I remember where I sat at 9:00 in the morning on that fateful Tuesday, Central Daylight Time. Work began as usual, with a whirlwind of tasks. The entire Executive Committee headed for Europe; in fact, half already waited “on the ground” (the term for having arrived at their destination) and the other half staged to leave for the airstrip in an hour and a half.
The news already came of the first tower. I couldn’t get my head around the news of the second one, no one could have predicted it. I knew in my gut that this day wasn’t like any other day. I went to one of the managers to ask him to start the evacuation of our building, but he laughed it off as premature, the worry of a young and inexperienced admin. But I wasn’t; I’m a trained triage officer from the crucible of Silicon Valley and quakes like Whittier and Loma Prieta.
Then the events sped up. The second tower. People leaping out windows. The CIO showed up in my office and said, “It’s time to start the evacuation. Call the boss.”
Relief. I could do something.
Over the next two hours, the entire Executive Committee met to review our company’s disaster plan. Ten thousand employees worldwide, and a flagship office building in the third largest city in the United States, meant that we couldn’t act on a whim. Our behavior must be calm and reasoned. People watched us.
It wasn’t until one of the Senior Directors drove me home that morning at 11:30 that I heard on NPR that the towers fell.
No one in that room thought to tell me.
I learned something important that day from the smoke and twisted metal, the lives destroyed and hope rekindled by a mayor who rose to the occasion and a President who did not. In times of crisis, it is critical to remember one thing: focus on what you can control. Communication is key. Keep your head and breathe. Feelings are not facts, but they are necessary. Respond, don’t react.
On the anniversary of those terrible events, I want to remind myself that I can control how I respond to events. I can write. I can talk. I can cry. I can work. I can take positive steps on my own behalf, even if that means cleaning out the sock drawer or petting my cats. The news media wants to sell us advertising, which means they must induce us to watch – and empowered people act, they don’t spectate. Remember that. The motive of the news media is to have a passive audience. For our own sanity, we cannot afford to be passive. That’s true for the awful days like Tuesday, September 11, 2001, as well as ordinary days like Tuesday, September 11, 2012.
Remember. Act. Write. Breathe. Claim your own reality. In all the world, there is no one just like you. Your gift to the Creator is your use of that creativity you were given.