Twelve years ago on this very day, our nation as we knew it changed forever.
For me, September 11th, 2001, started just like any other day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky over Brewer High School as I thought about a four-way cross country meet we had that afternoon. We had high expectations coming into that season, which ultimately ended in an Eastern Maine Class A championship.
Then, shortly after 9 a.m., everything changed forever.
I was sitting in second-period math class when our principal came over the intercom. The words he spoke shook us to the point of silence: “Two planes have hit the World Trade Center in New York.”
At first, we didn’t know what to believe. We knew this was no accident, since both towers were hit. Everything else that happened that day – especially cross country – was extremely irrelevant. Nobody wanted to be doing anything, minus being with their families. Needless to say, our meet was postponed, but a few of us got in a short run before rightfully heading home.
A lot has changed in the 12 years since those two planes hit the World Trade Center, and another struck the Pentagon and another crashed in western Pennsylvania. Had it not been for the passengers of the final flight mentioned – United Airlines Flight 93 – that aircraft may have reached one of two targets, the White House or the Capitol Building.
Needless to say, an unspeakable tragedy like this puts things in perspective for all of us, including those in my Les Mills brethren. That was showcased at a Quarterly Workshop in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., about 50 miles from where the tragedy occurred, on the 10th anniversary of the attacks two years ago.
Flying to New York, security was understandably high. Once I got to Penn Station to catch my train from Manhattan to Poughkeepsie, there were bomb-sniffing dogs everywhere. I had never seen Penn Station like this.
The workshop was a Mega Quarterly, so international presenters were there, including Susan Renata and Sarah Robinson. With it being the 10th anniversary of September 11th, we were highly anticipating a moving moment as one tribe.
Then, at 8:46 a.m., the exact time that American Airlines Flight 11 struck the north tower, Susan Renata gave one of the most emotional and uplifting speeches I have ever seen at any sporting event.
She spoke of the importance of us being one tribe, no matter our ethnic backgrounds, sexual preferences or religious beliefs. I could see the emotion in her eyes and in everyone else’s around me. There wasn’t a dry eye among the 400-plus instructors in that room. Susan was choking up as she spoke to our tribe. The feeling of all of us standing together as one was really moving.
Earlier that year, a friend of mine who I consider a brother – he was the best man in my wedding – were sitting in Hooters enjoying our last night in San Diego when the news flashed on the TV. Osama Bin Laden had been killed. The establishment erupted in cheers, and there admittedly was a tad bit of apprehension among us, since we had a cross-country flight back to Maine the next night. But that little bit of news brought strangers together, as one.
The unspeakable tragedy of September 11th will never be forgotten. Those of us in New England made it through the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this year, the most catastrophic attack on U.S. soil since since that tragic day 12 years ago.
But if there’s one thing we can take from those two events, they brought this country closer together. Robert Kraft said it perfectly after the New England Patriots triumphed in Super Bowl XXXVI: “We are all Patriots.” As I reflect on that day, I choose not to remember the sadness, tears, crumbling of buildings and explosions. One of my Facebook friends who is a fellow Les Mills instructor said it perfectly when he wrote: I don’t want to remember and perpetuate the crumbling noise, the screams, the crying, the fear, the anxiety, the deaths. Instead I want to remember the day when people forgot about every other social, cultural, emotional and spiritual barrier, and were simply kind to one another, regardless of differences. That post hit the nail right on the head. It brought us closer together.
To the dedicated members of our armed forces, God bless you for keeping this country free and thanks for all that you do for us in making the ultimate sacrifice. If it wasn’t for you folks, we at Les Mills wouldn’t have the freedom to teach our classes.
We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail. We are USA strong, and Boston Strong.