On Wednesday, America marked the 18th anniversary of 9/11.
It was, as it has been now for nearly two decades, a very somber affair. Ceremonies were held, remembrances offered, tears shed.
Lessons are still being learned from that terrible, world-altering day, but there is one worth remembering not only on the anniversary of Sept. 11, but each day that follows.
On Monday, Sept. 10, 2001, more than 3,000 people went to bed fully expecting to live through the following afternoon. They had planes to catch in the morning, early business meetings to attend, or important breakfasts to schedule.
By 10 a.m. that Tuesday, almost all would be dead.
Who knows what plans they had for the rest of their week, month and year? How many had put off taking that trip of a lifetime, making that phone call to a friend with whom they’d lost touch, or apologizing to that family member for some petty argument? How many of them thought, “Let me just get through tomorrow and I’ll take care of it then”?
For each, that “tomorrow” would be their last.
It’s a sobering realization that only the current moment is promised to any of us. Instinctually we understand this, that life can end at any time. None of us are provided a finish date. None of us know when our Sept. 10 will arrive.
That’s why, of all the lessons Sept. 11 continues to teach us, the fragility of life remains the most important. We too often look at hours or days as moments to pass through rather than to be lived. We want to “get past” this meeting or that trip, instead of accepting that all those experiences, the good and the bad, are what make up the tapestry of our lives.
No, we shouldn’t need such a horrific reminder as the one offered by 9/11. It shouldn’t take the memory of 3,000 murdered to spur us on to living a better life. We have enough daily prompts informing us that each moment is precious.
But as creatures of habit, we often need a jolt, and Sept. 11, 2001, more than 18 years later, still provides the most electrifying one possible. The night before, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters went to sleep believing that their futures were ahead of them. They dreamed not just of the next day but the next year and beyond. They planned to grow families and begin careers, or retire and travel the world. They planned to do so much, not knowing that their time had all but run out.
Each year on the anniversary of 9/11, we see the pictures of those who were lost. They appear as ghosts now, returning to us from a day none will ever forget.
But listen carefully and you’ll hear that those ghosts are still speaking. They are saying, “Live.” Don’t wait for tomorrow. Don’t choose to play it safe with the passions of your life. Don’t let the sun go down without appreciating the people you love.
We honor all of them by heeding such advice.