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by David Brock on September 11th, 2011

I’m a little surprised that I’m writing about 9/11.   It’s a big departure from my normal ramblings.  This morning, I had no intention of writing about it.  But I found myself remembering.

It’s one of those things many of us speak about–an event we remember for all our lives.  There are a handful that I always remember, this is one.  The memories are so vivid.

On the morning of 9/11/2001, I was at work in my office–the radio was on in the background.  I was catching up on things,  The night before, I had just returned from a two week business trip through Sub-Saharan Africa.  I had a lot to catch up on.  All of a sudden, I heard, “a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center.”  I turned on the TV and was consumed–as with everyone else watching, I was horrified and confused.

This morning I was remembering.  The memories of 10 years ago started it, but I thought more.  I spent much of my early business career in Manhattan.  The World Trade Center was a fixture in my life—both business and social.  At various points in time, I had offices in the towers.  I had customers there.  There were the meetings in the conference rooms at Windows on the World.  The bar and restaurant were great place to go, take newcomers, or just relax and look out over the city.

The towers seemed to be a fixture in my life.  From just about anywhere you could see them.  They became an unconscious anchoring point for me.

Then the tragedies of 9/11 happened.  We lost a few people we knew in the collapse of the towers.  The tragedies at the Pentagon, Flight 93, and the towers touched everyone.  Having spent the previous 2 weeks in Africa, I was deluged with queries from my new friends.  Many not knowing I lived hundreds of miles away asking how I was, if I was safe.  Many of my new Muslim friends expressing grief, wondering what Americans thought of them, asking what I thought.

We all got through it.

I remember my first trip back to Manhattan, a couple of months after 9/11.  I remember flying into Newark, looking out over Manhattan, for the first time seeing the “hole” in the skyline.  Driving into the city that morning, I was obsessed with the new skyline.  I kept looking at where the buildings should be, but all I saw was the “hole” in the skyline.

I still am in Manhattan frequently.  Every time I’m there, wherever I am, I somehow finding myself looking int the direction of lower Manhattan.  All I can see is the hole.  Even though the space is starting to be filled, for some reason, I just see the hole.

Ten years have passed, I think about what’s changed.  We still grieve about the events of that day, but I keep thinking about the hole.  One hopes for healing, but I still wonder about the hole for all of us.

I don’t believe it started with 9/11, I think the tragedies of the day and the symbolism of the towers are probably a convenient anchoring points.  But in reflecting, we seem to be less tolerant–of each other, of our differences, of similarities.  We seem to listen more poorly.  We are less open to new ideas or differences in perspectives.  We seem more fixed in our positions and less open to considering others.  We seem more reactionary.

Somehow there seems to be a hole in all our lives.  Our collective inabilities to listen, to respect and accept differences, to tolerate, to be open, to try to work together despite differences makes the hole even more vivid.  Just at the towers seemed to be an anchoring point in Manhattan, it seems many of us have lost our anchoring points–we’re left with the hole.

The hole won’t go away with new structures, because the hole is no longer about a piece of real estate.  The hole is a part of our societies, cultures, and carried with each of us.   The hole won’t go away because of the actions of governments, organizations, and businesses.

The solution to the hole really lies with each of us, individually.  It starts with listening, openness, respect, and tolerance.  It starts with respecting different point of view and opinions.  It starts with working to align ourselves and bridging those differences.  It is something each of us can do — unconditionally.

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