Do you remember where you were 11 years ago on September 11, 2001? I was on an airplane. In hindsight, not the best place to be.
You see, my grandpa is a huge Chicago Cubs fan. One day we were talking baseball and I said “We should go to Wrigley sometime for a game.”
Since he was pretty frugal and, to my knowledge, had only been on an airplane one other time in his life (to my wedding in Alaska), I expected some resistance. “Too expensive,” he said.
“What if I found us a deal?” I asked. That got his interest, probably because his instinct for a deal was second only to his instinct to spend nothing whatsoever. I asked him how much he’d be willing to spend on tickets to a game. He thought about it and said it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so he’d be willing to spend up to $25 per seat so we could get really good seats.
I thought that was a fair price, assuming we could find a time machine that would transport us back to 1950s Chicago, so I told him I would handle it.
I bought the tickets (see above) from a season ticket holder for $250, booked our airfare and lined up a hotel. I told him I was able find a good deal, so I would cover the costs, but he insisted on giving me $28 for his ticket (the face amount printed on each ticket). A few weeks later we were on a plane to Chicago. We landed at O’Hare and boarded the ‘L’ to take us into town.
While on the train, the passenger across from us got a call on his cell phone. When he hung up he told us “That was my wife. She said a plane just hit the World Trade Center.”
The picture in my mind was of a Cessna getting off course and hitting one of the towers, so we didn’t really think that much more about it. When we got into town we hailed a cab and realized that it was much more than a small plane. The driver had the radio on and the announcer was saying that both towers had been hit by commercial airplanes and that unconfirmed reports were coming in that there were other planes in the air that were not responding and possibly heading for Washington, D.C.
We got to our hotel and no rooms were available because no one was checking out, so we walked around the corner to a restaurant to grab some breakfast. Several televisions were on, but the tables facing them were full, so we took a seat over in the corner. A loud gasp alerted us when the first building fell.
I tried to call my wife, but the circuits were jammed. I finally got through later that morning and let her know that we were ok. The games were obviously cancelled and all flights were grounded. There wasn’t a rental car anywhere to be found in the city and several people in our hotel actually went to car dealerships and bought cars so they could get home.
Each day we would walk to the rental car office and wait in line in hopes that there would a car. By the time we got one, our two day trip had turned into five and we came home to a much different world than the one we had left just a few days earlier.
Thousands of people had died senselessly, our country would be in two different wars within a short period of time and the events of that Tuesday in September would have a profound impact on the world for years to come.
The time we have in this life is exceedingly short. You never know when a terrible tragedy, a frightening diagnosis or an unforeseen circumstance is going to come along and make it even shorter. As you think back to that day eleven years ago, use it as a reminder to be intentional with each day that you’re given.