Early Reflections: Wednesday, September 11th
There are certain days where I struggle to think of anything else. The happiest of days of my life, like the day I met my wife, or the day I first held by daughter. Or the not so happy days like the day my mom was rushed to the hospital. Or my grandfather passing away.
And yes, September 11th, 2001.
My wife and I lived in Hoboken, NJ, having recently moved to the New York area, and we both worked in midtown. The World Trade Center was our beacon, our compass point as we learned to navigate the area around the city. I remember the day as it unfolded, first hearing that a small, single engine plane had hit a building, then finding out about the hijackings, later watching in a conference room as one tower after the other collapsed, being evacuated, staying with friends on the upper east side, and finally later that evening, taking the ferry across the Hudson River and seeing the plume of smoke and ash where the World Trade Center once stood in utter disbelief. In the coming days as the reality set in, the image that I posted became etched in my memory, walking by walls and fences papered with the images of those lost, never to be found.
Every year I tell this story, and I repeat the promise to never forget those that died, those that rushed in to save others, those that rose to defend us in the coming days, months and years.
However, coming home last night, on September 10th, my mind went to a different place. My daughter was at soccer, my wife at a dinner, and after a cancelled haircut, I found myself home alone. I went for a run, worked in the yard, and after my wife and daughter went to bed, I kissed them good night, thinking of those who did the same back in 2001, not realizing it would be for the last time. I stayed up for a bit, first catching up on emails, then turning my attention to the solemn reminder of the day ahead and started to read through the stories of those who perished.
Like Mark Charette. I didn’t know him, or know of him until last last night. He was raised in Warwick, R.I., not far from where I was born. He and his wife were college sweethearts, my wife and I high school sweethearts. Upon graduating, he joined the Navy and served for five years as a nuclear submarine officer, a Navy that I serve today as a civilian. He later joined Marsh McLellan Co, and was in the World Trade Center by chance, for the second day of a two day meeting. Saturdays, he would take his three kids, Lauren, age 8, Andrew, age 6, and Jonathan, almost 2 to McDonalds, telling his wife that “this is ‘daddy time’!”…and it hit me that Saturday the 9th of September would be the last time his kids would have the opportunity to pile into his car for their weekly trip with their dad. I think of all of the daddy-daughter moments that I have had, even the few minutes at the end of last night as my daughter was finishing her Japanese homework, proud of her determination and perseverance.
The fact that we were in New York when this tragedy happened isn’t of any significance, except that it hit a bit closer to home for us. The fact that Mark Charette will never be home again, never kiss his wife good night again, and never take his kids to McDonalds again, these are the stories that we need to remember. This story, and the thousands like it that came to an end that day. On September 12th, 2001 we woke up and resolved to be better, to be stronger, to come together as a community to honor those like Mark Charette.
And I hope that today, we remember that with all that is going on, and recommit ourselves to that promise.
Wishing you a truly impactful day.
(follow me @rhoniball or connect with me at www.honiball.me)