Two seemingly insignificant numbers still evoke traumatic and emotional memories after sixteen years. I would venture a guess that just about everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when the news broke. I could have been in the Pentagon that day. I worked there for almost a year and traveled back to the building frequently after my assignment was completed. The plane that struck the Pentagon hit the section of the building where many Dept. of the Army, my employer at the time, personnel worked. Instead I was at a conference in Orlando, Fl and my first thoughts were for the safety of my family at home. In our city, the Army and its supporting contractors are big business and would be a prime target for an enemy of our country. So in the middle of all of the questions and uncertainty surrounding the attack I was not with my loved ones.
After a couple of days, the investigation began to focus on Florida as a potential training location for the terrorists and I became concerned for my safety as well. Since all flights were grounded I couldn’t fly home; and I had to beg the rental car company to let me drive a car one way, but I eventually succeeded.
Thousands of people got up, dressed and went to work just like a normal day and never came home. Thousands more died trying to find and save those who were lost in the rubble. I found the following essay in a drawer; it seems appropriate for this day of remembrance.
WHAT WILL MATTER by Michael Josephson
Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.
Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear.
So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won’t matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.
It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.
Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.
So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought but what you built,
Not what you got but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.
What will matter is not your competence but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.
What will matter is not your memories but the memories of those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered by whom and for what.
Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.
It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.
Choose to live a life that matters.