Driving to work on nearly fall crisp morning, I remembered smelling the freshly harvested corn fields on my drive in Western North Carolina. I always looked forward to routinely enjoying the silence and embracing of all my senses around and within me as I drove. Halfway to my destination, I turned the radio dial to NPR in my gold Ford Escort. The first plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. The live reporters claimed the second plane had slammed into the other tower. People were jumping out of windows. “Repeat, people are jumping out of windows.” I was officially now a remote bystander imagining myself watching voluntary bodies plummet to an inevitable a less painful death. I don’t even remember how I got to work after I turned the radio on. I felt like I was the only one on the road. I think I was. I clocked in and began my shift as a hostess in a fine dining restaurant. There was silence for about a week or two, and then customers started to show up at the restaurant. The owner of the restaurant provided candles for the evening guests to light and hold in silence. More silence. Everyone ate quietly. I found out a few weeks later my brother was in NYC on 9/11, but he wasn’t in the hot zone. I couldn’t stop thinking about the innocent lives lost, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the business men and women who called in late who just so happened to cheat death that day. And, of course, I couldn’t stop thinking about the heroic good Samaritans, firefighters, police force, and other public service men and women who dedicated and risked their lives to save lives.
What just happened? Did America stop? No – America was reborn. What was happening before 9/11 was the usual fast-paced, self-centered, consumeristic, criminal, judgmental, discriminatory, racist way of life in America; however, with more weight, America had been working incredibly hard to create grand ideas of technological, architectural, educational, and health advances (to just name a few) which were produced, sustained, and maintained by some of the most diverse populations on this planet. This couldn’t be done without being on the same team. This is how our country was able to successfully evolve. The idea of the “American Dream” came from a vulnerable place and create a better life. On September 11, 2001, we were ALL in a vulnerable place, but because we remembered where we came from, we rebuilt and we also redefined the progress of societal evolution of how we worked together. Soon after 9/11, it didn’t seem like race mattered; it didn’t seem like consumerism mattered as much. A lot of businesses were at their low, especially the airlines. For a while, it seemed the most important thing in life was to focus on being there for each other. There was suddenly this mindful approach of connecting with one another that hadn’t surfaced in society before – well maybe in the 1970’s.
Fifteen years have passed since 9/11, and unfortunately, I think America’s goal for bringing people together (from the initial 9/11 response) has been forgotten. We still discriminate, we still judge, and we still separate. Now, we have politicians left and right who are off the wall throwing racist and discriminatory slurs/myths about specific populations, who try to create bills, like the HB2 (just one example), to instigate hate on minority groups that don’t even cause harm to society. These are the same types of people who DIED from the September 11th attacks. The mindfulness approach of creating a functional and healthy society needs to reemerge. As stated before, society has its own flaws, but shouldn’t we be more connected than ever if we have all of these technological advances? And why haven’t we held onto this societal bind that the initial post-9/11 created? Is there a way we create the same silence we had for weeks after the attacks to remind us how to come together in the United States of America? We must utilize a mindfulness approach in order to create and sustain human and societal flourishment.
This must NOT be forgotten.