Saturday, September 11, 2010

The souls of 9/11

Whenever the calendar gets close to 9/11 I find myself thinking about Sara Low, the flight attendant killed in the attacks whose story I did back then. I often wonder how her life might have turned out had fate not dealt her such a horrible blow. I can see her face in my mind as clearly as that of my best friend.

While I arrived in New York City to field produce the 9/11 anniversary two years later, I discovered my hotel room had a chilling view looking directly onto the land that once held the World Trade Center. The night before the anniversary I couldn't sleep, and took a walk down to the site. People were quietly standing around, some with lit candles, some praying, some just staring into the space from which thousands of souls departed. It was quiet, much too quiet for Manhattan, as if some sound barrier kept the city's never ending noise from intruding on the grief of those who were there.

I thought of Sara that night. I thought of her the next morning; when her name was read along with those of the other victims, it was like someone had slugged me in the gut. Firemen had set up a giant bell to be rung that morning. When I was offered the chance to pull the rope and ring it, I thought of Sara as the bell rang and its rich sound echoed off the tall buildings.

And I think of her today. Even though we never met.

It's easy to simply state the number of lives lost on 9/11. And with the potentially explosive events of the past few days, it's easy to turn our attention away from the memories of those who died that day.

But every number represented a life, unique and special in its own way.

I encourage you to take a moment today to pick one soul to remember. Go online and find a photo of one of the victims. Read the story of that person's life. Familiarize yourself with that person's face. Imagine that you've lost a friend.

Then don't forget that person. Take time to remember next year on 9/11.

In a business that spends too much time covering tragedy, it's important to understand the lives behind the numbers. Reporters often talk about victims getting "closure." It's important to realize that for many, achieving closure is impossible.

In those first weeks after the attacks, reporters and anchors showed more humanity than ever before. The tragedy allowed a brief window to be opened, offering a view of human beings not afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves.

We haven't seen that since. We've gone back to the jaded attitude, the tired concept of "if it bleeds, it leads."

Perhaps if we all pick one soul to remember today, we can remember that as news people it's acceptable to be human.


1 comment:

Forward said...

lovely piece. thanks.