9/11: What It Now Means To Me

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” This quote from Marcus Aurelius summarizes my take away from the 9/11 ceremony in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. We arrived at the National Park a little after 7:00 am, the dew was still on the grass and the crisp morning air was still chilly. After a short walk through the muddy “parking lot” and a shuttle bus ride, we made it to the ceremony. We went through security conducted by the Secret Service, then collected our equipment and were off to report amongst the White House Press Pool.

The view was like no other. You can look out for miles at the green hills and wild flowers. Looking over this beautiful valley made me think. These brave 44 that we were remembering that day, sacrificed their own lives so that the rest of us can enjoy views like this, so that we can all one day look out over an impeccable view and say thanks. Thanks for this opportunity, thanks for my family, thanks for my friends, thanks for the air we breathe. I realized life is like a view. It’s amazing, beautiful, and breathtaking, but sometimes we need to make sacrifices. Sometimes there’s tragedy and heartbreak. However, with time and help from others, it can return to the beautiful view it once was. Standing at the top of the hill and looking down filled me with a great sense of tranquility. The view is peaceful and powerful at the same time.

Shanksville is a momentous place for people to gather and appreciate the bravery and courage of those 44 people. Future generations will be able to come to this incredible place and express their gratitude. To think this was the last place those 44 brave people saw before hate and evil took their lives. To be able to share that with those heroes is an honor.

I am beyond blessed to have been given this opportunity. To be able to speak to the 44th PA Governor, Mr. Schweiker; the USS Somerset captain, Stewart Bateshansky; and the president of the families, Gordon Felt was a surreal experience. Being in the presence of the families who lost their loved ones was a privilege in and of itself. Proud. They carry the pride of knowing they had a hero in their family, a selfless being, who sacrificed their own lives in order to save others, to save strangers. This was an unforgettable experience that will resonate with me for the rest of my life. It reminded me “…of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”