There’s a line from the 1984 movie “Starman,” where actor Jeff Bridges, playing a human-looking alien being, makes an observation about Earth’s humanity. He asks another character who wants to know what he thinks of Earth, “Shall I tell what I find beautiful about you?”
When he’s given the go-ahead by a nod from the other character, Bridges says: “You are at your very best when things are worst.”
September 11, 2001 was definitely one of the worst days in history, especially for those who lost family members, friends and coworkers that day. I was not here in my home country, since I was on vacation in England at the time (read my British story from September 11, 2001 post).
British news channels broke the news almost as soon as it happened; hearing the story told by British news announcers somehow seemed to enhance the feeling of “This can’t possibly be for real”. But it was. It shocked me to see the Twin Towers go down; these were huge, enormously strong buildings. The Pentagon story hit particularly close to home because it was too close to where I live.
But what inspired me in the midst of all that tragedy and horror was the way that many people stepped up and took action to counteract what went on that day, even if it was just a little thing. I remember the amazing kindness of the Brits who stopped when they heard my American accent and sympathized. There were flowers and flags laid at the American embassy in London and condolence books at churches.
New Yorkers helped each other walk down the street or get out of the buildings. One stopped to help someone else who had fallen in the street.
When I got home, I heard of more stories. Canadians in Gander, Newfoundland housed and fed thousands of stranded travelers. (Thank you, Canada!) Firefighters in Hungary tied black ribbons to their trucks. In Belgium, people formed a human chain in front of the Brussels World Trade Center.
Some Americans flew American flags or wore American flag pins to show their solidarity. Others made sandwiches and drinks to hand out. Still others got more involved, clearing the debris piece by piece, gathering and transporting victims, or joining in to build new buildings and memorials.
Even today, some go to stick a red rose in the stone memorial at the World Trade Center site, in the etched name of someone they lost.
I have not yet been to the Pentagon’s memorial site, but I’d like to go sometime. I don’t know them, but I want to pay tribute anyway. It’s possible that I passed those people at a local mall, or saw them in a restaurant, a library, or a Metro train. Maybe I even drove past them on one of our local roads. Life’s strange that way.
I will stand among the 184 memorial units, wander around, read some of the names. And remember.
There’s something else I’ll remember, too: Human resilience.
Video credit: Webbspider, YouTube.