There’s an awful lot of “ten years later” coverage of 9/11 on our screens these days. It’s a little unnerving to be reminded of the ten-year anniversary of anything at all, let alone that of something dreadful. Ten
years married, ten years graduated, ten years old.
Ten years on.
Here’s what I learned from 9/11: people are capable of extreme behavior, in both good and bad ways. Since I’m the poster child for cockeyed optimism I mostly mean good. In this case, a tremendous evil brought about a tremendous good.
It was a stunner of day; it was perfect. Then, it happened, and we all stopped at the sheer shock of it all. But, in the aftermath, we did what we had to do; we volunteered, we donated — blood and goods — we went out into the street and checked in with our neighbors. People did the same all over the country, and even the world. You OK? You need anything?
I was, at the time, the Air Force Auxiliary’s Deputy Group Commander for New York City. There was no “official call” to report to what was now called Ground Zero – I just showed up, along with my colleagues, to see where we could help. I worked at a donation collection point near the Javits Convention Center; I rode truckload after truckload of relief supplies down to Ground Zero and back.
I watched firemen and police officers cry and I cried with them. I watched the hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who lined West Street day and night to stand there and applaud the trucks going down to the Pit, and back up north to get more supplies. They stood there for hours; I kept thinking, wow, their arms must be killing them by now. But still, they stood, and they clapped.
I am constantly astonished at what people are capable of. Even today, the one quality that I look for in colleagues is this inherent “capability.” It doesn’t matter if you’re an Account Coordinator or a Senior Vice President – this ability to cope, and to do what’s needed, is what cuts the mustard. It’s important in PR, and in life. And what I learned on 9/11 is that we’re all capable of tremendous good. We bring it out in each other.
Wherever you spend this weekend, take a minute and make sure the guy next to you is OK. I’m betting he/she will be doing the same thing.