Not all that connects us is good . . .
Take today’s date, for instance, September 11, the darkest of all anniversaries but one that means something to us all.
The things that took place 11 years ago this morning will forever bind us together, in shock, in horror and in grief, the memories to remain fresh always, the time passing but the time not healing.
Here in our studio at OM HQ, we remember where we were that morning and, no matter where in the world you are, we’re certain that you’ll recall it too.
For Bettye Thompson, from Peoria, Illinois, the memories are all too vivid, for her daughter, Kirsten Christophe, found herself on the 104th floor in the World Trade Center’s South Tower when the horror began to unfold. It just so happened to be Kirsten’s first morning in her new job, as a lawyer in Manhattan, and, as such, it was a time of tremendous joy, hope and expectation. Kirsten, pictured above with her husband Charles and daughter Gretchen, left behind the happiest of families when she went to work on September 11, 2001. That she, like almost 3,000 others, never came home is almost to tragic to bear.
The reason that we’re writing about Kirsten is this: In recent times, Bettye – whose husband Bert died in 2004 – has begun to feel hatred in the air again. She says that prejudice is all around her and that the need to lash out and retaliate is one she is encountering more and more. Drawing divisions along ethnic, racial and religious lines is the thing that, she says, led to the darkest days in our country’s history. The spirit of togetherness and compassion that she experienced during the aftermath of 9/11, concentrating not on our differences but on the things we all have in common, is something she hopes can be rediscovered.
‘We, as Americans, must stand together against violence directed at innocent people,’ she says. ‘We ask that you find your own way to make peace with all of your neighbors, and help [to] spread love instead of evil.’
Here in Saunderstown, where all we do is designed to spread love and promote the spirit of compassion, togetherness and understanding, Bettye’s beliefs strike a certain chord. The anger that abounds is understandable. But the thing that makes us great – and the thing that can change our world for the better – are the qualities that came to the fore following that most devastating of all days . . .
The qualities that could be found here, in our studio in Rhode Island, in Peoria, where Bettye and Bert grieved for Kirsten and her family, and in Washington DC, in the White House. It was from there that, earlier this week, President Obama issued a Proclamation that echoes Bettye’s plea. You see, no matter where we are, or who we are, we are all connected.
In that Proclamation, the President said that ‘as we remember the victims, their families and the heroes who stood up during one of our country’s darkest moments, I invite all Americans to reclaim that abiding spirit of compassion by serving their communities in the days and weeks ahead. More than a decade later, the world we live in is forever changed. But as we mark the anniversary of September 11, we remember what remains the same: our character as a nation, our faith in one another and our legacy as a country strengthened by service and selflessness’.
There’s little that we can add to this, other than to underline that these things – service and selflessness, community, compassion and character – are what inspire our efforts and drive our work. We remember and reclaim that spirit and on this, a day for us all to think about such things and work out what is important, we hope that you will too.