So many minds today are on the threat from nature’s greatest storm, but the 16th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, must not go unnoticed.
In the worst attack ever on our shores, more than 3,000 people were killed when planes being crashed into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, and a plane being forced down by its passengers in Pennsylvania, with all aboard dying but their efforts stopping yet another attack.
Inside The Times and Democrat today, you’ll find a “We Will Not Forget” poster that is the latest in an ongoing project of the newspaper and sponsors during the years since the attacks. The effort reminds people on Memorial Day, July 4th, 9-11 and Veterans Day of the sacrifices of those who have given all in the battle against terrorism to ensure there will be no more 9-11s.
On this anniversary of Sept. 11, the nation finds itself feeling increasingly threatened. There are new fears of war with North Korea, the war in Afghanistan begun in the wake of 9-11 continues and terrorists are determined to undermine and destroy the United States and western democracies.
There are many willing to attack and kill Americans simply because we are Americans. And as we have thousands of Americans in harm’s way fighting to keep this nation and its people safe, and more headed into danger, we pray on the anniversary of this 21st century day of infamy for a more peaceful world.
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Also on this day of great personal sorrow for so many and the nation as whole, we look to a 9-11 survivor for words about living with life’s regrets. Penelope Trunk, author of the “Brazen Careerist,” is a columnist and blogger. She has written about 9-11 from the unique perspective of a person at work that day a block away from the towers.
“I was at the World Trade Center when it fell. Every year I say to myself that this will be the last post I write about 9/11. And then every year I write another post. So now I have a whole archive of posts about my story: I was so close to death, from suffocation, that I went through the acceptance process. Then I lived. Now I write about it.”
Her words were penned in 2012:
“For a while I thought the most remarkable part of my story is not that I lived, but that I walked toward the building. I had time to get away, but I wanted to see people jumping. I couldn’t believe it. So I stood, right there at the bottom, looking up to see what was going on. I talked to people next to me. I did many things that I could have regretted.
“Later, though, after lots of counseling, I realized that my behavior was normal human behavior for the situation I was in. No one knew buildings would fall. And there are not many people who could look away if you were told someone was jumping from the World Trade Center.
“Once I understood that my behavior was normal, it was easier to not have regrets about what I did.”
True to her role as an advice columnist, Trunk extends her 9/11 experience to insight on how everyone can learn to live with his/her regrets.
1. If you like your life, you don’t regret what came before.
“I still have nightmares about 9/11, I still have never watched the towers fall on TV. I just can’t do it. But I also know that the good things about my life today came from living through 9/11. It’s a way for me to not regret having been there.”
2. Overcome new obstacles all the time.
“The big regrets we have often come from big moments in our life. If you only have one big moment, and it didn’t turn out how you wanted, then you are more likely to regret it than if you have lots of big moments. ... The best way to not regret what has happened in the past is to create more challenges for myself, and surprise myself with how well you make them turn out; the antidote for regret is gratitude.”
3. Know what leads to regret for most people.
“Bonnie Ware, a hospice worker, wrote a book about the five most common regrets of people who are dying. The list rings true to me:
“I wish I had had the courage to live a life true to myself rather than the life others expected of me.
“I wish I didn’t work so hard.
“I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
“I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
“I wish I had let myself be happier.”
4. Take control over your life.
“One thing that strikes me about that list is that the regrets are about things we can control. Which means that if we take responsibility for our lives, instead of just letting them happen how they happen, we are less likely to live with regret.”
5. Make a choice to like your life.
“... I don’t want to have regrets. I see that happiness is more of a point of view than a series of events that leads to something great. ... We spend most of our lives chasing something that will make us happy and then we get to the end of our life and we realize that happiness was there all along.”