On September 11, 2001, I had just returned from dropping Adam, my son, off at high school. I was at my favorite bagel shop, when I looked at the TV in the corner and saw that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in Manhattan…I was not sure what I was watching, but I knew that our lives had changed forever.
I was back home by the time the second plane had crashed, and like most Americans, I was in shock. I had to make the ninety minute drive to my printer, WD Hoards, in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, from Madison, Wisconsin. The highway was in the midst of being widened, so the driving was slow.
I kept the radio on and realized, right after the second crash, that this was an attack. I remember crying as I drove to Fort, wondering how many had died and would die.
I stopped on the way to Fort Atkinson, and called the Reebok headquarters in Canton and told me friend, Pat O’Malley, that I would not be flying out to Boston the next day, I just could not get on a plane with all of this happening. Pat said he understood and we planned to put the presentation off for a few weeks. (I would not fly for three months, a very long time for me.)
I began calling our photographer, Victah Sailer, a fireman in NYC, who was supposed to be in the Twin Towers that day. Unbeknownst to me, Victah was at Shea Stadium, checking safety issues and then, after the second crash, headed to the Towers. He would loose many from his firehouse, some that day, and others, from the ill effects years later…
I did not find out that Victah was alive until 11.55 that night, when he left a message on the phone. It was my most precious birthday gift that year.
A high school classmate, an investment banker, had pulled an associate out of the first Tower just after the crash. I found out about that after he was on a morning TV show. The son of a famous and beloved actor, I had not seen him since our senior year in high school.
For several years, I did not like to celebrate my birthday on 9/11. I could not get over the sense of loss, and how the world had seriously changed. Several classmates from university were on planes that crashed.
In fact, I held tickets on two of the three crashed planes, having flown on them at other times over the past two years.
That was quite sobering.
Over the past thirteen years, I realized that part of how lucky I have been, in many circumstances, but mostly, around September 11.
This year, I will, like many, take some quiet time to pay my respects to the thousands of families who were changed forever by the loss of their family members on September 11, 2001.
I will do something else.
I will try to show some patience, unusual for me, to someone who needs that extra support this week. Perhaps they are short with me, perhaps they move their seat on a crowded plane so far back, I can see their hairline. Whatever, I will take a deep breath, and do my best to give my fellow human being the benefit of the doubt.
I will try and do that for one entire week. Yes, Patience is something that needs to be developed.
That is my birthday gift to myself.
For I am alive, and I have a choice.
The three thousand who died on September 11, 2001, had few choices on that fateful day…