I'm proud to say that although we were a long way from New York and Washington, and didn't have any apparent disaster plan, at the solo law firm where I worked, the boss got it exactly right.
He made a practice of taking uninterrupted time in the mornings, until 11:00, and our instructions were not to disturb him unless the building was actually on fire. On this morning he emerged around 9:30 and called us all together, saying, "I only want to have to say this once." He told us about the planes. He then asked one of the staff to drive him to the local Best Buy, where he purchased a large t.v. He set it up in the conference room, and we watched the morning's events.
About 11:30, when the scope of the thing finally sank in, he sent us home for the day. I returned a few phone calls before I left, and remember discussing an overdue bill with a vendor. Both of us remarked that the missing $75 payment suddenly didn't seem all that darn important anymore. Our perspective had shifted.
There are a lot of stories of courage that day, not only from police and firefighters, but from ordinary citizens who rose to the occasion, some of them losing their lives in the process. Here's one example, by the excellent Florida writer Michael Grunwald: A Tower of Courage, about lawyer Rick Rescorla.
These people and their stories are on my mind today. Because of my work and my mindset, I spend a lot of time feeling that we as humans fall short of the mark: in how we treat each other, in how we engage in our professions, in how we live in and care for this beautiful world. We are selfish. We are cruel. We are corrupt. We exploit anything and everything and everyone for our selfish goals.
September 11th doesn't change that. In some ways it highlights it more than ever. But it also reminds me that among us are many - sometimes unnoticed - who shine like the sun in the right circumstances, which are often the worst circumstances. That's the lesson I choose to take from today.
Blessings upon those who act with courage and generosity when the times demand it. May we all be among them.