9/11 at 20 years

I tire of hearing people tell where they were when they first heard that a commercial jet had flown into the north tower of the twin towers in downtown Manhattan on 9/11/2001. But the memories are fresh come every September 11. I remember the day well; I cannot forget that day.

The 20th anniversary of that day is a marker for our nation. That day was last Saturday, a sabbath day for me. A day to do some yardwork, some exercising, some relaxing, and some reflecting as I did ordinary Saturday things. Three moments stand out for me on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

The first is that I planted an apple tree. I have two flourishing apple trees that I planted eight years ago. Near them was a hole in the ground where another fruit tree I had planted didn’t make it. I have been wanting to plant another fruit tree in that hole and give the soil another chance. That morning I picked up some things at the nearby Lowe’s. Then I walked through their trees and found a small golden delicious for a good price. Planting a tree is always meaningful for me, an act of hope. We moved into a new home on a new lot eight years ago and I have been planting trees and bushes ever since. I am watching them mature, year by year. This brings me joy. Planting a new tree last Saturday had added meaning. I walk by it every day to wish it well. There has been just enough rain so I haven’t had to water it. That is a good sign. Five days in, it looks healthy. I am hopeful.

The second was in the evening. My wife and I had seen “Come From Away” on stage twice and loved it both times. We noted that a streaming service was showing it on TV. That seemed the right program to watch on the anniversary of 9/11, as “Come From Away” is about what happened in one small Canadian town 20 years ago when 7,000 strangers suddenly arrived in 38 jet planes, diverted from flying in the air space of the United States. It was just as wonderful the third time, but with a greater depth of emotion because of the day. Read about Gander, Newfoundland, and see this musical adaption of what happened there on 9/11 and the five days following. What happened in Gander that day renews my hope.

The third was actually Sunday evening, 9/12. We usually watch “60 Minutes” and this edition gave its whole time to stories of the NYC fire fighters that responded to the terrorism and the 343 that died while saving thousands of threatened lives. There are more than 60 firefighters in the FDNY today because they had fathers and other relatives give their lives on 9/11. Firefighters tend to see their work as a calling, a holy calling. That hour left me with a lump in my throat and a deep sense of gratitude for all fire fighters and those that support them. Every time a fire fighter goes to work, it is with the real sense that they may not get home at the end of their shift. Yes, that is true for all of us, but not in quite the same way it is for fire fighters. Hope is a dangerous thing, and so necessary in this world.

The 20th anniversary of 9/11/01was a day of remembering with solemn ceremonies at many locations, particularly the three sites where lives were lost. And it was a day for planting a tree of hope in my yard where a hole had been. I expect annual remembrances of 9/11 will be more low key until the 25th anniversary in 2026. I wonder how that tree will be doing then. It is my 9/11 tree of hope. I live in hope.

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