Fourteen years ago today, as a colleague pushed an elevator button on the fourth floor, American Airlines 77 crashed through the second floor beneath our feet, destroying the Navy Command Center … Where we were headed.
Unlike many thousands that day, I made it out OK —on the outside. For many years, however, I was not OK on the inside. I asked myself why I had lived. Why did I evacuate and not go back into the building to look for survivors? I suffered with guilt for many years. I spent several September 11ths lying on the couch, watching movies, ducking memorials even when I had written the speeches. I questioned why I had been saved only to continue a life that seemed bleak.
Not this year. Today, I am taking a symbolic step to living rather than torturing myself because I didn’t die when so many others did. I am sitting in LAX waiting to board a flight to San Antonio. First class. I dressed up. (Well, dressed up for me entails flip flops with rhinestones.) I will visit friends and family, then drive to Key West to find housing for my move this fall.
I am not neglecting the memory of those who died. In my own way, I am honoring their memory by living fully. The dead would want us to continue when they could not, I believe.
My story is one of many, but I believe the point can be universal. We all have wounds. We all have scars where death has grazed us. But we can face and overcome them. We can get off a couch and get on a plane.
On this day and all others, let’s honor the dead by living.
See you in Key West.