I woke up this morning as I usually do, to the gentle voices of the folks at NPR’s Morning Edition coming from the clock radio beside my bed. They had a story about the new 9-11 memorial in Shanksville, Pa.
The story brought it all back to me. The day’s events flooded back into my mind. I remembered where I was and who I was with and every vivid detail of that horrible day seven years ago.
For those of us who were in New York, Washington, D.C., or the Pennsylvania countryside that day, perhaps 9-11 anniversaries are more intense. I don’t know.
But I was in downtown D.C. that warm fall day and ended up working until six o’clock or so to keep our business up and running. I ended up walking home down empty streets and past military troops holding huge automatic weapons. They stood beside armored military vehicles. Days later, I could still see the smoke from the burning Pentagon from downtown.
The previous weekend had claimed the life of a dear co-worker, Laura Andrews. Laura had died in a horrible motorcycle accident on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and that morning of 9-11, I was struggling to manage the employee communications that I needed to get out to our company’s employees. What should we tell Laura’s immediate co-workers? What’s appropriate to share company-wide? How do you prepare employees to manage grief in the workplace? How do you manage your own grief while working to get done what needs to be done?
I was on the phone with an IABC friend of mine and employee communications expert discussing those very questions when I got the news of a plane crash in New York City. I had no idea that by the end of the day, employee communications and media relations people for businesses around the world would be right there with me, struggling to answer those same questions.
Ordinarily this would be the part of my blog post where I would give you a list of tips on what I learned from managing corporate communications for an international business who made it through that day intact.
I’ll skip that part.
Today, I just want to remember the wonderful life and beautiful smile of my co-worker Laura. I also want to remember the lives of those who died just a few days after her. Like Laura, they left behind many loved ones who miss them and a nation who still grieves for them.
I also take great joy in celebrating the birthday of Zachary Desatnick today. Today Zach is 8. His mom and dear friend Alison worked at my side on 9-11. As we headed into the first anniversary of that tragic day, Alison vowed that she was not going to let our country’s grief for the events of Sept. 11 overshadow her son’s first birthday. She and her husband Bruce threw a big party for Zach on Sept. 11, 2002 because they were so grateful for their son and the joy that he brings into their lives.
It seems to me that’s what 9-11 should be — a celebration of the lives of those who left us that day.
While today brings back a lot of horrific memories which we will carry with us for the rest of our lives, I hope you will do what you can to remember, honor and celebrate the lives of those lost on Sept. 11. I also hope you won’t forget the great lesson their deaths taught us: you never should take life for granted. It’s always too short.