Expert Blog Compelling advice, stories, and thought-provoking perspectives straight from YourTango's lineup of Experts to you

Tuesday's Earthquake: The Kindness of Strangers

Self

I remember Tuesday morning September 11th, 2001 as if it were yesterday.

I remember Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, 2001 as if it happened yesterday. The sky was crisp and clear, and the weather was unbelievably humid free. I was seeing a therapy client at my office in downtown Washington, D.C., and my colleague noticed a plane flying too low (it went on to crash into The Pentagon).  I learned of the attacks when, between sessions, a distraught client left a message on my office line just as the first of the twin towers was hit. I raced home to my 3-month-old daughter, and my husband biked home from the State Department, where he worked. Before doing so, I knocked on all the closed doors in my office, interrupted the various therapy sessions, (a major taboo in my field) told my colleagues what had happened, and said I thought we should evacuate. Tragically, the client I met with just before the attacks left my office only to learn that she lost an immediate family member who was working in the south tower.

When I was sitting in a downtown municipal building just before 2 p.m. on Tuesday (it turns out Washington, D.C., is requiring all social workers be fingerprinted) and the floors started rumbling as the walls began shaking like crazy, I was certain it was a bomb. Sept. 11 is ingrained in my consciousness, where it will likely remain. I ran hysterically outside along with only a few others (who I assume were also waiting for fingerprinting appointments) fearing the building would explode and crumble any second. Most people smiled, chatted and took their time.

When I made it to the plaza and many outside seemed relatively calm, I felt somewhat embarrassed about my speedy, stressed reaction. I traded stories with strangers about our experiences as everyone tried, and failed, to use their cell phones. One woman said she was in a meeting with her boss and wanted to be sure that his voice would not be the last one she heard, so she ran, too!

Driving home I wove through CNN cameras filming the crowds near Union Station and was struck by how calmly and politely we all drove. I parked mid-journey and tried to find my husband in the crowds outside his evacuated office building on I Street -- a displaced Circulator bus drver helped me look. With no email or cell reception, I eventually gave up and headed home.

As the various parallels between the moment I was experiencing and 9/11 hit me -- the gorgeous weather, the fear, the universally lost cell phone reception, the common urge to connect with strangers, the total chaos, the crazy traffic in which everyone drove respectfully -- I was overwhelmed with gratitude for how kind people are to one another in a crisis. I felt incredibly lucky to be alive. I picked up my now 10-year-old daughter, along with her 8-year-old sister, at their soccer camp, hugged them with joy, and could not wait to get home. 

Follow Elisabeth on twitter @elisjoy and click here to learn more.

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.

Author
Expert

Expert advice

If you keep finding yourself in heartbreaking, dead end relationships, listen up.
Several key behaviors stand out in order to help couples create a healthy relationship.
It seems like you can't do anything right.

Explore YourTango