Of course I remember where I was on September 11, 2001.
I had just finished having breakfast with somebody we were thinking about re-hiring at work. He was a friend too. It was a nice breakfast. It was a beautiful fall day. I got to the office, sat down at my desk and immediately got a phone call from my husband. He said "They're crashing planes into the World Trade Center." I didn't believe him. Then I saw all the commotion out in the office. People on the phone, people talking in a very animated way. I stepped outside my office door. Everybody else was saying the same thing.
I'm sure most of you were glued to your TVs throughout the day, like I was. I was horrified, shocked and yet somehow it seemed unreal. This couldn't really be happening. Then rumors started about other planes not accounted for, other targets. We let everybody go home. Nobody knew how widespread it was or when it would stop.
I thought about how less than a year before I had been in New York for an annual meeting with the HR people from our affiliates around the country. Our meeting had been in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, the 90 something floor. I don't remember exactly. It was hosted by our insurance broker, Marsh McLennan. They were very nice offices and the view from that high up was impressive. I remember the towers swaying slightly and I remember a helicopter flying by below us. While I was in that meeting my husband and kids, who had come with me on the trip, were touring the top of the South Tower of the WTC and the plaza below.
Eleven months later the eight floors of the North Tower that Marsh occupied took a direct hit from AA Flight 11, the first plane to hit. Nobody at work that day for Marsh McLennan at the WTC survived the attack. Two hundred ninety five people gone. I remember talking to our broker a few months after the attack. His office was in mid-town, not the towers. He was so profoundly sad, having attended funeral after funeral for his lost co-workers. I couldn't help thinking about how it could have been us there had the attack been 11 months earlier. I was so thankful my family was safe.
The devastation of 9/11 really hit me when I got a call from my friend. Her niece had been on United Flight 93. Her name was Deora Bodley and she was the youngest passenger on the plane that day, only 20 years old. I had met Deora's mom a few times. A nice lady. Very intense. I met Deora once when she was probably 16 or 17 at my friend's wedding. She seemed like a very sweet girl. We didn't say more than hello to each other when we were introduced. I had no real connection to her. But I knew how close their family was. I knew how much my friend's parents loved and cherished each of their grandkids. I knew how proud they all were of Deora. The tragedy of 9/11 became their family tragedy.
Today, like every September 11th, I can't help but think about Deora and my friend and her family. I wonder if it helps that their personal loss is felt to some degree by the entire nation. Or does it make it harder that their grief will be forever shared with the world? Is the significance of their personal loss diminished by the enormity of it all? It's more than 9/11, it's their family and it will never be the same. Neither will we.