Every year on September 11, many of us pause to remember the tragic events of 2001, when our world changed forever. Like most who were alive then, I remember exactly where I was when I heard the devastating news about the attack.
Just the day before, I’d been in Manhattan. I'd attended a PETA gala that weekend, where I exchanged smiles with Paul McCartney. 😃 The sky was bright blue with the fluffiest, puffiest white clouds dancing in the sky. I was scheduled to fly home around 3 p.m. that afternoon to my then-home state of Indiana. There was a plane delay due to some mechanical issues, and after a 4-hour delay, we were redirected to fly right over the Twin Towers, something I’d never done before, and something I’d never do again.
The next morning, I drove to my downtown Bloomington, Ind., office in time for a conference call about a fundraising campaign I was leading for our local animal shelter. A few minutes into the conversation, one of my colleagues on the call said, "Wait, a plane just hit the World Trade Center." We all got off the phone within 30 seconds. I raced over to the closest TV I could think of, at my parents’ house, about 7 minutes away, to see what was going on.
Within a brief period of time, both Towers collapsed, and we learned of two other tragic plane crashes, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. Thousands of innocent lives were lost that day, and countless heroes emerged, with incredible feats of bravery and life-saving efforts.
Flash forward 22 years. Less than 3 months ago I moved right across the Hudson River from the awe-inspiring Freedom Tower. Known officially as One World Trade Center, it symbolizes resilience and remembrance in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. It stands as a powerful 1,776-foot beacon of hope and unity, honoring the Twin Towers.
A few nights ago I saw the 9/11 beams, called Tribute in Light, for the first time in person. They are dramatic and glow volumes. And just Saturday, I took the PATH train to the World Trade Center stop for the first time. The trip was about a 10-minute ride within cast iron tunnels 100-feet below the Hudson River (talk about yet another engineering marvel!).
Upon arrival, I emerged in the bright white spaceship-like vibe of The Oculus, a mall, transportation hub and welcome space for WTC visitors. Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and completed in 2016, its exterior design resembles a dove leaving a child's hands.
Beyond the somber reflection, 9/11 serves as a powerful reminder of the fragility, unpredictability and preciousness of life. It urges us to take a step back, assess our own journey and consider the importance of doing work we are good at, enjoy and blossom in.
While it doesn’t take a massive tragedy to prompt us to reflect on life, it’s an opportunity we can all take as a way of honoring those who don’t have the chance to do so anymore. To get you started, I invite you to ponder these five 9/11 lessons ...
1. The Preciousness of Life
The events of September 11, 2001, were a shock to the entire world. It was a day that reminded us all that life can change dramatically in a matter of moments. Still today, first responders and civilians succumb to cancers caused by the carcinogens left in the wake of the attacks. The tragedy underscores the importance of cherishing the time we have and making the most of it.
2. Career Change: Embracing the Urgency
One of the most profound takeaways from 9/11 is the realization that life is too short to spend it doing work that doesn't fulfill us. Like in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the wake of the attacks, many people found themselves reassessing their career choices. They began to question whether they were truly happy in their roles and whether they were making a meaningful impact on the world.
This reflection often led to career changes, as people sought out professions that aligned better with their passions and talents. They embraced the feeling they didn’t want to squander the precious time they have been given. They decided to use their skills and passions to contribute positively to the world.
3. Mindfulness: Living in the Present
Mindfulness is a practice that encourages us to be fully present in the moment, appreciating each experience as it comes. The events of 9/11 remind us that life is fleeting and unpredictable, making mindfulness all the more important.
By incorporating mindfulness into our daily lives, we can better appreciate the small joys, the relationships we have and the work we do. It helps us stay grounded and focused on what truly matters. When we are mindful, we are more likely to make intentional and creative choices that align with our values and passions, ultimately leading to a more fulfilling career and life.
4. Career Coaching: Guiding the Way
In the aftermath of 9/11, many people turned to career coaching to help them explore new possibilities and set meaningful career goals. Career coaches provide valuable guidance, accountability and support to help individuals navigate their career transitions successfully. They also help identify strengths, passions and values, as well as strategic support toward landing work that aligns with one’s authentic self.
5. Honoring Those We've Lost: Making The World Better
As we remember 9/11 and life's challenges and fragilities, we can strive to make the world a better place. Each of us possesses unique talents and skills that can contribute to positive change. By doing work we are good at, enjoy and thrive in, we maximize our impact on the world.
Whether it's through our professions, volunteer work or creative endeavors, we have the power to make a difference. The world needs our hard work and talents to address pressing issues, promote understanding and foster unity.
Conclusion: Embracing The Lessons Of 9/11
The events of September 11, 2001, serve as a constant reminder of the preciousness of life and the urgency to live it fully. In the face of tragedy, many found the courage to pursue careers that brought them fulfillment and purpose.
It's incumbent upon us to remember today, and not just today, all the lives cut short instantly, all the heroes, the leadership shown by so many, all the kindness and compassion that swelled after the tragedy (that we should make every effort to embrace and maintain). We owe it to ourselves and the world to create a life that lets our talents shine in work that matters and that contributes positively to the experience of others.
P.S. A visit to The 9/11 Memorial & Museum is a must.
Trie Angeleva LOVES helping people Reimagine Monday. A mindful Dream-Job Career Coach, she's a proud adopted-dog mom, former CIO and COO, travel-happy yogi and founder of The Love Monday Method. She developed and taught Career Success Preparation for The Media School at Indiana University, where she taught 21 classes. Trie has two Master's degrees, six coaching certifications and a certificate in Executive Leadership from Cornell University. Follow her on instagram at @reimaginemonday for tips and strategies on how to land work you love and thrive personally and professionally.
If you're stuck in YOUR dream-job search, Trie's got you covered! For recent and soon-to-be college students, she's got a free checklist you will LOVE. For pros in their prime, who need a little clarity figuring out what to do when in their search, Trie has a short, sweet and super succinct free roadmap that maps out all the steps to take in what order. Best wishes and reach out with any questions.