Updated on 09.10.11

A Few Brief Thoughts on 9/11

Trent Hamm

Ten years ago today, I arrived at work without knowing anything of what was going on in New York and Washington. One of my coworkers told me about it (there was still some genuine confusion as to what was going on, so he thought there were planes also headed to crash into the White House) and I thought he was pulling my leg, as he often did.

I actually worked normally for an hour, but I did notice that none of my coworkers were anywhere to be found. I shrugged it off for a while until I tried to check cnn.com for the news – and it wouldn’t come up. Neither would several other news sites. Eventually, I did find a site that confirmed what was going on.

Like a lot of other Americans, I spent much of that day watching the news coverage in shock. How could this happen here? What happens now?

That day (and the events afterward) taught me four real lessons.

You can’t predict the future
Very few people saw 9/11 coming. It changed the lives of almost all of us in some way or another, either due to the incident itself or due to the actions taken in the aftermath.

One very good friend of mine has served multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, as has one of my best friends from my childhood, and both have had effects on their children, their spouses, and their friends. Many other people have had far deeper connections than that, losing family members and loved ones due to the events resulting from that fateful day.

The other consequences are less severe, but present. Airport security immediately comes to mind.

9/11 is just one strong example of how you can’t predict the future. It’s never the smooth ride you envision it to be.

You can, however, prepare for it
Simply put, you can’t predict the future. The best thing you can do is put yourself in a position to handle the widest range of things the future can throw at you.

This means having a healthy emergency fund. This means having a skill set that’s useful in a wide variety of situations. This means having enough of a handle on your financial situation that a job loss wouldn’t be devastating in the short term. This means having adequate life insurance and, if you’re in a good financial position, long term care insurance. This means having a great circle of friends and business acquaintances.

Be prepared for whatever may come.

The person across from you isn’t really all that different than you
The people I disagree with the most politically today are the same people I sat there with on 9/11, with all of us feeling socked in the gut by what had happened.

Those people want a bright future for everyone, just as I do. They want a safe future for everyone, just as I do.

Just because we believe in different paths to get there doesn’t mean that the other person is stupid or wrong. It just means we need to set aside our disagreements and actually have a rational conversation about it.

There is no winner here except us. If we keep playing the “my team” versus “your team” game, no one wins. If we can put it aside and actually try to solve the problem, everyone wins.

This is true in every aspect of life, not just politics or business. Almost always, the person opposite you is pretty similar to you. They have some things that they believe in. They have a goal they want to achieve. The end result of achieving that goal, to them, isn’t all that much different than the end result of you achieving your goal.

Keep that in mind the next time you’re upset at someone who doesn’t seem to agree with you. What’s their goal? What do they really want?

There is no better day than today to reach out and take action
Since you can never be sure what tomorrow will bring, today is the day to start taking positive actions.

Get in touch with that old friend you disagree with. Cancel a few frivolous bills and start building up an emergency fund. Come up with a debt repayment plan. Decide where you want to be with your career, then start getting the education and connections you need to get there.

These are the steps to take to ensure a brighter tomorrow, and today is the day to take them.

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  1. krantcents says:

    The attack reminded us that we are vulnerable! This is our Pearl harbor. I agree preparation helps for disasters and the unknown.

  2. Peggy says:

    It’s also important to note that during the chaos of that morning, a lot of people were reporting hearing “explosions”. (not to mention the last second of Kevin Cosgrove’s phonecall)

    But the official story put forth was that the burning hot fire melted the steel beams. People still on the phones, and in stairwells, and out on the ground surely should have been the consistency of liquid jello if that were true.

    Did the terrorist also include bombs on the plane?

    Not sure, but the “official story” as to why the towers came down still leaves questions.

    Sad, sad day :-(

  3. AnnJo says:

    The preparations you describe are financially important, but for people faced with evacuating a building, coping with transportation or power shut-downs, an earthquake, or many other emergencies, a small supply kit at the office, in the car and at home could be far more immediately important.

    A decent pair of walking shoes and socks, some bottled water, a small flashlight and radio, a few dust-masks, protective gloves, a rain poncho, some high-energy snacks, a map that shows alternative routes to get to or from home, some cash, and a supply of any needed medications, could make a world of difference in any number of scenarios, or even save your life or someone else’s.

  4. kristine says:

    The Red Cross has bug-out bags with emergency equipment/supplies/water/food for 3 days. Costs about 70 bucks- you can buy them on their site.

    My dad lost his best friend on 9-11- our fire chief- a first responder. I watched him carry the coffin past his 5 young kids. The only thing about this great country I found utterly distasteful, was that after the event, the gov assigned monetary “worth” to each of the lives lost, to compensate the families. Not every man was equal. I get it- it’s the way insurance companies work. But in the eyes of a democratic government- all the citizens should be equal.

  5. deRuiter says:

    Dear Kristine #4 Evey American citizen’s vote is equal in value (except some of the dead in Chicago who aparently get to vote multiple times in each election) but everyone’s earning power is not equal due to choices made and paths chosen. The dish washer’s family from the restaurant Windows On The World at the top of the Trade Center got a smaller settlement than the family of the manager of the Restaurant. The heavy hitters at Cantor Fitgerald’s families got larger settlements because the traders had larger earning potential. A Fire Chief got a generous settlement, but not what a hedge fund manager’s family would get. You’re confusing one’s worth as a citizen with one’s worth as an earner. Don’t go blaming insurance companies who had nothing to do with this fund for the victims, and which was handed out after great thought by a master in charge of the fund. Insurance companies had nothing to do with this compensation fund. How about some poor schlub who worked at the Trade Center but was killed in a car wreck on the way to work and never got to the Towers? His family would have gotten nothing. Also we are not a democratic government, we are a republic.

  6. Roberta says:

    Trent – I would respectfully disagree with your statement that “the person across from you isn’t all that different from you”. There are millions of people all around the world who hate me and everything that I believe in and stand for as an American – among them the freedom to worship or not as I choose, the right to partipate in my elected government, the freedom to speak my mind, the freedom of the press, and many others too numerous to mention. Also, as a woman, I am particularly sensitive to various issues around choices such as to marry or not, have children or not, to decide for myself what kind of life I will have. I even have the freedom to drive – something other women around the world cannot take for granted.
    I lost friends and coworkers at the Pentagon, and I think the people who murdered them do think very differently from me. I don’t want to murder people I don’t know because they don’t believe the same things I do.

  7. kristine says:

    de ruiter- I did not blame insurance companies. I was making the distinction that the gov is NOT an insurance comapny, and as thus, should not treat the citizens as insurance clients.

    Yes, I know we are a republic. But we pride ourselves on having democratic ideals within that framework.

    Earning potential…we are a socially mobile society. To give the dishwasher’s family less money says that “once a dishwasher, always a dishwasher”. And a lot of those stockbrokers would likely now be unemployed, or making a lot less than they used to. Treating the families as though their social and income tier was frozen for life is contrary to the idea that anyone can be upwardly mobile, yet another ideal we prize as a nation.

    In any case, you can see how it feels if you had both widows in the room, with their kids, looked at one and said- you get X, and you get Y. Then look at the kids faces, and explain why one daddy was worth less. A government should not behave like an insurance company. People have the right to buy their own insurnace. This should have been a flat stipend that was awarded as a civiian/ citizen casualty.

  8. AnnJo says:

    I appreciate Trent’s desire to rekindle the sense of unity that seemed briefly to prevail after 9/11, but this statement goes too far:

    “Just because we believe in different paths to get there doesn’t mean that the other person is stupid or wrong. It just means we need to set aside our disagreements and actually have a rational conversation about it.”

    Rational conversations are great, but they just don’t actually solve all disagreements. Sometimes people really are “stupid or wrong” and sometimes no matter how bright, they arrive at different conclusions, have different goals and values or are willing to use different means to get there. Setting “our disagreements” aside about what is important, or how to accomplish it is not really a solution.

  9. almost there says:

    I am one of the few people in this country that slept through the events of 9/1. I remember hearing the news as I pulled into my driveway that a plane had hit the WTC as I turned off the car and went in to sleep from a 12 hour shift and 1.5 hour commute (I thought to myself it was a small plane). I awoke and left for work at 4:30 pm MT and wondered why lots of my fellow commuters were crying in their cars. I then turned on the radio and found out.

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