It happens with no warning.
It’s the clap of thunder and the bolt of lightning that knocks you flat on the golf course after your third birdie in a row. You never saw it coming.
It’s the driver that ignores the stop sign and T-bones you in the intersection on the sunny day with the blue, blue sky and your favorite song on the radio. You never saw it coming.
It’s the snake that you walk past never knowing it’s there that reaches out and buries its fangs in the soft part of the calf of your bare leg above your leather boots. You never saw it coming.
It’s the phone call at 5:30 on Friday evening from a distraught doctor who says: “I hate to do this by phone but I didn’t want to leave you hanging all weekend. The biopsy results are back. It’s cancer.” You never saw it coming.
We’re pretty good at guarding against the things we expect to happen. Door locks keep our possessions safe, turn signals protect our back bumpers, coats, hats and boots help us avoid colds and we never, never, never pet an unfamiliar dog.
We tell our kids to look both ways before crossing the street, eat the vegetables, fasten the seatbelts and never, never, never talk to strangers.
And yet…the unexpected event happens, the thing we never saw coming, never prepared for and suddenly we are reminded how fragile we are, how easily we can be broken.
This week we once again remembered how lives and the very heart of a nation can be stopped in an instant. Seventeen years later, the words “Let’s roll,” and the iconic date numbers 9/11 still ring loud in our ears and wrap around our hearts and minds.
There is a new generation now, children who have not known the parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents that they never had because of that sunny, September day that will now be known forever as 9/11. I sometimes wonder if that particular day was chosen because of the irony of the numbers, the three numbers we are to call when tragedy erupts, “911 – please help.”
Those of us who watched from a distance as that day unfolded will, indeed, never forget. We will remember how fragile we felt and yet how strong we were and how we knew beyond a doubt that we were one nation who did not crumble, but stood up.
That day we felt like individuals who had been knocked down, but collectively we rose to the occasion. From the fire and police personnel who pounded up those hundreds of stairs, to the passengers who did what they knew they must and fought back, to the nation who came together to wrap the victims in their arms, we stood back up…together.
We should never forget what we can do together…I just wish it hadn’t taken 9/11 to be a marker to remind us of that every year. Since it did, I wish we could keep remembering not just on that day, but every day, what a country can do if it works together.