On September 10th, 2001, a young woman named Brooke Jackman called her mom to tell her she was going to leave her job as an assistant bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald to apply to grad school for social work. "There's more to life than making money," she said.
I didn't know Brooke. But I knew her brother Ross, who was a colleague of mine at JPMorgan. He was with me on the morning of September 11th, when we ran down 33 flights of stairs at 60 Wall Street after the second plane hit the World Trade Center, four blocks away.
In the days following 9/11, New York was a city in shock, and in mourning. We came together in a way that was astonishing for a city known for its abruptness and brashness. Everyone softened. People reached out. People asked, "How are you?" and really wanted to know - even the guy behind the counter at the coffeeshop. "Are you okay?" I asked strangers. "Are all your people okay?"
People changed after 9/11. The guy in my office that I privately nicknamed Mr. PITA (Pain-in-the-Ass) witnessed the second plane crashing into the towers from the floor-to-ceiling wraparound windows in our office. He saw people jump out of the towers to escape the fire. He became markedly nicer after that.
There was genuine concern and caring amongst New Yorkers. We were all in this together, and we would come out of it together, too.
I want to talk about how the world has changed since 9/11. Not how we started two devastating wars, or how we now have to remove our shoes at airport security. I want to talk about how we changed for the better. How we realized that life is short and precious. How living in fear became equated with letting the terrorists win. How moments of joy became that much sweeter because of the pain we had all experienced. How connected we were to each other, in New York and around the world.
In the ten years since that day, I think we have lost that sense of community that brought us all together. See, the thing about community is that it's all the time, not just when tragedies strike. In the ten years since 9/11/01, the world has become more divided and more dangerous, because we've lost that connectedness. We've closed ourselves off. We've gone back to our homes and shut the door, put on our blinders, and fallen back into our every-man-for-himself mentality.
We need to open ourselves up again. If we re-weave those threads of connectedness that we all had after 9/11, we will have a world made of fabric so strong that no terrorist will be able to rip through it again.
And we need to remind ourselves of the great phoenixes that can rise out of the ashes. Every night on her way home from work, Brooke would stop into her local bookstore to browse and read. So in the weeks following 9/11, Brooke's family established The Brooke Jackman Foundation, dedicated to promoting literacy amongst children.
So today, on this tenth anniversary of one of the worst days in our country's history, let's not dwell on what the world was. Let's think about what the world can be.
And then open your door, step outside, and make it happen.
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi
|Photo by Cait Hurley|