New York City Skyline

Unexpected Blessings from 9/11 Tragedy

Roseville, CA- Had no idea at the time, but the horrific tragedy of 9/11 would turn into one of life’s tremendous personal blessings.

Back in late summer of 2001, on a business trip to New York, I had the opportunity to stay at my childhood home and visit with my widowed mother. Our relationship over the years had often been strained, thanks in large part to my lack of maturity. During the visit, when not working, most of the time was spent catching up with old friends and doing my own thing. During the trip, my mom and I were getting along well, but we really didn’t spend much time together.

State of Shock

Ground Zero 911On the morning of 9/11, I packed my bags for a scheduled flight out of Newark and headed over to Dunkin’ Donuts to grab us both a coffee before heading out. We sat to watch some morning news and watched live as the planes hit the Twin Towers. In complete disbelief, the gravity of what just occurred didn’t fully set in for some time.

Once the airports reopened a day or two later, my sister arrived to take me to the airport. Across the Hudson River, the space where once stood the majestic beacons and skyline dominating Twin Towers was now fully consumed by dark, billowing smoke. We were in shock.

Pandemonium and Fear

The scene at Newark airport was remarkably quiet and tense as military personnel with assault weapons seemed everywhere. While waiting to board the plane, the airport must have received a threat and military personnel began telling everyone in the terminal to run. The mass exodus was pandemonium as people sprinted with fear and dread in their eyes. Following the incident, the airport was closed and no flights home would be available for a few days. I headed back to my mom’s to wait it out.

Over the next few days, we chatted, went out to lunch, grabbed coffee, hung out at the library and just your typical everyday type of stuff. The events of 9/11 had unexpectedly afforded us a few extra days to strengthen our challenged relationship. Despite the tragedy and heartbreak of 9/11, my mom and I had a few wonderful few days together before it was time to fly back to California. As it turned out, it would be the last time we would have to spend time together. A few months later, my mother was diagnosed with late stage cancer. She died shortly after the birth of our youngest daughter.

Optimism & Fearlessness

While the days that surround 9/11 will always be bittersweet, they offer a persistent reminder that often out of great tragedies come unexpected blessings. Having this new awareness allowed me to more easily view similar scenarios as they’ve played out over the ensuing 17 years in not only my life, but in those lives all around me.

Tragedies and fear can either consume you or can be used to fuel boundless optimism and fearlessness. Everyday, we choose to honor all the lives impacted by 9/11 with optimism and fearlessness.