As we move on from 20 years post 9-11, we should carry the most important lesson forward.
On9-10-01, my husband was recovering from surgery when my friend coworker, Richard, offered to handle my appearance on my case in Brooklyn. I was grateful to not have the commute to NYC.
On 9-11-01, I was gathering my things to go to the NJ office when breaking news interrupted the TV - one of the Twin Towers had been struck by an aircraft.
“Maybe a tourist helicopter?” I thought to myself, feeling sad for those persons in the tower.
When the second plane struck and it was announced we were under a terrorist attack, my heart sank. Richard! He was on the train to the WTC with my file!
I called him frantically to warn him to turn around. “Don’t go into NY! Come home!”
He didn’t answer my call. I left a message and kept dialing him as I watched the two towers burning.
It took what seemed like hours to hear back from Richard. He was OK. He got my first message and was able to turn back to New Jersey - none of us yet realizing the full magnitude of the events unfolding.
Richard saved my frantic message of that day. Each year he would replay the recording of my panicked voice and we would reminisce about how we felt and of those we knew who died. I was grateful Richard was not among those we lost.
It struck me tonight that the message I left Richard 20 years ago is gone. It disappeared last year, March 2020, when Richard died in a NYC hospital, alone, from COVID-19.
The days will never shine as bright without him.
As I think about him, I realize the night he died he left me an important, frantic text message warning from his hospital bed: Wear a mask! Socially distance! Take this virus seriously! (A COVID vaccine wasn’t even on the horizon when he died.)
2,997 precious lives were lost on 9-11. All Americans came together as one. We grieved as one.
Twenty years later, more than 2,997 Americans are dying each and every week from COVID-19.
Our healthcare workers work tirelessly, selflessly to treat these American souls dying in their care. They are weary and bone-tired watching so many die.
Imagine we had away, a chance to save even one of those 2,997 lives on 9-11? Isn’t that what our brave first responders were doing - trying to save lives?
How better to honor those we lost on 9-11 and our first responders than to unite as a nation and defeat COVID- 19?
Where is that spirit?
As our 9-11 heroes watch from above, are we making them proud?
Are we honoring their memory by doing everything we can to help our neighbors, our communities, our children - fellow Americans - the way we vowed to do on 9-12-01?
More than 653,000 of our fellow Americans have died from COVID and thousands more are dying each week.
Yet, we are divided and fighting over masks, social distancing and vaccines. Divided we are dying in multitudes - numbers far, far greater than 9-11-01 and the days and years thereafter.
What if “Never Forget” is in fact a frantic message from our heroes of 9-11 above: “unite and conquer.”
There is no doubt that divided, we continue to fall.