Each year on 9/11, the first person I think of is my dad. It was his voice I heard on the phone telling me of the horror that happened that day. I had just left an early morning meeting and returned his call, as he had left frantic messages telling me to call him. I remember staring out my office window in stunned silence, gripping the phone as he relayed the unfolding events, and then starting to cry. I was scared. It was his voice that brought me comfort. At the time, I was living in the Midwest, but I had family who worked near or in World Trade. I called my mom, making sure everyone was safe. They were.
I turned on the radio and turned off my computer. As reports started coming in about Flight 93, the Pentagon, and the collapse of the Towers, I felt numb and panicked at the same time. Who was next? What place was next? What now?
I tried carrying on with the day. There was a luncheon to celebrate a coworker scheduled for that day, and it was still going forward. Driving to the restaurant, I could not grasp how something so terrible could happen on a beautiful late summer day like this. The sun was shining brilliantly in a cloudless, robin’s egg blue sky. A light breeze brought relief from the mid-day heat. I sat in my chair at the luncheon, forcing myself to pick at my food. I was present in body, but not in mind. I heard the din of conversation around me; lost in my thoughts of what was happening in the city I called home.
I think of the souls whose lives were taken that day. They didn’t know they were saying “see ya later” or “don’t forget to take the trash out” for the very last time. I think of loved ones who didn’t know that a hug, kiss or smile would be the last. I think of families, waiting for loved ones to come home. They never did.
I sadly came to know this pain for different reasons, 14 years later.
The night before my dad’s accident, my last words to him on this earth were complaints about a bad day at work. In hindsight I get nauseous and angry that’s how I chose to spend that time. I didn’t know that was the last time I would speak to him where he could hear me. I always thought I had tomorrow. I was wrong. The regret over the things left unsaid haunts me to this day.
As I recall those lost on 9/11, I am painfully reminded tomorrow is promised to no one, and the time to love and appreciate people is now. The time to have those conversations is now. Tell them now. Love them like it’s your last day. Or theirs. Don’t wait. You just never know.
In going about your work today, check on your employees. Stop by their desk. If working virtually, pick up the phone and call them. Ask them how they are doing today. Really listen to their answer. Offer whatever support you can. Thank them for being there with you today and tell them you appreciate them.
Lead with extra kindness today. We all need it.
My heart is with those whose loved ones were taken from them on this day so many years ago. I wish us all peace and comfort as we grieve with them.
Photo credit: Olga Subach via https://unsplash.com