September 11: wake, shower, drive, work, coffee, sit, mouse. Nothing unusual. Nothing out of the ordinary. Everything seemed just like it was on September 10th, and work ensued. It wasn’t until about 30 minutes or so into the day that I got hit up on my MSN Messenger by a good friend.
“Hey, did you hear the news?”
Like anyone else, I figured a little Cessna went flying into one of the towers. A lot of times I tune out bad news right after I hear it. Just the way you’ve got to be these days. But I decided to check out CNN.com to see what happened; see if they had any pics. Couldn’t get through. I jumped to MSNBC.com. No dice. Then tried a few AP links I had saved from the last big news story. Nothing. But all other sites were coming in fine? Hmmm…
Then the other plane hit.
This time it was my brother who jumped on the Messenger and told me. At this point, everybody was scampering trying to find out what was really going on. And being a Muslim, and having experienced racial and religious stereotyping once before from another incident at the towers, the first thing on my mind was, “God, I really hope this isn’t what I think it is. And I really hope these aren’t Muslims.”
Remember Oklahoma? First place the news media went was to the heels of the nearest Arab or otherwise Middle Eastern or South Asian looking individual who may or may not have looked suspicious. It was such an eye opener for so many people to find out it wasn’t some ominous force sweeping in from the East that did it. It came from within the heartland of the very same country brutalized by the incident. It was a cancer, not a bullet. But that didn’t stop the bad sentiment. That soft distrust that, I’m sorry to say, is so often just under the surface. So many people, just waiting for that moment where it’s once again PC to say what’s on the very tip of their tongue.
Oh yeah, I’m used to this.
But what I wasn’t used to was the next bit of news. The Pentagon. The Pentagon? The Pentagon! You can’t drop a plane on the Pentagon! We’re so used to our American invincibility, who would ever think the Pentagon could be damaged? Was that even possible? It just didn’t seem right. My coworkers and I all shuffled over next door to check out the satellite TV. And we watched. And watched. And watched. Like every other American that day, we watched.
To think that just minutes before we were all so preoccupied with our own little meanderings. I myself had a slew of little personal issues that I was dealing with. But they just seemed so silly by this point. Sometimes you just need a good whack in the jaw to give you that reality-check about what’s truly important in life. My thoughts turned to my family. My loved ones. My life. My Maker. And all I could think about was, as I was sitting at my desk today, what if my morning had been different? What if it was more like: wake, shower, drive, work, coffee, sit, mouse, and then a plane flies in and suddenly the purpose of my life becomes solely to serve as an example and a reminder to others? What if that was it? What if 26, my age, was just the number I was dealt?
Was I ready?
Maybe I’m lucky. There were only one or two things that made me feel like I wasn’t. But in truth, I don’t know if I ever would have thought that hard about those things otherwise. At least not any time soon. But that’s all part of it. The purpose. The meaning. No life is truly wasted.
I, along with the millions upon millions of people in the world who really needed a reality check about their own personal mortality, got it. Those who needed a crash course in international politics, got it. And those who simply needed to feel like their hearts weren’t totally hardened by the ways of our world when faced with adversity, felt it.
Who would think that New York City could have ever become a reborn city of brotherly love?
And what I’m left with, with even more staunch surety than before, is this. Those who die innocent deaths never really die. They are everywhere; we just don’t see them in quite the same way. And the culmination of what they were and what their death meant is as prevalent and tangible as the warmth in your soul and the sorrow in your heart.