Being in the Midwest, you don’t often have interactions with people who were directly affected by 9.11. But the most interesting person I have ever met was supposed to be giving a lecture at the Twin Towers early in the morning on 9.11. At the last minute, his lecture was postponed and his trip was delayed.
I know that there are a lot of stories like this out there, but this is the only time when I have directly come into contact with someone who has such a story. You often hear about people who were supposed to be at work but, for whatever reason, were running late or at a dental appointment. Stories like these make you stop and really ponder chance occurrences and fate. It makes you wonder about stepping left versus right and how that can truly make a difference. Life stops feeling like it’s under your control. Perhaps that is what causes us to reevaluate and treasure it.
I met this man during my bar-tending days. It was lunch time on 9.11, probably 2009/2010. He was sitting at the bar, enjoying his lunch. He was a friendly customer, conversing with me as I was doing various bar duties. We started talking about 9.11 because the television was showing a tribute to the survivors and victims. He told me that he was supposed to have been there when the planes hit. He said it very plainly and simply.
He sat there patiently and let me ask him the many questions that came to mind as he said this. I’m sure all of my questions were ones that he’s received before. Why were you supposed to be there? What caused the change of plans? We talked about fate and chance. I even asked him if it changed anything in his life, a bit of an invasive question I know. But he didn’t seem to mind. He said that it made him more grateful for his life and his family. His children were only 1 and 2 years old at the time of the attacks. I imagine the prospect of realizing that he may have missed out on their lives was staggering.
Typically when people talk about 9.11, they ask, “Where were you when it happened?” I’ve often wondered why people think it’s important to know where they were when memorable events or tragedies occur. Perhaps it’s because whatever we were doing in our own little lives pales in comparison to what was going on in the real world. Even though we weren’t there, it’s how we connect ourselves to the event. At any rate, I know where I was. It was my senior year in high school, first hour. I was sitting in a philosophy and religion class.
But, for this man, it was all about where he wasn’t and because he wasn’t there, all the things he gained. He regained his life, a life he didn’t even know that he could have lost before he woke up that morning. I’m sure that this is something all the people who were lucky enough to miss work or arrive late have considered.
Before he left the restaurant that day, I did ask him where he was when it happened. For some reason, I really wanted to know. He was at home with his kids.