“Never Forget…” has become the slogan for remembering the tragedy on September 11, 2001. I will never forget where I was. My family and I were spending the week at Disneyland. My niece and nephew were very little. We were planning to get up early to go to a Princess character breakfast at the park (it was for my niece, not me…I swear) when someone turned on the TV and we saw the first building billowing with smoke. At that moment (even though I clearly remembered the terrorist attack on the world trade center a fews years before that) I knew that my life would never be the same. We were then glued to the TV like every one else in the world and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the explosion on the second tower. Almost an hour later when that building tumbled, my mind couldn’t comprehend what it was seeing. Although I had seen buildings implode in movies, this was happening live before my eyes and there were people inside who were dying and I felt my whole body trembling as I tried to make sense of it. I will never forget that moment because it was the first time that I was fully aware of my own mortality.
During the few hours that the attacks were taking place, my family and I were very nervous because we felt that anything was possible, the veil of “security” had been lifted and we were near an iconic American landmark (Disneyland) and weren’t sure if we were safe. Once the news had confirmed that all planes were grounded, we decided that it would be best to get out of the hotel and away from the television. Plus the kids were expecting to go to Disneyland and were too young to understand what was happening. They were also too young to know the difference between Disneyland and a Mcdonalds play land, so we took them there, and they enjoyed themselves with cheerful ignorance. I remember sitting outside watching them go up and down slides and catching a glimpse of the empty sky. There were no sounds of airplanes and very few cars driving by. It was so quiet that I could literally hear myself struggling to make sense of everything. Here I was, 21 years old, having just graduated college, the whole world in front of me, and I finally realized that the future was in fact “uncertain”. I think prior to that moment I didn’t want to accept that we all live in a sea of uncertainty. I wanted to believe that if I just work hard, treat people right, and seize opportunities I could dictate and even control my fate. 9/11 taught me about the reality of the human condition. The human condition is fragile, uncertain, and can lead to acts of great evil and despair as proven by the attacks themselves. That night as I watched the television and saw the lines of the bucket brigades and heard stories of many of the first responders, I also learned that the human condition can lead to great acts of courage and bravery and selflessness. As I reflect on my time with Cancer, I realize that what I learned from 9/11 prepared me for the storm that the disease would bring upon me and as I ask for continued prayers and good vibes (especially at 7:30 AM tomorrow for my MRI) I will never forget the reminder of the capacity for good that all humans are capable of as demonstrated by countless people on that horrific day 11 years ago.