By Jim Toes, President and CEO, STA
Like beauty, miracles are in the eye of the beholder. While we may differ on what constitutes a miracle, we would all agree that miracles offer hope, courage and a path forward during times of dire circumstances. Times when we are paralyzed by fear, despair and confusion. Twenty years ago, our nation experienced a tragic event as we witnessed 2,996 innocent individuals die at the hands of terrorists. These victims were family members, friends, work colleagues and neighbors. Whether you were standing across the street from the World Trade Center or watching the events unfold on TV thousands of miles away, we all felt the same emotions and did not know what to do next. But, then we began to hear stories of extraordinary events and super-human achievements. For most of us, these stories were miracles that shook us from our motionless state, enabling us to see a path forward and providing the will to walk it.
Yes, there were miracles of all kinds on September 11, 2001, and while they could not reverse the tragedies experienced that day, they provided us with the inspiration, will and resolve to move forward.
It was a miracle that more than 17,000 people who were in the WTC when the first plane hit were able to evacuate. It was also a miracle that brave souls aboard United Airlines Flight 93 had the self-awareness to realize their plane was a weapon and after taking a vote followed Todd Beamer’s war cry of “let’s roll,” overpowering the terrorists and sacrificing their lives for others. Yes, there were miracles of all kinds on September 11, 2001, and while they could not reverse the tragedies experienced that day, they provided us with the inspiration, will and resolve to move forward.
In the twenty-years since, new stories have been written. Some border on being a miracle but almost all involve generous and unselfish acts of people helping people. Many charities born from 9/11 have expanded their reach beyond those they were originally intended to serve. Even today, neighbors and complete strangers come together to not only help the families of 9/11 but others in need. The stories and miracles stemming either directly or indirectly from 9/11 continue to be there, inspiring us to be good neighbors and the best versions of ourselves.
Where will the stories and miracles of the next twenty years come from? After all, none of us who were there on 9/11 will live forever. Most of that answer resides within the nearly 3,000 children, now adults, who experienced the loss of a parent on that saddest of all days. While this group is not defined by the events of 9/11, their experiences of encountering a deep loss along with being the recipients of support from so many will undoubtedly influence their actions for the better as they take their places in society. There is greatness within this generation, both individually and collectively. Their stories and miracles will span from serving their local communities to perhaps, the Halls of Congress. Regardless of where their lives take them, they will make our world a better place.
As we spend tomorrow remembering lives lost and reflecting on the past twenty years, we can do so knowing with great confidence that we have not forgotten those who no longer walk among us, and that miracles that began that day will continue in the actions of the 9/11 generation. Finally, we must never underestimate the greatness that resides in the human spirit and how it reveals itself in the darkest of moments and overcomes all.