On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the Boston College Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life invited all members of the extended BC community—past and present students, staff, and faculty—to reflect on a simple but profound question: "What have you learned since 9/11?"
Below is my answer (a longer version than allowed), you can find my official submission here.
I had the honor and the challenge of working downtown on Broad Street in NYC starting about 4 weeks after 9/11. The stench permeated the air. To go to my favorite coffee establishment, I had to cross a security line complete with bomb sniffing dogs and guns at the ready. The men and women I worked with each had unique and equally horrifying stories of “the day”. The subway system was full of missing person posters on every available wall. My train to and from New York to Boston each week was full of Boston-area Fire Fighters going to funerals … so many funerals.
It was a reflective time. A time where everyone was kind, giving and generous – focusing on core values of life versus the business of our daily, hectic lives. That time really showed me the strength of the human spirit with everyone, somehow, moving forward and rebuilding a broken city, broken lives and broken spirits. Just that alone was a powerful testament to what we humans are capable of.
I traveled down to NYC and back to Boston very week for over a year. Over that time I got to know people who regularly traveled on the train like I did—some quite well and some only by sight. There was a man who always got off at the same station I did and we always nodded hello. For some reason, about a year after 9/11 we started talking as the train was nearing the station. He worked in Tower 1 on the 82nd floor and miraculously made it out alive. Wow. As he told me his story, I was speechless. Here I had seen this man week in and week out and I had no clue who he was or what he had gone through. My lesson? Never assume anything about anyone. People all around us have miracles in their lives they can testify to— you just need to take the time to ask.
What had you learned since 9/11?