I got a lesson today in resilience and perseverance.
Like most other people in the U.S., if not the world, September 11th still brings me sometimes unbearable sorrow. I replay the events of the day, the images, emotions, with the same immediacy as if it happened yesterday. Just like with any traumatic experience in our lives, this day has been exceptionally tough to reconcile much less embrace and move on from. For the most part, I am able to keep those still raw emotions below the surface, but it takes very little for them to rise up to the surface.
This afternoon, I was fortunate enough to be listening to the radio, specifically to the program “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio. Their lead story was of a group of physically disabled Veterans who mark 9/11every year by climbing Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. I know very little about rock climbing. I imagine, though, that it is challenging for anyone, particularly for someone who has lost an arm, or both legs, or an eye. Yet here were these young men scaling a rock face a thousand feet off the ground, relying only on the strength of the rope, the ability of their co-climbers, and their own individual courage, proving to themselves and the world that there is life after physical loss. It made me appreciate the fact that I have my arms and hands to perform my healing work, legs to more independently move through this world, and eyes & ears to see & hear the smiles and laughter of my children.
Beyond this “simple” act of climbing Half Dome, however, these wounded warriors had a deeper message to share. They wish to “celebrate the triumph [of the human spirit] over 9/11.”
So much was lost to so many of us that tragic day, be it family, friends, colleagues, or the loss of our individual and collective innocence. The veterans making this annual pilgrimage and climb wish to do their part to help restore our faith and belief not just in ourselves, but in life itself. Of anyone who could be granted permission to wallow in misery and self pity, these men would be them. Instead they choose to be heroic. They choose to be an example to others on how to recover from that loss and how to move on. They choose to be the light that we may all follow out of our own darkness of continued grief. They again choose to volunteer their lives to the service of others.
By the end of the story, I felt noticeably lighter and happier. Replacing my grief was gratitude. Gratitude towards those veterans who served and continue to serve us. Gratitude that I did not have to endure the unbearable pain of losing a loved one that day. Gratitude that I may learn again the resilience of the Human Spirit. And gratitude that I may learn another lesson in love.
The scars left by that day will always be with us. May they be a reminder of how we wish to live our lives, in Love, in Community, and in Peace.