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Celebrating the 9-11 Survivors

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Part of me would like to forget September 11, 2001.

It was a horrible day, parts of which I can remember like it happened last week.  The phone call from my assistant asking if I’d heard about the plane crashing into the World Trade Center.  The meeting where we didn’t discuss our work but were listening to the radio reports of the incident when the second plane hit.  The horror when we realized that our country was under attack. The tearful phone call from my father who feared for a family member who worked in downtown Manhattan. The crowd that gathered in my Highlands backyard watching the smoke in the distance and the ferry boats docking with soot covered strangers. Phones stopped working.  Sending my employees home early. The look on my wife’s face.

That horrible day was followed by a terrible several months during which I saw and smelt the smoke rising from ground zero. I remember the funeral processions, many without hearses, that drove past my Belford office for months on their way to and from St. Mary’s Chapel in New Monmouth.  I remember the yellow ribbons on neighbors’ homes that seemingly never came down.   I remember the emotional jolt I had during those months when I traveled outside of the area… to St. Louis, to Florida and even to South Jersey…how life was somehow still normal for the people I was interacting with in those places.  The terrorist attacks were something they saw on TV.

Compared to people who lost a parent, a spouse, or a close friend, my September 11 and ensuing months were unpleasant, not horrific. Compared to the people who were in lower Manhattan and survived while witnessing others jump from the towers, my day was just a bad day. Compared to the people who helped others get out of the towers, my day was a headache. Compared to the first responders who survived but witnessed the deaths of their brethren, my September 11 was just another day.

Today let’s celebrate the resiliency and strength of the widows and widowers who raised their children over the last 16 years. Who created new families and joy while never forgetting their loved ones lost.  Let’s celebrate the children who lost a parent that day and are now young adults starting their own families and careers.  Let’s appreciate the people who have built new careers and companies while dealing with survivors’ guilt. Let’s pray for and support the people, adults and children, who have not recovered heroically, but who are still struggling.

Part of me would like to forget that day. The memories feel disruptive. For some people, our friends and neighbors, the memories of that day are constant and unforgettable. Today is for them.

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