How September 11 Brought My Life and Career into Focus

Yahoo! is asking Americans how September 11 changed them. Below is an account from a reader.

It was just a little before 9am on that sunny Tuesday morning of September 11. After Monday’s hectic schedule of job interviews, I was just waking up. Stumbling to the phone, I heard my friend Seth yelling excitedly for me to turn on my TV. He said something about America being attacked and not to go outside. Then he hung up.

When I turned on the television, for a moment, I thought I’d accidentally hit a movie channel. But within seconds, I realized that it wasn’t a movie at all. The tremendous, gaping hole in the north tower; the smoke billowing from uncontrolled flames licking from the building and a few office workers plummeting to the ground were riveting.

When the second plane hit the second tower, I knew, without a doubt, that Seth was right — we were actually under attack. Every network was broadcasting scenes of carnage, chaos and debris into millions of homes at that same moment — and every American was incensed that whoever did this would kill so many innocent civilians. Later, when we learned it was the brainchild of Osama bin Laden and his terrorist faction, Al-Qaeda, we demanded their deaths. How can a man so full of hate do so much damage to so many innocents?

As the hours unfolded, I witnessed brave first-responders going into the buildings and after they collapsed, into the rubble to help the wounded and, if necessary, extract the dead. Eventually, the searches ended and the cleanup of “Ground Zero” began.

Meanwhile, entertainers realized that America needed something to lighten its load. While Gilbert Gottfried is often credited as being the first comedian to bring hearty laughter back to audiences after 9/11, the World Wrestling Entertainment’s Smackdown! wrestling brand, performed just two days after the attack, brought thousands of fans together in the Compaq Center in Houston, Texas for the show. I remember a news reporter saying at the time, “No matter what your talent, right now is the time that America can use that. We just need to feel better about ourselves …”

Those words never left me. I thought, “If wrestlers and comedians can bring entertainment to people who are hurting or distraught, and make them feel better, then why can’t I do the same, as a writer? We’re all in this together, anyhow … no matter what the situation.” While I was already an established writer and columnist, I changed my style to become — hopefully — more humorous and insightful. That’s what I’ve done since then, all thanks to lessons learned ten years ago.

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