Never Forget – Memory, Focus, and Resolve

We are in the business of being unemotional. Not that we are without emotion; we don’t let emotions intrude on the performance of our tasks. We are likewise in the business of ensuring the well-being of those people, both friends and strangers alike, who buy a ticket and put their safety and their lives in our hands. We uphold a sacred trust each time we suit up and walk onto the flightdeck. The events of September 11th, 2001 introduced a tarry cloud of emotion into the well-ordered world we had previously known. The sudden, violent, and tragic events of the day violated our very sense of purpose and left us angry, adrift, and hopeless for a time. Our vision was clouded as though hurtling through a dark sky, unable to bring the world back into sharp focus.

Trees now grow along the edges of earth made fertile by the remembrance of the souls consumed by the vacuum of the shrinking towers and we try to remember how many years have passed since the world came crashing in on our once protected existence…Now the memories pass into dreams and the horrid sleepless visions of the days that followed September 11th seem blurry and less real…but we will never forget.

After the attacks, it took me the better part of a week to return to Boston from Los Angeles. When I did, it was as though I were returning from a different world to an unfamiliar home…Though the streets, like the skies, were still largely silent, each and every overpass seemed to be adorned with an American flag…not professionally hung, but twist-tied and knotted to chain link fences by plain folks who knew that these symbols were what we all needed to see woven into every scene. More than anything else, I remember the empty skies and those flags that signaled a collective sense of unity and resolve.

We learned that we are not invulnerable while the rest of the world witnessed the unity, the fury, and the resolve with which we faced that realization. When we have been willing to challenge ourselves, we have also learned that we are not infallible and that there is always time to make a course correction. We must resolve to be better, to unite in peacetime as we unite in war, to eliminate our enemies by diminishing their causes and grievances, to abandon the delusional conspiracy theories that seek to divide us at our core, and to make this broken world a better and more beautiful place…Wabi-Sabi.

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