It is a somber day today – 10th anniversary of 9/11 and my eyes are tearing up as I listen to family members reciting the names of loved ones they lost that fateful day and giving brief tributes to them. They lost fathers and sons and grandsons, grand-daughters, daughters and mothers, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues.
I still remember that day vividly. I was on my way to work in Brooklyn and as our subway train A passed by the World Trade Center stop just after 8:45 am on its way to Brooklyn, me and my fellow passengers were blissfully ignorant that at around the same time, a plane had just hit the North Tower. I was still day-dreaming about the Sunday evening two days ago, where our family and our relatives had all gotten together to celebrate my wife’s birthday at one of our favorite vegeterian Chinese restaurants in Brooklyn Heights. Afterwards, we had spent a leisurely Sunday evening, strolling by the promenade on the waterfront there, enjoying the mimes, watching a shooting going on for a film, and mostly soaking in the breath-taking views of the Manhattan skyline against the setting sun, with the two WTC towers defining the NY skyline. Little did we realize that this is the last time that we will be able to see these towers from this spot.
Life seemed perfect then!
As our train came to our Brooklyn MetroTech station, I sanpped out of my day-dream, and hurriedly made my way to our building. I was surprised to see a crowd of people staring at a bank of TV monitors that were in the lobby. They were showing smoke coming out of one of the WTC towers, with the report that a small plane had crashed into it. I made my way to the office on 11th floor where we had a clear view of the WTC towers and NY skyline. We were alternating between watching the TV and looking at the WTC towers when some of my colleagues came running after they saw a second plane plow through the second tower.
Suddenly everything changed.
And as we watched the events unfold throught the day, everybody seemed shell-shocked. The Brooklyn-bridge was chock-full of people walking towards Brooklyn from Manhattan with a dazed look on their faces. Late in the evening, after train services resumed and I could take the train back to NJ, I remember how quiet the train-ride was. We were blankly staring outside – as our train passed by the area from where we should have been seeing the WTC buildings, we only saw lot of smoldering smoke. There was an eerie silence in the train as we were absorbing the enormity of what had happened. We were all crying silently inside, thinking of friends or relatives we might never see.
Luckily, we were spared from loss amongst our immediate family, friends or relatives. But you always knew someone who lost someone dear, and although you did not know them, you felt a heavy heart and got teary eyed as you heard or read about their stories. For the next month or two, during commuting to work, I would read NY Times’s special feature, Portrait of Grief, where they had briefly chronicled short biographies of the victims (see http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/us/sept-11-reckoning/portraits-of-grief.html). This series, beautifully chronicled, gave you much better understanding of the victims and their families. It provided me with a way to grieve, knowing a littlle bit more about the background and lives of some of these people. They had so much life, so much talent, so much to give to the society, so much love for their family and community.
Lessons From Survivors
The stories of survivors was also gripping. Recently NPR radio had a show, talking to some of the survivors about the experience. And it was just as moving and inspiring.
And so today, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 as we pause for a few minutes to remember those who perished, and salute the sacrifices made and the heroism shown by our first responders and many other heroes of the day, let us make a few pledges:
- Let us make sure that we urge Congress to give full health benefits to our first responders, many of whom have contracted cancers which are not covered currently by health insurances. Our first responders do not have to fight to get the health benefits.
- Let us salute the sacrifices made by our troops fighting for our freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq, and if we have businesses where we are hiring, let us see if we can help returning troops a chance to make a decent living.
- Let us also learn the lesson from survivors. One of the messages resonating through this is that life is precious. It is a gift. You do not know whether you will have tomorrow. So make the most of the present. Sieze the Moment. Live it to the fullest as if there may not be tomorrow. Give it your best – in your work, towards for your family and friends, and to your employees and co-workers
- Let us also work together to make America strong again. It is still the country where most people want to come to – a melting pot of cultures and religions, tolerant to contrasting view and ideas. But we cannot rely just on Government to turn around the economy. We all have to do our part. In JFK’s words – “Ask not what the country can do for you but what you can do for the country”. If you are an employer, put emphasis more on hiring people and expanding business rather than firing people and cutting cost.
- Let us manufacture / outsource services in the US when we can, buy American when we can, and have an optimistic attitude that tomorrow will be better. Beleive in that, take some chances, and hire for tomorrow’s growth. If everyone starts believing that tomorrow will be better, it will be better.
God Bless America.
Thank you and so long till later!