Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

9/11 + 14

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Fourteen years is a long time. But this Friday marks fourteen years since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

If you’re reading this you probably remember that day. Maybe you heard about it on the radio, or someone woke you to say “Turn on your TV!”. Maybe your building was evacuated or your office shut down.

The cable networks have already started rerunning specials about the attacks, as if you could ever forget what happened that day. But the truth – to the surprise of many of us – is in the numbers.

Fourteen years means students who are in grade school or high school today don’t remember that day; in fact most of them were not born yet. My daughter, a senior a college, has clear memories of what happened that morning, when she was seven years old.

The memories you have may include the dramatic sight of the towers pancaking, or planes flying into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, or the iconic image of firefighters removing the body of their chaplain, Fr. Mychal Judge. But many people remember something small, something odd.

My daughter remembers everyone gathered for mass at school and teachers were crying. And that when she got home, every time she walked in a room, my husband or I turned off the TV.

I remember spending most of the day wondering what the hell to do: go home? (I did) Pull my daughter out of school? (I didn’t)

I did what most people did: I checked in with my family and friends. When we picked up our daughter at 3:00, we found out that two parents had been in New York for meetings in the World Trade Center that morning. The mom overslept. The dad couldn’t find his meeting and left before the first plane hit. But with communications down, his wife didn’t know he was alive for hours. I went to bed that night secure in the knowledge that as horrific as the day had been, at least no one I knew was killed.

Three days later, I found out I was wrong.

IMG00179-20110913-1734Now I marvel at the good that came out of that day. I am closer to my high school classmates now than when we were in school, because Carol’s death made “we should get together more often” more than an empty promise. I have stronger friendships with more of them now, and I’m better for it. And out of that day came a book, as well as a desire to honor those who lost friends on 9/11: people who have been officially shut out of the ceremonies honoring the dead.

So on Friday, as you wind up the first week of the school year, the first week of autumn, take a moment to think back fourteen years. Remember not only those who were lost, but those left behind who lost a friend (or two or ten) that day. And then do something else that day compelled me to do: tell your best friends you love them. Trust me, you’ll only be embarrassed for a minute. But you’ll both be glad you did.