May Day Reflection

Sunday night I was running behind schedule. I was scrambling to finish laundry, pack, gather my diabetes supplies, and get everything together for a last minute business trip to New York. Then my phone chirped with a text message: “Turn on the news.”

I knew that I was traveling the next morning, and given the news I expected elevated security at the airport, so I stayed up late and evaluated everything that I had packed to try and limit any security issues I might have with all my diabetes accoutrements. So focused on the business of travel, I didn’t have time to get online and look at Twitter or Facebook until right before I stretched out with my cat in bed for a couple hours of sleep before getting up to go to the airport.

I was encouraged and comforted by some of the short status posts and tweets about the event. Many were hopeful for peace, for healing, and for the closing of a terrible chapter in our lives and nation’s history. At the same time, I saw many negative and passive-aggressive remarks that came across as almost a jubilation of hatred, and made my heart hurt for those lost. After Sunday night, I decided to let Facebook go for a few days. I honestly couldn’t handle the hatred and celebration of death that was overwhelming my news feed and inciting arguments, both amongst my friends and within myself.

I believe that things happen for a reason. I have faith, and allow myself to trust sometimes even when I cannot see the bigger picture of things. I had no plans of going to New York prior to a week ago, but then I got a call for a meeting and packed my bags, never imagining that I would be in the city 12 hours after news that the world had been waiting to hear for nearly a decade.

After my plane landed on Monday morning, I took a cab to my hotel, dropped off my bags, and made my way to Lower Manhattan and Ground Zero. I stood next to people who were cheering and waving American flags, and observed their transitions from previously defeated to recently victorious. I stood quietly next to people who were praying, remembering, and would always have a hole in their soul from what was taken from them one terrible Tuesday morning. I walked through St. Paul’s Chapel, and through the cemetery behind it nearest Ground Zero, imagining the many resting souls there who had shepherded to the other side those that had lost their way on September 11, 2001, just out of human sight.

It occurred to me that no matter what the news of the day was, the history and loss was still there and present. The death of a single terrorist while I was standing amid the headstones in a graveyard with a front row seat to the tragedy of 9/11 had as much effect on me as a cure for diabetes for those that have already been lost to the disease. That is to say, it didn’t really change much.

There are men and women from all different nationalities fighting for a better world right now, who are leaders, soldiers, and heralds of change, who realize that the reality of terrorism and injustice may always exist, but believe that it doesn’t have to keep anyone from the opportunity to achieve their dreams. The goal is to one day eliminate terror and violence from this world, but even if that never happens, they will at least have made positive changes in the quality of life for so many.

As a diabetes advocate, I am one of many fighting for a better world also, where the reality of diabetes may always exist, but it doesn’t have to keep anyone from achieving their dreams. Our goal is to one day eliminate diabetes from this world, but even if that never happens, we will at least make positive changes in the quality of life for those living with the disease.

In addition to a productive meeting and an enjoyable time with friends from all over the city, I wonder if that realization and appreciation might be the real reason that I was meant to be in New York on the day that I was.

The Cross at Ground Zero

The Cross at Ground Zero

5 comments

  1. What an incredible post, Martin. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings on this so honestly. I’m in the same boat on all of this, immediately following the news and now many days later. Lots of soul-searching going on these days by many. Like you, I am reflecting while trying to balance my “jubilation” on all of this. I do hope this generates some peace and unity, so that hopefully (just like with diabetes) we can prevent these tragedies and deaths from happening to some degree – even if we can’t ever eliminate this threat completely.

  2. The only reason I wasn’t in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001 was that I was running later than usual for work. By the time I was ready to leave for the subway, the North Tower had already been attacked, cutting off my primary route inbound. I had a possible alternate route, but our office manager suggested I just work from home that day. (As it turned out, many of my friends also found odd coincidences to keep them away from that area, that day.) The scariest parts of it all for me were watching the news and seeing what looked like the North Tower tipping over down the street I worked, making my way to The Other Half in New Jersey a few days later “before they shut down all transportation”, and — once we were allowed back in the area — seeing all the damage and the distinct gray dust, the inescapable smell of burning asbestos and burning bodies, the utility workers in hazmat suits (while we were in normal business attire), the preponderance of National Guardsmen with BFGs ready-to-fire, and the feeling that “they would return to finish bombing the area”. We felt on the brink of a Major War, and we made sure to check in with our loved ones both when we arrived at work and when we left for the day.

    Compared to that feeling, and the sense of breathing in the remains of persons whose loved ones would have nothing to bury, the death of a single individual a half a world away, ten years removed from the event, is barely a blip on my radar. Except that I’m afraid the government will use it to make The Fear return.

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