You may have read my story of living in New York during 9/11 and how I would have been in the World Trade Center at noon that day to take the Path train to Newark, NJ. I’ve never been so happy to see folks come to work early as I was when the terrorists showed up around 9am. Little has been said of how their early morning antics avoided a lot of lost lives. Most New Yorkers are just boarding the trains to come to work at 9am and if the hit was one hour later, the impact would have been magnitudes worse.
About 3000 died as a result of 9/11 and the cry has been to Never Forget. Each anniversary there’s solemn ceremonies to remember that tragedy with someone ringing bells and reading off all the names.
Fast forward to 2020. To date, we have had the equivalent of a 9/11 in March, April, May, June, July, and August – times 10. Multiply 60 9/11s and you get 180,000 dead thanks to COVID-19. Yet, the collective sorrow of a country who’s lost so many people doesn’t seem to be taking root. Sure, if you’ve had a loved one, friend or relative die, it hits home, but, for the most part, I sense we would rather not respond to the COVID dead with collective sorrow because we know each of us could be in that number if the wrong wind blows our way.
There was nothing like walking the streets of Manhattan after 9/11 and experiencing the overwhelming weight of sorrow hanging in the air. Everyone was crying. Missing person posters were plastered everywhere. Small bands were walking the streets playing patriotic songs. Fire stations became grieving centers for folks to express their sympathy to the fire fighters who were left. Armed guards strapped AK-47s on the shoulders. The streets were empty of tourist and business people leaving only those who live there which is surprisingly very few. Those were tough days.
I chatted with a guy early in the coronavirus days and we tried our best to prepare ourselves for a period of sadness. As this week ends, and like a football team piling on, there was my friend Master Blaster; the Black Panther Chadwick Boseman; NBA star Cliff Robinson; Chester gospel singing legend Bernard Pinder; the drama surrounding Kenosha; a murder on the Chester streets, and whatever else hits the headlines, timelines, and breaking news.
And then there’s the issue of 180,000 dead in 6-months with the prospect of almost just as many more to come before the end of the year.
I’ll be curious to see if there will be 9/11 remembrances this year. If so, it will only serve to temporarily take our mind off the new tragedy staring us right between our eyes today.
Imagine that, using one tragedy to take your mind off another.