Thursday, September 11, 2014

911 & YLO

I was 26 years old.

Working at the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce directing a high school leadership development program and working hard on my master's degree in Conflict Resolution.

I organized a selection committee meeting at 7am that morning to determine who would be admitted into the current class and traveled from the board room to the break room to refresh our pot of coffee.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the television.

It was shortly after 9am and Matt Lauer and Katie Couric were broadcasting the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center Tower.

I remember vividly that I dropped my coffee mug in the sink.

I'd never seen anything like that in my life, not in the United States, not in New York City.

Immediately, I thought about my friends on the east coast, and then my parents, my brothers and sisters.  My God, what's happening?

And then, not long after that, a second plane hit and rumors of yet more planes at the Pentagon and a field...people screaming and jumping from burning buildings, rescue, emergency personnel rushing to the scene, losing their lives, hundreds fleeing the streets with ash, dust, soot, blood, tears and horror emblazoned on their faces, family members desperately trying to contact one another, and then later, posters of the missing wrapped around the city, vigils held to honor those who's lives were lost, lines and lines of people desperate to help waiting to donate their blood or provide their healthcare expertise, memorial concerts, everyone glued to their screens, pacing, waiting for more news, greater details, who did this?  How could this happen?

And in the end, a country of people united with a resolve to not let this horrifying tragedy diminish the spirit, the connection, the strength of what it means to be an American.

Since that time, I thought it apropos that my job was to direct a program called, "Youth Leadership Omaha," that brought together 40 high school students of diverse faiths, socio-economic backgrounds, sexual orientations, leadership skill sets, family origins, and to engage them in sharing their talents, hopes, dreams and skills with the community and each other.

Thirteen years later, I am Facebook friends with many graduates of that program and I stand humbled.  They are educators, social workers, doctoral candidates, actors, doctors, research scientists, attorneys, writers, ministers, parents, activists, and peace makers...and they are thriving. 

Personally, after receiving my master's degree in Conflict Resolution and mediating lots and lots of cases of difference, I find that the key to peace is choosing to be on the side that says, I'll never stop the dialogue until we find common ground.  We're more alike than we think.  Our purpose is to love.  And as long as there is breath, as long as there is a new generation, there is hope. 

And a resolve, to never forget.  To always be grateful for those who perished.  And to do our part to be peace makers in a world that needs it more than ever.

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