It was an exciting day for me as I was anticipating a conference call with a potential new client for my business, LTA Media. I was pacing, waiting for the call in the living room of our lake house at Rarity Bary in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
The call came in right on time but the man I was hoping to speak to asked to postpone the call. I asked why and he said, "Have you been watching TV?" I said, "no" and immeditaly hit the remote control 'on' button. There it was, one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, smoke billowing from the top. The big scrolling banner across the lower part of the sceen repeatedly flashed, "Breaking News."
With hardly a second thought I told my prospect I'd call him later to arrange for another time. I wasn't really sure what I was seeing. At the time the TV reportrs were not sure about the kind or size of the plane that hit the tower but they were sure it was an airplane. Reports were streaming in by the minute. Every so often there was a suggestion that it might be a terrorist attack but it was not the top theory. It was still such a stunning sight to see.
I called Christine into the living room to watch with me. Our main thoughts were how anyone above the smoke could be evacuated at such an enormous height. And, I could only imagine what it was like for the people on the plane and in the offices that must've seen the impending collision in slow motion. How terrible!!
Then it happened. I wasn't sure I actually saw it but I did. A second plane hit the 2nd tower. I knew I saw it but it took me about 2 seconds to process it because it was too unbelievable to think of. But the moment the 2nd plane hit everything changed. There was no question about it. Everyone in the world watching the news on TV had the exact same thought at the exact same time. An amazing pulse of energy rushed through both our bodies from head to toe. We went into shock right then and there.
I began pacing wildly back and forth building up anger I hadn't felt since an ambush I experienced in Vietnam. I almost became delerious and tried to think of something to do. With no answer my anger grew amost uncontrollably. Then we learned about other planes still in the sky unaccounted for. Then the video of the Pentagon, then word about a crash in Pennsylvania. It started to sound like armageddon. When was it going to stop? My emotions becaome even more elevated only now with anger and fear. Is this really happening?
Over the next several hours we watched every minute of the coverage, including each tower collapsing. What an incredible day!! At least three times we embraced each other tightly and wept like babies. This just couldn't be happening. "Can a 50 year old veteran re-enlist? I'm ready to go right now", I said to Christine.
The rest of the day is a blur. I couldn't remember what we had for dinner or what we did that night if I tried. But, the images of that day will forever be burned in my brain, just as they were when Kennedy was shot and the space shuttle exploded, maybe even more.
Our world changed that day and we have not stopped spinning since. The blow was devastating on more levels than anyone could possibly predict. At the time we were completely extremely divided as a country and for a tiny sliver of time we all came together for a common cause, something we humans seem to need like funerals and disaters to appreciate and respect one another.
We're at that point again. What is it going to take this time? In the words of the least of us, a common criminal, Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?"
If there is one lesson we can learn from that horrible day, I am desperately hoping it is that we can find any kind of common ground to become "Americans" again, agreeing to disagree and getting on to solutions. I know that's wishful thinking. Still, I will to do my part to soften hard lines, gain mutual respect, become a uniter instead of a divider, and lead by example. That is the ultimate goal of the Living Legacy Project....a common purpose we can all enjoy together. Thank God for that!