Like all of us connected through the World Wide Web, I receive a lot of e-mails. Every day I sort
through a host of funny pictures, ribald jokes and forwarded chain letters that I read, enjoy, and summarily delete.
Yet every once in a while I receive an e-mail of significance—a collection of words important enough to compel me to share them with my cyberspace amalgamation of family and friends. Which is exactly what happened on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001.
A friend of mine sent along a most thought provoking e-mail, which she entitled, ironically, “Some Thoughts for a Happy Day.” The theme of the composition focused on the need to “seize the moment and live life to the fullest.”
I read the essay and re-read it, realizing the electronic transmission perfectly matched my own personal life philosophy. Further, the words provided me with a valuable reminder that life is short—we all need to play hard and enjoy. So, I decided to tap into my lengthy list of e-mail addresses and forward the correspondence to family and friends. In the process I re-titled it, “Life as it Should be Lived”.
In one of those serendipitous moments, as I hit my computer’s “send” button that put my group mailing on its merry way, the phone rang. It was my husband urging me to turn on the television.
Within moments, my mind was reeling as I watched the incredulous turn of events play out in New York, Washington, and across a grassy field in Pennsylvania. Conflicting emotions of fear, anger, sorrow, and compassion pulsed through my body, while the relentless journalist’s queries of who, what, when, where and why tortured my writer’s brain.
The last time I visited the Big Apple I went to the World Trade Center. I sat at the restaurant in the rooftop Windows on the World Restaurant and felt as if I was, truly, on top of the world. It was a memorable evening that is forever captured in a group picture I have hanging on my office wall. Yet on that sunny September day, in a matter of moments, that picture and the people in it were all that remained of that magical evening.
Moving my glance from that celebratory photo to the devastating reality unfolding on TV, I felt suddenly isolated. I wanted, no needed, to reach out and touch another human being— to assure myself that no matter how shattering this incomprehensible event might be, my family and my friends were still alive and well—that my sense of normalcy was somehow going to survive.
At about that same moment, e-mail messages began filling my inbox, all referencing the same subject—“Life as It Should Be Lived.” The sender’s names reflected many of the family and friends to whom I had written, only moments earlier. As I opened their letters a flood of grief and fear filled my computer screen, along with phrases that spoke of the value of family, the importance of friendship.
At the same time, my phone began ringing—my husband, my daughter, my sister-in-law, my friends, fellow writers, people from New York to California—calling one after another—all responding to the same need to reach out and ensure the stability of their lives. We talked until our senses and sensibilities were somewhat soothed, then said loving good-byes, promising to talk more often and get together soon.
As I refocused on the day’s terrible events still unfolding, I once more returned to the e-mail that had so innocently started my morning. I read it yet again, this time with a new focus and understanding, lingering over the final line that read, “If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call, what would you say and why are you waiting?
For the countless numbers in those four airplanes, three office buildings and random city streets, that question is now irrelevant.
For the rest of us, perhaps of greater import than the question is how we shall decide to answer