To the editor:
Sept. 11, 2001 is a day that none of us who lived through it will ever forget. In Washington D.C., that Tuesday morning started as a beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky. No humidity. Beautiful sunshine. Perfect weather.
As I walked to my car to drive to the U.S. Senate for work, I actually said to myself, “Today is a glorious day.”
Ninety minutes later, our country lost thousands of souls. Our country lost part of its soul. We lost part of our innocence. America was changed forever.
Thousands of Americans never got to witness the sun set on 9/11. The impact on our country remains incalculable.
Yet hundreds of millions of lucky Americans survived. Not only did we did get to see the sunset on 9/11, we lived to see the dawn of a new day on 9/12.
For those of us who survived, 9/11 was a horrific setback. Life knocked us down. But history now shows us that 9/12 represented the start of the comeback. The setback is the story of pain, of loss, of lessons learned. The comeback is about survival, growth, new life and optimism.
If you survive a crisis, keep breathing. Take it one breath at a time. One moment at a time. Eventually you will be able to take it one minute at a time, or one hour at a time, or one day at a time. Stay alive. Life will get better. At least until a crisis strikes again.
Today, 19 years after 9/11, America stands in crisis.
The global pandemic, 200,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., racial injustice, riots, a politically divided America with a horrible political climate – it feels to me that these awful times are once again changing us forever. l want to cry sometimes. I feel like I’ve been knocked down. Don’t you feel the same way?
The key for us all is to move through it. Pull ourselves off the ground and stand up tall. Embrace each new day with kindness, empathy, love and optimism – optimism that life will get better. Just keep breathing until it does.
Setbacks do not have to define us if we survive them. Survive the setback and shape the comeback. Make tomorrow better than today.
-Chris Yianilos, Alexandria