Homes were damaged and destroyed and average folks tossed into a whirlwind of fear, shock,
anger, sadness and pain. Lives were lost, some quite young, and whatever the "plan" had been
for people living in the area, it changed at that moment.
On September 11th, 2001, thousands of lives were lost, tens of thousands directly affected,
and a nation thrown into shock. This wasn't an accident or natural disaster; it was a deliberate
action perpetrated by evil souls deluded into thinking they were acting in God's name. Just as
we remember that day nine years ago, the community in San Bruno will remember what
happened on that Thursday night in September and everyone will reflect on how their lives
were changed and how the "plan" is now different in some way.
There is a story in the gospels about a man who has a huge harvest and decides to tear his
silos down to build bigger ones to hold all his bounty. Jesus seems amused by his actions and
reminds his audience the man dies before the new silos are finished. Someone once told me,
"...man plans while God laughs."
A new program has made its debut on Showtime called "The Big C". It is about a teacher
who discovers she has terminal cancer and how this knowledge changes her. She doesn't tell
anyone. She changes priorities in her life, approaches her students and her job with new eyes.
She takes chances and makes choices she might have been afraid to make before. Her attitude
towards her husband and family takes on a whole different perspective. It's a classic take on
the question, "...if you knew you only had a week left to live, what would you do?"
When we are young, we think we are immortal. We take chances and foolish risks as we
see life as an endless series of events and possibilities. When I turned fifty, I went into a huge
depression realizing the majority of my life was over and I was on the downside of the curve.
For each person, the progression is different, but we all go through it. Unfortunately, I didn't
learn enough. It didn't hit me hard enough. I didn't come to appreciate all I had been given
and proceeded to make rash, reckless, and silly decisions more in tune with an adolescent
than a mature adult.
We are not guaranteed tomorrow. I don't want to get into a political screed on
September 11th and terrorism and Islam and an analysis on all the bad decisions we made as
a country after the events of that day. People went to work that day full of plans for the future.
People were just sitting down for dinner, or watching the first NFL game of the season, or just
arriving home from work in San Bruno when their world exploded in flames. If you had told
either group what was going to happen a day ahead of time, how do you think that knowledge
would have changed their "plans"? What about those who survived? Will these events change
how they view the future? Decisions which have been put on hold, abandoned, or ignored;
will they be revisited? There but for the grace of God go I; does this insight change how we
plan and act?
In my world time has stopped. It is as if it's a different dimension or as if I've gone
through a wormhole into a different space/time continuum. In this world, time has slowed
down to a crawl. In the real world, your world, your day is so crammed you wish you had
another hour or even an extra ten minutes. Here, anything which speeds up time is welcome.
You have planners and schedules and calendars and parent's meetings, school events, painting
and pulling weeds, and none of you get enough sleep. You put off until tomorrow anything
which doesn't need immediate attention. The things easiest to delay or push off until later are
usually the people in our lives. We put off the "date" night. We tell ourselves we will spend
special time with our children or loved ones eventually. We seek the path of least resistance;
and on that path people we love are willing to wait, so they do. Relationships require work,
friendships have to be maintained, and our loved ones need to be loved. Yet, there is always
"manana". The events in San Bruno and New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania,
remind us we aren't guaranteed tomorrow. I can tell you from personal experience, there is
nothing worse than taking your life and the people who love you for granted; and waking up to
have it all taken away by chance, accident, or your own foolish choices and sins. You suddenly
have crystal clear insight as to what is really important; but there isn't anything you can do
On the night of September 11th, 2001, I spent three hours talking politics and foreign
policy and asking why anyone would want to do this to us. I got into arguments. My patriotism
was questioned and cries of prejudice and bigotry were heard. My bosses called me up saying
this was a time for consolation and reflection and said I was committing career suicide. I was
wrong and they were right. It was a time to reflect and to remind those listening how elusive
the future really is. It was an opportunity to issue a wake-up call to all of us, especially me, to
live today; don't take anything for granted and be aware the end will come like a thief in the
night and we will never know when it will happen.
My heart and prayers go out to all those affected in San Bruno and on September 11th.
I am so thankful members of my family emerged shaken but unhurt. Please don't make the
mistake I made and put off until tomorrow the really important actions you should do today.
Kiss your wife, husband, or significant other. Hug and hold your children and loved ones. Tell
good friends they are loved and live with the guarantee nothing is guaranteed. I welcome
your comments. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org