On 9/11, I was a manager for public housing complex in Muncie Indiana. As I walked into the office building, I noticed several of the staff in the conference room with the large screen TV playing a news alert. I heard the broadcaster say that the twin towers had been hit. As a midwesterner, I thought they meant the two large poles on the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago. My first thought was, “How in the world did a plane manage to hit those two poles?” Within seconds I realized the reality of what the broadcaster was saying. Like everyone else I took a seat and watched the horrifying events unfold. The buffer zone of being hundreds of miles away from the actual event deprived me of the opportunity to put my day on hold. Applicants for the public housing apartments were arriving for their appointments and I was expected to go through my day. I went to my office and used the Internet to pull up a news channel. By then the second tower had been hit and the Pentagon had been hit. I called my goddaughter who lived in East St. Louis and worked in St. Louis and told her to turn on the news and begged her to stay off of the bridge that crosses the Mississippi River. I told her that our nation was under attack and because St. Louis is a major city, there was no guarantee that it was not also on the terrorist list. I wondered if there was anything about Indianapolis that would make it be one of the targets? It wasn’t long before news of the plane going down in the fields of Pennsylvania added another layer to the tragedy. I have often felt guilty for not being more personally affected. I have no relatives or friends or even distant acquaintances that were among the victims. I never had to witness bodies falling or smell the death or see the destruction. I never had to attend a funeral or send flowers or comfort anyone. In the years since, I have watched many documentaries and movies and news reports in an attempt to grasp that day. For years I have said that I am going to drive to Shanksville, Pennsylvania to the memorial and then to New York City to Ground Zero and then to the Pentagon. Somehow I always thought that would make my apology for being so distant a little more real and to honor those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms I have on a day-to-day basis. When I write for 24K leadership there is usually supposed to be some sort of lesson to be learned or some nugget of wisdom to be offered, but I don’t think I know what that is just yet.
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