four years until I was injured on the job and turned in my manual.
If you think about it, there needs to be a strongly felt emotion to move thoughts into action. Very few things in this life, good or bad, are achieved without a strong sense of passion to motivate. Regardless of your race, religious beliefs, social stature or even your opinions.. that day is most cohesively known as being founded in hatred. The strength of that kind of hatred is a strange emotion for most of us to wrap our brains around. Indeed, we have all felt contempt for some bitter happenstance in our lives and perhaps even toward another human being that has wronged us but I don’t know anyone that can breed such a sense of vitriol toward a man or a woman without a face. A sense of hatred so deep that it blots out all manner of compassion. I cannot fathom those feelings but hatred was definitely the fuel that motivated the people behind the events, much more so than the thousands of pounds of jet fuel in those planes.
Newton’s Third Law of Motion (paraphrased) states for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Love is the equal and opposite action of hatred. It has just as much power, just as much fuel power as it’s opposite. It can shed light in the darkness, be the presence of good in the face of evil. It can blot out the hatred and be a motivator for action just as hatred can. It can move thoughts into action but it is left up to us to choose what will motivate us. We can choose to hate or to love. And while it’s not perfect, I choose love. What about you?