Where were you on 9-11? The answer is easy, nobody can forget. We all know where we were on that fateful day. I was running down forty flights of stairs in the World Financial Center across West Street from the World Trade Towers. I ran down the dark stairwell without any clear image or knowledge of what was occurring outside the walls of the office tower. I did not see the planes hit the towers, nor could I see the damage that had already been inflicted. Still, I grasped one immutable fact that I could not ever forget. Something terrible has happened and the world would never be the same.
I am not asking you where you were physically in space and time. I am more interested to know, from a metaphysical perspective, where were you. What was going through your mind? Where were you in your life? What were your goals and dreams? Where did you think you would be in five or ten years from that moment in time? I also want to ask where was the country?
9-11 Eleven was a national and personal tragedy full of heartbreak, loss, and sorrow. Nothing good has or will ever come of it. The disastrous attack on September 11, 2001, did, for a moment in time, unite us as a country for a common purpose. First, we all shared grief. Then, we needed to support each other in dealing with and overcoming the shock and loss. For some, particularly where I lived and worked in the NY/NJ region, the loss hit home as friends, family, and colleagues were gone.
We all lost something that day. We lost the feeling of security and calm. We lost a sense of confidence that as the most powerful nation, separated from our enemies and foes by oceans and continents, we had become impenetrable. We lost our innocence too. No longer could we go about our business not caring about geopolitical conflicts, nation-states, or dogma and hate in the name of religion.
The 20th anniversary of this dark, momentous day is certainly a poignant reminder of all that we have lost. But I am also reminded almost daily that we have lost so much more. In the immediate days, weeks, and months after 9-11, a patriotic spirit was imbued in all of us. Regardless of religion, color, political party, it felt like we were inspired to be one people and country. We supported our government and leaders. We applauded our police, fireman, emergency workers, and even sanitation crews for doing their jobs. I can never forget, watching the parade of vehicles rolling down West Street, including police escorts, fire trucks, and garbage trucks roll up and down the avenue to get to the disaster site. We stood on the side of the road clapping and cheering their heroic sacrifice and effort. We allowed our government leaders to pass laws like the Patriot Act. We were willing to forgo personal liberties in the name of fighting terrorism.
So where are we now as a country twenty years after this national and personal nightmare entered our lives? Do we still share the same definition of patriotism? Do we believe in a common purpose? Are we still one country that chooses to work together to solve the most critical and life-changing challenges and struggles of the day?
Even a few months after 9-11, I remember thinking that the rush to our flag, the momentum gained by a renewed patriotic spirit had dwindled. Were we really a changed people and nation? Once the stench of the smoldering debris and human remains left the air, and the rubble was removed, all that was left were two big holes in the ground. What would fill these gaping craters in our psyche, soul, and country? Could we rebuild ourselves and our monuments to make something even greater as a tribute to all that was lost? What would those that perished think of our country now?
America has always encouraged individualism. Throughout our history, we have nurtured a culture and society that celebrates the expression of individual freedom protected by our constitution. What binds us together to meet grave challenges in times of crisis is our national identity. Where is the common purpose now and shared struggle to sacrifice for a greater good to get vaccinated to gain herd immunity and eradicate the Covid pandemic?
So where are we now? We can all remember important milestones in our lives. Still, it’s worth looking back and reliving them. This reflection can help us to better understand who we are today and what progress we have made as individuals and as a society. By comparing ourselves now to 20 years ago, we see if we accomplished the goals we set, fulfilled our dreams, or realized our aspirations. It’s ok if we haven’t. But what did we learn about why we came up short? Did we change for the better? Did our goals and dreams change for the better? Otherwise, if they did not change, are we still on the path we expected. Are we making progress toward the future we had hoped to see? I sincerely hope and pray that the answers for me, you, and the country are good ones.
This is Alex Cooper. You can find and follow The MindsetCEO on LinkedIn or YouTube. Visit our website and book a call to see how I can help you on your journey from Founder to CEO.