What 9/11 Means to Me

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The morning of 9/11/2001, I was writing a paper in the Georgetown University library and my wife was hard at work in the Watergate Building. We had been in Washington, DC for a little over a year and loved the diversity of people, ideas, thoughts, and opportunity that the bursting intersection of Virginia, DC, and Maryland provided. The terrorism of that bright blue, sunny morning haughtily removed beautiful, innocent lives and sent the United States down a path to war that we are still pursuing 20 plus years later.


What 9/11 means to me has slowly solidified over the years.

Service to Society Matters – A Lot

The tragedy of 9/11 made everyone in the United States realize that service to others and to the broader United States society matters. When you serve others, you place your goals, ambitions, and time secondary to defending and upholding the values, ethics, and dreams of those that you serve. This sounds elegant, but the reality of service to others means time away from family, often low pay, little recognition, long hours, and difficult work. The outcome for these efforts represents safety, education, health, commerce, and growth for the United States. Bottom line: hard but worth it.


We Need a Wider Definition of First Responders

On 9/11 the United States remembers the military that rose to defend the nation; police, fire, and medical personnel that ran to danger; and transformed bystanders that rose to help in any way they could. We often forget that doctors and nurses cared for the injured, teachers that comforted and explained the events to students, neighbors that started non-profits to fill unmet needs, and construction personnel that cleared debris and rebuilt. The list of the “heroes” that responded, rebuilt, and returned the people of the United States to a more normal state is long and that’s awesome. Bottom line: first responders are those that help the injured return to normal, we need to remember them all.


Terrorism is Whenever We Feel Unsafe in A Place That Should Feel Safe

Terrorism returned to the shores of the United States on 9/11. Terrorism, a simple definition, is whenever you feel unsafe in a location where you should feel safe. In that sense, schools, workplaces, airports, government buildings, foreign nations, malls, and even our own homes have become places that we feel less comfortable. The key to fighting terrorism is recognizing and admitting that terrorism exists and then acting to reduce the chances of a terrorist’s success. Bottom line: terrorists rely on fear overcoming action and reason to be successful – action destroys a terrorist’s chance of success.


We Need to Act to Resolve Conflicts Before They Start to Damage the United States

The War of 1812, Pearl Harbor, and 9/11 were all instances when festering foreign problems came unannounced to our shores. Wars and conflicts come from misunderstanding, economic disparities, misunderstood cultural differences, and leaders who feel that death instead of discussion is the way to resolve disputes. A key element of helping reduce the chances of another 9/11 is that the United States needs to seek out disagreement, poor economic conditions, disease, dictators, and misunderstanding across the world to bring reason, health, safety, discussion, and economic success to the most challenged areas. Bottom line: engagement and not distance are the keys to solve our most dangerous problems.


We Need to Remember the Fallen as People, Not Numbers

Remembrance without appreciation of what the fallen represented as people endangers all that we need to keep in our hearts about 9/11. When we remember personal sacrifice as numbers, type of injury, and other numerical categories then we forget that the injured and killed were people, wives, husbands, children, and family members that brought joy, knowledge, teaching, love, and fun to others. Bottom Line: the most dangerous type of memory is one that recalls sacrifice and tragedy as analytical and not as personal – force yourself to learn and recall the good parts of those that perished.


If I want one thing for the future of 9/11 remembrances, I want people to be engaged with helping others in the United States.  I want people helping solve problems abroad, so those problems do not come to our shores.  I want people who fell in helping the United States reach those goals remembered as people and not as numbers.  The memory of 9/11 should always be hard because that means we are truly remembering the tragedy of the day.


Share Your Opinion – How Do You Remember 9/11?


About the blogger:

Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leaderand has published over 400 articles in over 200 publications on military veterans, career advancement, business, leadership, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics.  Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better. Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at the University of Minnesota – Carlson School of Management.  Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.  Follow Chad @CombatToCorp 


*Originally posted September 2019