I went to the Esplanade in Boston on the Fourth of July this year to watch the Boston Pops. It is something I love and go whenever I can. It wasn’t until I got close and saw the intense security set-up that I remembered that the Fourth of July Celebration had been the originally planned target of the terrorism bombings.
Today, I am on a plane. Today, September 11. This is my tenth flight in a year’s time, yet today it’s different. And not.
I lived and worked in Boston in September of 2001. My brother was on military leave
and on a flight home that Tuesday morning, the 11th, to attend my wedding scheduled for 10 days later. He was in the air when the terrible events of that day took place. We had to endure interminable hours waiting to hear from him, or of him or his flight. The buildings in Boston were being evacuated, mine included, and there was literally panic in the streets. And we were the lucky ones.
We all know what happened that day, and there’s no need for me to get into that. But before I go any further, I do want to just extend my feelings of love and mental support first to the victims and their families, and then to everyone else. We were all affected by the events of that day, the only difference has been a matter of degree. And, yes, that is an extreme understatement and is not meant to take anything away from those who suffered the most and paid the highest of prices.
And before I go further still, I’d like to warn some of you that I do not promote hate, nor ‘an eye for an eye’. I am an eternal optimist and I believe in the good in people, and I do believe ‘things will get better’. If you are unable to stomach this kind of talk, you may want to take your attention elsewhere.
I believe in a collective consciousness. I believe our thoughts are very powerful. I believe that a large part of the problems we have in this world stem from feelings of disconnectedness and isolation, and the types of thinking that cause us to feel we are ‘different’ from everyone else. There is a great photo floating around the internet of the Earth with the caption beneath it that says, “I don’t see any borders”. Think about it.
There is also a very famous quote: “There but for the grace of God, go I.” You don’t have to believe in God to understand what this means. It means, very basically, it can happen to anyone. Winning the lottery, getting hit by lightning, being victimized in an act of terrorism, or anything else can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Your race, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation or favorite 80’s band will not protect you from a natural disaster, random twists of fate, or the end results of choices made by another. In that fact alone, we are all the same.
Still don’t think we are all the same? That we are all connected? Try this little exercise with me: sit and look at the people around you and notice what they are doing. I’m on the plane and I see people pulling out books to read, some drinking coffee, some settling down for some rest, some pulling paperwork out of a briefcase, some just staring out the window, or doing many other little nothing things that we all do. When you fly, what do you do? Do you take a book? Do you make sure you have your Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (or “other” brand) so you don’t have to drink that terrible airline coffee? Do you plan to catch up on sleep? Bring work to do with you? I’m sure most of you can answer yes to at least one of those questions, some of you can even answer yes to most of them. On that small scale we are all very much alike.
Let’s go further. Specifically back to that morning in September (as I’m sure most of you remember many details about that day). You woke up in the morning and prepared for your day. You may have hit the snooze button on your alarm once or six times before you managed to drag yourself out of bed. Maybe you showered before you left for work or wherever you were going; maybe you showered before you went to sleep and had everything ready so all you had to do was get up, get dressed and go. Maybe you shared breakfast with a spouse or children or beloved pet. You may have had someone there to wake up to, wish a “Good Morning” to, kiss or pat on the head before you walked out the door. Business as usual, right? Do you think you are alone in that? Do you think you are the only one who has a morning routine? Do you think your morning routine alone is so very different from so many other people? Do you think how they started their day mattered in any way to how it ended?
When you look at people, really look at them, and consider what their day was like before you saw them you realize that many of the things they did, or experienced was very similar to what you did or experienced. When you look at it that way, including small details, you begin to realize how alike we all are. We are all just people. Our differences in political, racial, sexual issues matter on a more basal level about as much as our differences in our favorite color. Your morning could have started the exact same way as one or more of the people on any of those four planes used in the attacks, or in the World Trade Center or Pentagon. That thought alone can make you begin to realize how alike we all are. How connected we all are.
So, here I am, sitting on the plane that is now delayed by a pilot’s faulty microphone jack, realizing I may miss my connecting flight home. And it’s okay. Sometimes, ‘business as usual’ can be a little too complacent and easily taken advantage of in many ways. Sometimes small bumps along the way can keep us aware of making sure we appreciate things when they are good. Maybe more people thinking like that can affect the collective consciousness enough to turn the tide so we all appreciate more and band together without needing a major catastrophe to force us into it. And maybe, too, we can someday reach that point where a unified, connected, collective awareness can spread across the globe, preventing attacks and mean-spiritedness by removing ideas of separation and disconnectedness.
Go ahead, think what you will about that last part. I don’t care how many millions of people there are on this planet—we are all here together on only ONE planet and that’s a base-level connection no one can disqualify.
I am proud to be in an airplane today. I am proud that we have not become completely crippled by hate. I am proud that since 2001, it is becoming more and more obvious that people are willing to band together in the face of terrible acts of destruction and tragedy. Nothing has been perfect. Some things have gotten worse, but the show of unity and strength from the people is building. You can see it. Boston Strong? New York Strong? Washington Strong? Pennsylvania Strong?… how about World Strong?
N.B. Thank you to all the military and firefighters and police who risk all to watch out for and protect us. Thank you to the TSA agents in the unfortunate position of a somewhat newly necessary job of double-checking on us. I am sorry your jobs are not appreciated more (even sometimes by me). To those who gave all, thank you. To those left behind, I love you and I am so sorry. To the rest of us, together we can move mountains.