It's been a weird week to write a column. I faced a personal loss this week having a friend pass away, coupled with a bout of the flu that has made writing these past few days more challenging than usual. Of course, adding to the week is the anniversary of 9/11. It's made talking about entertainment a challenging subject when I don't feel particularly entertaining.
But as I write this column on Sept. 12, I realized that no one ever seems to write about this particular day after the 9/11 “moment” passes. Remembering where I was on that fateful day when life for all changed, brings back a lot of powerful and detailed memories, and it extends to the moments beyond the previous morning.
It was weird waking up the next day. I don't think anyone had an idea of what was going to happen to us next. Were the attacks over, or were we immediately going to war? I didn't even know if I was going to work the next day. Nothing seemed certain. What should have been “just another day” felt like someone deleted the whole master plan, and the back up disk hadn't been delivered yet for “Life 2.0.”
News outlets were trying to figure things out, reporting what little they could piece together. I mentioned before in my remembrance piece that the headlines were enormous for the Dallas Morning News, showing the first now permanent images that we've consistently seen for the last 18 years. The DART was was emptier on the way to work, but still ran on time. The West End plaza remained empty that next day.
Work was a lot of watching the news, and with flights grounded, so was an upcoming work convention trip to Paris. I was supposed to be in Paris and London for two weeks for my job, which would have also fallen on my birthday. I had been so excited for the trip for weeks having finally secured my passport, but it made sense why we weren't going. Still, it felt like an extra kick in the side at the time.
It was really only after work that I noticed another change in people, past the fear and uncertainty. People were being kinder to each other. People were more “Please” and “Thank you”, and asking how you were doing, and genuinely meant it. Dallas traffic was lighter, but felt more open in letting people merge and change lanes. You would see the vigils on television and people asking for peace and unity.
No one fought or blamed each other.
I think Texas has always had an inherent politeness to it, but it felt larger and more genuine. It felt like in light of this horrible aftermath, for a brief moment while we were trying to figure things out, kindness was everywhere. I once read that many of those final messages on that awful day were ones of love, a real truth found not only from the movies.
A lot's changed in the last 18 years since that time, and admittedly not all of it has been great. We have the ability to be the best or worst examples of ourselves, but we tend to shine in the face of difficult times. I certainly remember those following moments of kindness. When you really think about it, people tend to more specifically remember the good you bring them than the bad.
I can recall the “Thank yous” and “I love yous” and the “Please be carefuls” from 9/12. It was our moment of saying we were more than tragedy. That people are capable of so much more when it's called for.
I thought about those lessons this week after friends cheered me up by replacing something from my childhood that recently went missing, making sure it looked the same right down to the last detail. I remembered that of my friend that just passed away, and how I've ended up thinking more about the times he'd look out for me, and how he'd grin when I told the same old, predictable jokes.
Negativity blurs into dulled feelings over time. It's the positive moments that I end up remembering so well.
It's what we have to focus on to keep moving forward.