September 11, a Day of Reflection

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September 11, 2015

Today was my Friday off.  I went to the Gym for an intense but fun bootcamp class.  My friend Dr. Diane Laurin was there for the class too, and to pick up a parcel from me.  It’s September 11, and we are in the same exercise class.  I reminded Diane how, ironically, just a few years ago, we were together on September 11 doing my first triathlon.  We were cycling on Clara Barton Parkway on that very sunny day, followed by a 10K run.  We were marveling how lucky we were to run so freely on the streets of Washington D.C. in a triathlon race, as compared to the thousands of people trying to flee the burning towers in NYC in 2001, down the narrow stairs to their life, or their death.  This morning, while in the class, I reminded Diane how the first tower was about to come down 14 years ago in NYC.  Life has gone on since then for all of us.

As many of you recall, that year was so hectic for my family, as our son was under treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in NYC.  I recounted in a blog in 2013 the experience of taking him to NYC a few days after 9/11 by train (since all the airports were closed).  We learned a lot about life and death and what was important to our family from that year.  I learned how we should treasure what pleasant moments we have.  Do not waste time to mourn for something already passed.  Do not worry about the future, as it is truly an unknown factor.  Today might be the best day or the worse day of our life, but take charge of the moments and make the best out of them.  We choose what we do, and whichever direction we might be heading to, try not to regret.  A moment of regret is one we could have used to savor whatever left of the day.

In 2001, David and I took Sandy back to our friend Phuong’s apartment in NYC a few weeks after the September 11 event.  She was one of the two only survivors in her firm in the first tower.  Phuong went to work late that morning because of her young son waking up late for school.  She was getting a temporary ID in the lobby of the tower when it exploded from the first plane.  Phuong went to many funerals and memorials in the subsequent weeks and months, including one of a colleague who had returned to work for her second day after a three month maternity leave.  While at Phuong’s apartment, we took a photo of Ground Zero, a stark contrast to the one Phuong took of the three of us a few weeks before 9/11 happened, with the twin towers in the background.

This evening, my family will join a group of close friends for dinner.  We will think of those who perished on that tragic September 11, 2001, including the only son of one of our colleagues, who called him from the roof of the first tower before it collapsed.  He told his Dad he was going to be rescued.  I will think of all the children in the childcare center in one of the twin towers who never had the chance to grow up, or all the young adults at the peak of their life.  Their deaths reminded us how to treasure our lives and to put the important things in perspective.  Their deaths have made us better people, nicer, gentler, more thoughtful, less petty, and less materialistic.  Our group of friends and I have decided it is better for us to be together this evening and enjoy the pleasant moments life has offered us, in friendship and good health.  My son survived his Stage 4 cancer and has just started his senior year in high school. 

I hope, like me, you will surround yourself today with friends and families.  Like me, you will enjoy “the simplicities” in life that we tend to overlook, good health, family love and friendships.  Our moments are here to enjoy, not to mourn, and not to worry.  Our moments are opportunities also to be grateful to those whose life and death remind us how to live a meaningful life. 

“When you look up at the sky at night, since I’ll be living on one of them, since I’ll be laughing on one of them, for you it’ll be as if all the stars are laughing.  You’ll have stars that can laugh.

And when you’re consoled (everyone eventually is consoled), you’ll be glad you’ve known me.  You’ll always be my friend.  You’ll feel like laughing with me.  And you’ll open your window sometimes just for the fun of it…And your friends will be amazed to see you laughing while you’re looking up at the sky.  Then you’ll tell them, ‘Yes, it’s the stars; they always make me laugh!’ And they’ll think you’re crazy.  It’ll be a nasty trick I played on you…” 

Antoine De Saint-Exupery, in the above passage in his famous children book “The Little Prince,” understood how people might die but not forgotten. 

Have a peaceful day.