Tuesday, September 11, 2012

be a helper

This past April, when we drove through New Jersey and New York on our way to Massachusetts, we made a stop at the 9/11 Empty Sky Memorial.


The day that we visited, it was cool and overcast.


As the kids were climbing all over these steel pieces which at first glance appeared as some kind of deco art, it struck me that they undoubtedly came from the Twin Towers.


These structures supported buildings that were the tallest buildings on earth and held the record for the buildings with the most floors...


... until their destruction on a beautiful day in September 2001.


These two structures which are situated within New Jersey, are part of a memorial to the buildings that once stood on the opposite side of the Hudson River in New York.


The metallic walls are part of the Empty Sky Memorial, in which the buildings, sky and water are reflected in the silver panels that run its entire length.


As you look past your own blurry reflection, you'll see the clearly etched names of those from New Jersey whose lives were violently stolen on that cloudless day. Innocent people who may have had no idea that when they stepped out in to the world on that beautiful Tuesday, that the world would be an extremely dangerous place. The freedoms and securities that my generation of Americans have always depended upon and taken for granted, would be stripped away and as a nation, we'd feel vulnerable to evil in the world like we'd never felt before.


As I walked through the memorial, I felt like I was passing through a tomb.


These little faces don't fully grasp the events that happened on that day.  But one day, all too soon, they will. And they'll probably feel the same type of confusion, sadness, vulnerability and fragility that I feel every time I remember what happened.  But it's my hope that they'll also feel that same rush of how fortunate we are to be here with each other right now: we're not immune to bad things happening and life can change in an instant. So let's never be complacent in our love for each other.


When we went on a ferry ride to visit the Statue of Liberty ...


We sat near a young boy who knew what had happened on 9/11 and he shared his stories.


See those big cranes over there? 


They're rebuilding the towers... 


The towers that were knocked down when people flew airplanes right in to them. 


The children turned to look at me and ask why? 

Was it a mistake? Why would someone ever do such a terrible thing? 


Why? Because sadly, people can be influenced to do terribly bad things. Terribly bad things like rob 2,996 people of their lives and flip tens of thousands more lives forever upside down because their loved one was torn away by a senseless act of violence.  


But people can also be influenced to do wonderfully good things. I always want to remember the feeling that permeated America after the attacks.  It seemed everyone was touched in some way and we were sharply reminded of our own mortality so we became better, more humbled versions of ourselves.


Just as Mr. Rogers used to say, "Whenever bad things happen, look for the helpers."  Helpers don't get lost in why something happened - but what they can do to make it better.

Here's to the helpers: those who bring goodness to the world, offer inspiration, and keep things moving forward in a deliberately positive direction.