I woke up this morning with the intention of writing something totally different than this.
But then I checked in on social media and people were sharing stories and recollections from September 11, 2001.
I noticed how the stories that are being shared now – so many years later – seem to be the ones from people who were most “directly impacted” by the events of that day: people who lost a family member or close friend; those who didn’t get to work on time or missed a plane; people who were first responders, or who were near the World Trade Center or the Pentagon that morning.
These stories are still being shared, but others, less so.
I wonder if, in the face of the huge losses and emotional toll of others, we think we don’t have a story to tell. Are we comparing our experiences to those who had it worse, and thinking our stories don’t matter when weighed against the others?
When something happens to you (whether we’re talking about the events of september 11, 2001, or some other tragedy, challenge or devastation) – when your world is rocked, it is rocked. There will ALWAYS be someone who has it harder than you, and there will always be someone who is impacted less. That’s how life goes. But this does not make your story any less worthy of telling.
ALL the stories matter. All. The. Stories.
- The story of the college student who just started his semester abroad; who – at 20, was multiple time-zones away from his family and friends – really alone for the first time. He saw how the European and international response came down, and it changed him, and his perspective.
- The story of the commuter from Westchester; how she was stranded for over 24 hours, walking around with other commuters – unable to get home; unable to find a place to sleep, but eventually, how she was invited into a coffee shop by an incredibly generous man for sandwiches and coffee. How she and a band of strangers gathered around a little television in the shop hoping for news, and hoping the phone circuits would open so they could get through to their families in Westchester, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
- The 30something man with a wife and young baby girl who – just a few months before – had interviewed with Cantor Fitzgerald, but now sat across the river in Jersey City – in an office with a company he’d once considered a second-choice – watching as the smoke poured from the towers where his office would have been.
All of these stories matter. Together they weave a greater story of what happened that clear, blue day so many years ago.
These stories remind us that on that day, the things that connected us were stronger than the things that separated us. And how that is something we don’t want to forget.
That kid in Spain could have been you, your kid, your nephew, your neighbor’s kid.
You could have known that commuter, or it could have been you.
The 30something man could have been a friend, your old college roommate, or your brother. (Well, not your brother. Because he is mine.)
These stories connect us, they heal us, and they remind us of our commonalities and humanity.
Now – and always – when there is so much darkness in the word, stories remind us that we are connected; that us vs. them thinking destroys, while compassion and understanding bridges and heals.
Tell your story. Please. Tell it now. Keep telling it. Tell the story about that day, and the days that followed. Tell your stories about yesterday and today; tell the story of your challenges and celebrations.
Tell your story and help us remember that what connects us is greater and more powerful than the things that separate us.
Where were you? What was your experience that day?
Tell your story.