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On the eleventh of September, we remember those who gave their lives fifteen years ago because of an infamous attack of terror. Many of us can vividly recall where we were that day, what we were doing, and how it has affected us since.
You may already know this about me, or maybe you don't. 9/11 is also my birthday.
15 YEARS AGO...
On September 11, 2001, I went to school just like any other day. It was going to be great. I loved my classes (yep, I was that kid) and enjoyed seeing my friends and teachers, especially on my birthday.
I distinctly remember walking by one of my teachers before first period (this was high school if you haven't guessed yet). As I passed by, he exclaimed, 'Happy Birthday, Mike!'
"Thanks!" I replied with a grin that began to grow wider across my face.
This particular teacher was very good at remembering things like that about his students. It made it very apparent to everyone that he cared. The funny thing is, I can't even remember what that first period class was that I needed to get to.
Second period I remember though. I remember it like it was yesterday.
I found myself in Health Education. Looking back, it was kind of a random class, but one that everyone had to take. I suppose that's because the more experienced body of the adult population had assumed we were just wild and crazy kids looking for trouble.
About midway through the class, there was a loud knock at the door. Another teacher rushed in.
"A plane just hit the World Trade Center!" he exclaimed.
The room was a fairly chaotic mix of gasps and confusion. Our teacher, a short blonde woman with curly hair and oddly-shaped glasses shuffled to the TV in the corner of the room, rushed over to it, and turned it on.
We watched as a billow of smoke emanated profusely from the first tower. I couldn't believe that this was actually happening. There was talk of a small plane, like a tiny piper, that may have accidentally run into the tower. But no one really knew how badly the tower was damaged or how much worse the day would become.
A few moments later, a second plane hit the towers. This time, it was very clear that what we had witnessed only minutes beforehand was not an accident.
More gasps filled the room.
'Ding!' The bell began to ring for the next period, echoing through the corridor.
A deep feeling washed over me that I needed to get to the next class quickly, as though it was my only chance of finding out what had happened. I needed to know more.
As I scurried to next period, I saw the teacher in the hall again. His demeanor had changed completely. He was more sullen, slightly hunched as though the wind had been knocked out of him.
He turned to me as I walked by and said something I'll never forget, "I'm so sorry, Mike."
He didn't have anything to be sorry for, but we both knew that my life, all our lives were about to change forever.
TURNING TRAGEDY INTO PURPOSE
Having such a tragic day occur in our lifetime can be difficult for us to bear. I didn't lose anyone close to me, but I know those who did. I continue to meet people who were affected by the events of 9/11 even today.
What 9/11 means to me is this. Yes, in many ways, having a birthday on September 11th is a bit awkward to deal with. But the more time that passes and perspective that I gain, I realize that it also provides me with a reminder, a small consolation.
My birthday, perhaps more than for others, reminds me that my time is precious. My time is brief.
We all get bogged down now and again by the frustrations and struggles in our lives. My birthday reminds me that I need to let things go that I can't control and live my life to the fullest extent I can.
The events of 9/11 fundamentally reinforced in me a desire to help build worlds rather than see them fall. I'm not necessarily an architect because of that day, but the event reminds me I can bring positive change through design. I can realize new visions that will make tomorrow brighter for another generation.
Now, I understand that perhaps this story is too specific to my own life, but I wanted to share it with you because I truly believe it can help you gain perspective for your own.
Maybe right now you're struggling with your career, finances, family issues, or something else. Maybe you're trying to reach a goal that seems too far out of grasp.
I'm here to tell you that you can do whatever you want in your life and that you should not waste another moment on something that doesn't make you happy.
Remember that whatever your situation, you can make great things happen. Our time here is brief, so use it to do what will make you happy.