As we watch the various forms of remembrances brought forward in the media on the 10th anniversary of 9-11 I am once again remembering my own reactions and those of the people around me in Ottawa on that fateful day ten years ago. I recall the feelings of disbelief and then horror as I realized that this was not a movie and that there were real living human beings inside the buildings where the planes had crashed. The first wave of numbness as collective shock shook all our worlds. Then an immense sadness as I thought of the victims and their families and frantically searched my brain to recollect who I knew in New York and if they might have been close to this disaster.
That day was pretty much a blur but I remember just before falling asleep doing something I had not done in a very long time. I prayed. I am not sure to whom or what I prayed but it felt like the right thing to do. I prayed for everyone who had been touched by tragedy that they would find strength to live with what had happened and find some way to carry on through their incredible grief and tears. Those quiet prayers helped me sleep that night but I knew I needed to do more to begin to accept what had happened in my world on 9-11.
Surprisingly, even shockingly to me, a life-hardened agnostic, I once again thought of prayer. Not just for myself, but for others. Not just by myself but with others. The news was filled with words of fear, anger and revenge but they offered no comfort. I needed to find some peace, some serenity in the midst of the storm that was erupting. The only way I could do this was to be with others to share their sadness and their grief.
So when I heard that there would be a gathering on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on September 12 I felt that my first prayer had been answered. At noon I followed about 100,000 others to the Hill. There were a few short messages of condolence from politicians including the Prime Minister and then without any formal prayers from any religious leader, we stood quietly and silently prayed.
I don’t know what the others prayed for, to, or about, but I prayed for whatever goodness there was in the world to bring comfort to the victims and their families, and peace to the world.
It was a very emotional time for all of us but in those brief moments I connected with all the others on the Hill, with their thoughts and yes, even their innermost feelings. Anyone who was there on that day had to feel that connection to themselves and others. Most of whom they never knew and many who they will never meet again. It was quiet, and comfortable, and even in the midst of a world filled with chaos, serene.
Those are the things that I choose to remember from 9-11 inOttawathose many days and years ago. Especially those few fleeting minutes when deep in our sorrow we knew we were no longer alone. When despite our fears we knew that we had a community that could be sustained by love. When even in our darkest hours we could hold each other up until we could all stand again together. I hope we never forget 9-11. But even more I hope that we never forget 9-12 in Ottawa.
Mike Martin is an Ottawa-based freelance writer and workplace wellness consultant. He is the author of “Change the Things You Can” (Dealing with Difficult People)