Did You Change Your Life After 9/11?

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Did you change life after 9/11?

By Deirdre McEachern
Dollars & Sense
Sunday, September 4, 2011

I remember exactly where I stood when I first got the news of the airplanes hitting the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. I was teaching a course called Working as a Team for EMC Corporation located in Framingham, Mass.

We had just taken a 10-minute coffee break when one of the attendees came back into the classroom and told us a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I assumed he meant a small plane like a Cessna had crashed into the world trade center in Boston, near Logan Airport. That seemed possible. He was quick to correct me that it was a large commercial passenger jet and it has crashed into the twin towers in New York.

The enormity of this news and the tension in his voice made all of us in the room immediately want more information. We did not have access to a TV or radio in the classroom so a few people used their cell phones to call someone who might. It was clear within a few minutes that something big and frightening was occurring out in the world while we were walled off in this training center. With the level of panic and distraction so intense (including my own) there was not going to be any more effective learning that morning. I decided to call off the remainder of the course and we all sped to our respective homes.

I drove straight to my future husband’s house — the person I most wanted to be with at that moment — and together we watched the horrors of the day unfold on CNN.

In the days that followed, there was continuing fear of more attacks. I worked in my office listening to the loud and warlike sound of Air Force fighter jet flyovers above my roof. Then one day I received a phone call from a flight attendant named Jennifer who worked for United Airlines. She was one of the few exceptionally brave employees who returned to work as soon as the FAA cleared the skies for air travel again. To her credit, though she was scared for her life, she donned her uniform and walked back on board. She later told me it was the most frightening thing she had ever done.

No one had any way of knowing if more hijackings were in the works. This courageous woman continued to work as a flight attendant for several more months. All the while, like so many of us, she was actively evaluating her life. Was she happy in her life? If not, what needed to change? On top of her list were a new career and a new relationship. We worked together to redesign her career and her life.

She eventually left the aviation industry and returned to school to pursue her MBA.

When 9/11 happened, did you find yourself re-evaluating your life? For so many of us, 9/11 was an unexpected wake-up call to take stock of what mattered to us — things that usually had nothing at all to do with money or materials goals. We asked ourselves if we were spending enough time with the people we loved, living the life we wanted and making the best use of our talents? Overall, many felt it was time to make changes.

9/11 was a national jolt, a confrontation with the realities of terrorism and along with it, the ugly truth for each of us of our human mortality — from any cause.

Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001? Do you remember what you were doing when you heard the news? In the days after the attack, did you promise yourself you would live differently going forward? Now that 10 years have passed, are you satisfied with the changes you have made or do you need to make more? This difficult anniversary is an opportunity to revisit the many lessons of 9/11. Not only the powerful lessons we all learned regarding community spirit, true heroism and national pride; but also the deeply personal lessons unique to each of us about love, legacy, connection and a meaningful life.

My blessings go out to those wonderful people, people just like you and me, who we lost on 9/11 and it goes out today to those remembering their loss 10 years ago.

Deirdre McEachern, MCC, is an internationally known life and career coach based in Kittery, Maine, and the author of “You Only Live Once: Create the Life You Want.” She welcomes your feedback and comments at www.vip-coaching.com.


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