10th Anniversary 9/11 Events
As the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 events comes to pass, most everyone will be remembering that day in detail. I’m curious, where were you on September 11, 2001? What were your first thoughts? The moment you heard the news of the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the crash of Flight 93, what did you feel? And, what did you do?
Maybe an even a more important question is, what do you and I do in life when the “unthinkable” occurs? How do we react to a crisis, whether it’s the loss of health, a job or a loved one? Do we let life destroy us, or can we find a way to turn even the most devastating circumstances into something that can somehow serve the greater good for the long term?
Whenever there is significant suffering, I really believe some good must come from it. It’s up to each of us to find a way to shift our perspective, find a way to deepen our commitment to help one another and to develop an even deeper appreciation for those who sacrificed for our freedoms. Can we really find appreciation for our lives even in the most difficult times?
It was 3:00 am that morning when my staff members awakened me from a very brief sleep. I had just completed my last recap meeting of day one of a nine-day leadership conference I was conducting on the big island of Hawaii for more than 2,000 people from 39 countries around the world. At first, I was in complete shock. Then, I had to “kick into gear” because as horrific as the news was about what had happened in New York and Washington, I quickly learned that more than 50 people in our own family, our participants, had already discovered they had lost family members, friends and loved ones, as well as a few who lost their entire business at the top of the World Trade Center that morning.
As you can imagine, with people from every walk of life, from all over the earth, and with completely different religious backgrounds, the fever pitch of intensity was surreal.
People had completely different reactions based on their life experience. Some were enraged. Others were in fear that the end was here. And yet even others were celebratory.
I had to figure out how to bring together this incredibly diverse audience and get them to redirect their focus to somehow serve a greater good. Specifically, I had to find a way help them let go of their own emotional reactions of the moment and support those who were directly affected and in need: Helping those who were unable to find out if family members or business associates were still alive. Comforting those who were in shock over those who had passed on, including a woman who received a phone call from her fiancée at the top of the World Trade Center saying good-bye. Seeing if we could do something physical to make a difference, like donating blood and getting it to New York.
To say that it was a challenge to bring together this group of diverse nationalities, religious beliefs and political convictions would be the ultimate understatement. The views of what had happened and what it meant were as divergent as there are people in this world.
You can only imagine the intensity of one Jewish man with family who lived in the occupied territory, who currently lived in New York and would have died that day since he normally worked in the World Trade Center—and his reaction to a Pakistani Muslim who identified with the extremists responsible for the attacks so completely that he shared his only regret was that he was not on one of the planes himself. Saying publicly to the group that these attacks were “retribution” and now maybe the west would understand.
There are no words to describe the shock and anger that ripped through the room in that moment.
I had to find a way to create common ground in a situation where alignment seemed impossible.
Ironically, the day had been scheduled for the topic of emotional mastery. What we did together that day, as a diverse group of men and women from all over the world, and how these two men with completely different world views went from antagonists to allies, continues to serve as an example of what’s possible when we put aside our hate and seek true understanding. Their transformation is the core of a mini-film created from the highlights of this day and it demonstrates the reality of what can happen when we set aside our righteous judgments and focus on how we can passionately resolve our differences.
As a tribute to everyone affected by the events of September 11th, I’m giving you direct access to this mini-film so you can watch the events as they transpired and discover any key lessons that can serve you or anyone you care about.
Over the past ten years, this film has been used around the world as leadership training—from youth leaders in the Middle East to diverse organizations in all parts of the world—dedicated to bringing about positive global change. I hope you find it to be a useful resource in looking at conflict and creating environments of peace in your own life as well.
I really believe the best way to honor those whose lives were lost is to continue to embrace life fully, without fear, and to use the greatest of our human resources—our compassion and our drive to serve—to make a difference.
As we cycle through the seasons of history, we will continue to be faced with difficult decisions, personal hardships and at times, unthinkable tragedy.
If each of us can find a way to be a source of strength in the middle of pain; if we can bring love where there is hate; and if we can be a force for good in a world of uncertainty then we’ll have done our part to continue the legacy of so many courageous souls who lost their lives that day.
As you watch this film, I invite you to remember times when you have faced seemingly insurmountable adversity or pain and to think about and remember what pulled you through.
We’ve all faced crises of various types and we will again. The key is to use the stress instead of letting the stress use you and to somehow use the stimulus of injustice to tap into your greatest resources—your courage, your determination, your compassion, your faith, your decisiveness and your capacity to take massive action—and find a way to serve yourself, your family and others.
For anyone directly involved in the events of September 11th, to say the words “we thank you” seems like such a weak representation of the gratitude we have for your service and sacrifice. We can never fully appreciate what you and your families have given us. All we can do is tell you is that the stories of your spirits and actions on that fateful day continue to inspire us all.
As you watch this mini-film, my deepest and heartfelt wish for you is that it will remind you and those you love that we are all more than anything that can ever happen to us. We are more than any moment. Problems are not permanent, nor is pain. Only our souls are permanent—as well as our capacity to grow and give no matter what the circumstance.
Blessings to you.
Live Strong and Live with Passion,
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