Has it already been fifteen years since the 9/11 attacks on America?
The media, which recycles the story like a plastic grocery bag, often using the word “anniversary,” to describe the significance of September 11.
Anniversaries usually connote a celebration, which certainly seems inappropriate in this case.
I don’t know what word to suggest instead; there’s never been an event like the terrorist attacks that sunny, autumn morning.
It was an event so significant that it is now remembered through its own syntax that is both grammatical and dramatic.
Everyone has a 9/11 story. @MichaelACaruso was near where Flight 83 went down. Tweet This
Where I was on 9/11
Fifteen years ago, I was teaching public seminars.
The travel schedule was horrendous; you couldn’t work any harder in the speaking business.
I would fly out on Sunday night and be in my seminar room at 7 AM, Monday morning.
The class would run until almost 4 PM, at which time I would pack up and drive to the next city.
Arriving in the new city at 7 PM or later, I would repeat the schedule the next day.
Five cities in five day. The schedule was brutal and very stressful.
I would fly home on Friday evening and fly out again on Sunday night, usually working three weeks out of the month.
I was learning a lot about the speaking business, but my social life was crap and I wasn’t taking very good care of myself.
“One of the planes crashed nearby!”
Engrossed in my work, I began teaching a leadership course in Pittsburgh hotel on Tuesday, September 11.
Registration was at 8 AM. I used the restroom just before the class began, one of the few practices employed by both professional and amateurs speakers.
On the way back to the seminar room, I noticed a bunch of hotel employees clustered around the lounge television set.
Something bad had happened to a skyscraper in New York City. Early reports suggested that a stray airplane had flown into the building. Was it some sort of freak accident or an attack of some kind? It was a very strange occurrence, but not what we call in the speaking business a “show stopper.”
I hurriedly returned to my classroom because I wanted to call to my brother, Dave, before I started the class. He had more news on the event than I did and I remember feeling a quick succession of emotions: surprise, concern, fear, vulnerability.
I started to tear up as the call ended.
“I’m scared, Dave,” I said. “I can’t explain it. I feel very alone right now.”
Dave offered some encouragement and we promised to talk later. I hung up and began teaching 41 Pittsburgh-area business leaders to be pro-active problem solvers, efficient communicators, and better role models.
By our first break, some of the attendees had heard the news, but the calamity didn’t merit mentioning to the class. Information didn’t travel as fast in those days. Texting wasn’t the rage yet and smart phones didn’t exist.
Shortly after I greeted the attendees, United Airlines flight 93 crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, about 90 minutes from our seminar location.
America would never be the same
I completed the seminar, packed up and headed off to the next city.
Instead of flying back to Michigan on Friday evening, I drove the rental car all the way home from Pittsburgh. All flights were grounded.
I kept the car and drove it to all my seminars for the next two weeks. The airports were closed for a few days and rental cars were impossible to come by, if you didn’t already have one.
Travel in America would never be the same. Security measures in public buildings would never be the same.
I some ways, I would never be the same.
Unhappy anniversary, everyone.
Where were you on 9/11?