Where was I on that morning 17 years ago? I was headed to California for a routine business meeting. My children that day were in an unusually good mood for a Tuesday morning school day when I woke them early to say good bye. The sky was brilliant blue without a cloud to be seen. Traffic getting to the airport was nonexistent. The line through security was uncharacteristically short. No one was in the two seats next to me. The headline in the AJC heralded my hero Michael Jordan buying the Washington basketball team. A perfect day to fly across the country.
On 9/11/2001, my plane lifted off from Atlanta at just before 8 am bound for L.A. That was the approximately the same time as the two flights from Boston took off that ended up colliding into the World Trade Center. My plane was safely diverted to Chicago as the FTA scrambled to ground all flights in the U.S. I remember the shock of the other passengers in my plane when we discovered what had happened, the eerie silence in O’Hare as they evacuated us off the plane, the stunned looks on everyone’s faces as we waited for our bags (no one really cared about their bags), the grief we all felt for our fellow travelers that day when we learned off the crash in Pennsylvania, and the desire of everyone to connect with loved ones.
I eventually made it to my sister’s house in the Chicago suburbs (she had only moved north a few months earlier and I had to scramble to find her address). Four days later I was able to share a ride home with other stranded travelers — one trying to get home to Louisville and the other to Nashville. Strangers were family that week and everyone just wanted to go home.
I left home on September 11 for an ordinary nondescript business trip and safely returned with a moderately interesting tale to tell my friends and family. Three thousand innocent people did not have that good fortune. For the next several months the New York Times published a short bio on everyone who perished that day. I made a point of reading each bio. I was taken by the number of extraordinary lives that perished on a day that was supposed to be ordinary. They deserved to go home to their families as well but fate dealt them a different harsher hand.
Remember. Cherish the moment. Even the seemingly ordinary nondescript ones. We never know what fate has in store for us in the next sweep of the second hand.