It's been 20 years since the 9/11 attacks. If you were alive (and mostly adultish) when it happened, you know where you were and what you were doing.
I had been out of the Navy for about a year, working as a manager at a shipping terminal. My wife and many of my friends and classmates were still serving all over the world. I had been working the night shift, so I was home alone all day, watching the endless parade of chaos on the television. Social media wasn't a thing yet, and the feeling of isolation, compounded by fear and helplessness was awful. Without any better ideas, I joined the line at the blood center and donated, which was more symbolic than anything else, as, well, there were no survivors that needed blood.
I went into work later that afternoon to start my next shift, and after a brief pause, the longshoremen were moving cargo because the ships had to sail, and the world had to continue.
I along with many felt the need for revenge, to punish those responsible, to make sure it never happened again, to never forget.
I haven't forgotten. Even twenty years later, I could not watch the news coverage this weekend. The speeches and ceremonies were too much to watch. Like an old scar that has mostly faded but will never be quite right. And I was only a spectator that day. I didn't have to grow up without a father, or lose my friends and colleagues like so many did.
I have changed a lot since that day - mostly with the added perspective of time and experience. I've come to accept that there will always be people who seek to bring darkness to the world. Who see others as the enemy, as them vs. we. It is so easy to create darkness in this world - to destroy instead of to build. A building that takes years to build can be knocked down in moments. A life taken in seconds. A lifetime of potential gone.
It can be so overwhelming. I think the temptation is to just give into indifference. That maybe it's all meaningless, that there is no point in building anything as it can just be taken away someday. Philosophers have struggled for millennia to find meaning, how can we do any better?
Well, that's who we are. We build. We rebuild. A building, a company, a community, a life. It's what we do. It's why we have people who rush into burning buildings, who move to the sound of gunfire. Who trailer up their boats and head into the hurricane zones. Maybe when the 40,000 foot view is too much, to big, the answer is to zoom in - even if it's to just focusing on the immediate world around us. Take care of the people in your life: family, friends, colleagues, and most importantly, yourself. What more is there?
It's OK to be proactive. Get involved. Reach out to others you care for or who care for you. Call your team and just talk. Call your boss and ask if they are doing ok.
If you need to talk to someone or ask for help, do so. Get professional help even if you are not sure you really need it.
One of the silver linings after 9/11 is we came together in unity, for the briefest of moments. We can have that again, but we have to work for it. Lighting one candle at a time, to bring light to the darkness.
Thanks for reading. If you need to talk to someone, even for just a few minutes, let's talk.
If you are in crisis, get professional help, immediately. The world is brighter with you in it.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255