Today is September 11 and, like many Americans, I will be thinking about the day in 2001 that changed our country forever. Yesterday, anticipating the anniversary, I was struck by how crisp the clouds were and how bright the sun. The air had a bit of the feel of fall, just as it did thirteen years ago. While the memories of that fateful day remain etched in our collective memories, we have moved on in important ways. For several years, people were reluctant to plan events or meetings on 9/11. We certainly didn’t plan celebrations on that day. We didn’t plan anything other than getting through the day. With the passage of time, we seem more comfortable treating 9/11 as a more typical day. It must have been like this for “the Greatest Generation” after Pearl Harbor. That said, 9/11 is not a normal day in any sense of the word.
What are you doing today? Will it be a “business as usual” work day? Maybe you will mark the anniversary quietly in your heart. Maybe you will hug your children extra tightly when they go off to school. Will we discuss “where we were when” while standing at the coffee machine at work? The anniversary lends itself to thinking about others – close to us and in the community at large. I recall learning that many of the people who perished on 9/11 did not have written plans concerning their final wishes. They were not alone. Many people hesitate to focus on the unthinkable. Can we answer the question: if something happens to me, what will my family do? Just as we have trained ourselves to check our smoke alarm batteries when we change our clocks, perhaps we can use this anniversary to remind ourselves to put plans in place for the care of loved ones.
I also remember how Americans pulled together after the events of 9/11. Focusing on family and community seems an appropriate way to mark such an anniversary. Later today, I am going to gather with others for an open house at the offices of Associated Grantmakers in Boston, an organization whose mission is tied to promoting philanthropy. This seems a very fitting place to be on such an anniversary. Focusing on giving to our families and the common good seems an appropriate and positive response to the anniversary of a day when so much was taken from us.