Don’t hunt me down and shoot me, but I see 9/11 as a blessing in disguise. It helped us to remember our capacity for great things as humans. The loss, fear and anger we felt that day gave rise to something greater – compassion and community.
I lived in Manhattan at the time and was asleep when my radio alarm turned on. However, this morning I didn’t find the shock jock’s broadcast amusing. He talked about a plane hitting one of the twin towers. I thought, “This isn’t funny.” I got up, turned the radio off and the tv on. There it was – a pummel of smoke coming from one of the buildings. Did the pilot have a heart attack? Was there some sort of engine malfunction? I stared in disbelief and then horror when I saw the second plane hit the other tower. I immediately knew we were at war.

I dressed and headed to the American Red Cross by Lincoln Center, encountering a line wrapped around two buildings. I started toward Barnes & Noble for something to read when I noticed its gates were down. Then I saw that every other store visible was closed. I thought, “I don’t have any food in the house! This could last weeks or longer. I need to buy groceries while I still have the chance!”

I noticed an open supermarket around the corner. I shopped and walked out with eight bags of food. It was too much to carry on a subway ride to 157th street and cabs were scarce. Right then, a cab pulled up in front of me. A young couple exited and the woman said, “You look like you need this more than we do.” Another wave of disbelief washed over me. Who gives up a cab in NYC to someone else? For at least a year after, people were more kind, courteous and friendly, greeting each other with a smile and/or head nod. Then everything sped up and became even less connected than before.

In the midst of tragedy and loss, we show the beauty of humanity – compassion and community. Out of events like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Indian Ocean Tsunami and the Haitian earthquake came massive outpourings of community support. Unfortunately, those efforts later became blips on the screen as most of us quickly returned to our lives as if they never happened.

We need to take better care of each other, show compassion regularly and must never forget these experiences on a daily basis. That’s what “never” means. We shouldn’t forget the losses, but even more so our capacity for community and compassion. Otherwise it’s like saying that those still here don’t matter as much as those we lost. If we hang onto our humanity and share it with others, instead of returning to our tunnel vision lives, we offer a better and more long-lasting testament to those whose lives were lost than a lit up building.

Author's Bio: 

Eve Rojas, MSSW, went through a deeply disturbing period in her life that caused a major depression. Although still suffering from the condition resulting from her experience, Eve believes strongly in the Holy Spirit within her and the promises of God, which exist beyond life’s trauma and stress. Eve shares the knowledge and skills she continues to develop each day to help you learn to shine your light and claim your inner strength so you can better manage life's ups and downs.

Eve Rojas relies on discernment and faith to follow the path in front of her and touch the souls of others. Eve possesses a Master of Science in Social Work with expertise in Social Enterprise Management from Columbia University. She also graduated with honors from Yale University.