(video content courtesy of StoryCorps)
That’s how many people were lost on this day, 10 years ago (may they rest in peace).
Numbers are clear, definite, exact. We rationalize them each day - as prices, as times, as the number of things we have to do, as anything you can imagine…
…but as a life?
When we hear that this many people were lost (the number is a total from New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, according to CNN), how can we begin to understand that? Each person counts as “one”, but it’s so much more than that. Each of them is a confluence of experiences, hopes, dreams, actions, thoughts, causes, effects, relationships, successes, failures, and just about anything else.
Each of them is a story, and each of those stories can not be reproduced in this vast existence of time that we call history.
Think about it, if only for a minute.
If each of those people were just 10 years old, then the world has lost close to 30,000 cumulative years of experience.
If each of them only knew 10 people, then almost 30,000 lives have been affected by this tragedy (not including the fallen).
Now the numbers begin to mean something more. Each is just a placeholder for something unfathomable. A life.
Each of those names, whether graven in stone, or ink, or secreted away in the dearest places in our hearts, is a litany against the storm that has come to our world, a note in the song that those that come after us will sing in years unseen - a melody so complex that to learn it would be a project undertaken over the course of a life.
A reminder that once, there was light in the world, and that it will always be here, waiting.
We have lost much, even if you haven’t lost anyone close to you. But out of that terrible loss we have managed to gain things that - while they may never make up for the presence of just one life, one moment shared with a loved one - we must also remember on this day.
Solidarity. Whatever your thoughts on politics, your beliefs about the world, for this one day we are all of one mind. Looking at the remembrances, seeing all those people coming out for the same purpose, reminds us that we are all connected in ways we cannot see even as we go about the business of living lives that become increasingly disparate from one another.
Awareness. The loss of even one life impacts us all. Each life never exists in a vacuum; those people knew and touched the lives of others, some of whom have become different people for the knowing of the fallen. And those people go out, changed, to touch the lives of those they meet, until the wave of social relationships crests on some far-flung shore and suddenly the world is filled with a people that look like themselves, but with new facets.
So when you go about your lives today, whether it be going through the motions or holding silent vigil, remember that as you think about this day, those people. This is only a fraction of their legacy. Though they are not with us anymore, their legacies can not ever be taken away, or lost. A part of them remains with us always, unseen, maybe even unnoticed - but it is now a part of all of us.