A Nine-Eleven Survivor’s Perspective on 2020

Alan Zendell, September 12, 2020

I’ve never met Harry personally, but I intend to as soon as it’s safe to be with other people again. I have it on good authority that it will be worth the effort. My sister, who has considered him a dear friend for decades, describes Harry as a wonderful man with an indestructible positive spirit.

On September 11, 2001, the middle-aged husband and father of three headed for his office near the top of Tower #1 of the World Trade Center. As we learned later, to our great dismay, a flaw in the construction of the towers caused the elevator shafts to turn into blazing infernos when the planes hit. Harry was in an elevator when the flames turned his car into a fireball.

He survived, barely. He suffered through years of painful skin grafts to repair the burns he sustained – nearly his entire body had been on fire. But it wasn’t just the outside of his body that was injured. His vocal chords and lungs were also seriously damaged. Harry’s physical recovery was miraculous, but perhaps even more remarkable was that his spirit and loving attitude toward others survived intact. If it had been me, I don’t think I’d have been able to remain as positive as Harry.

Here’s what Harry wrote to his family and friends yesterday.

Every year on this day I receive with gratitude phone calls, emails and texts from friends and family expressing love and gratitude that I’m still here, that I survived the life-threatening injuries I suffered on 9/11. Every year I remember with sadness the dear friends and colleagues I lost that day, and with equal sadness think about the spouses, parents, children and other loved ones they and so many others left behind. Thank you to those of you who call, those who write, and those who just keep me in your thoughts. This day is important.

But this year is different. I wondered as 9/11 approached this year why it seemed so much less consequential than in years past. Today, as I reflected on the meaning of this day and its place in the life of our nation, I understood.

On 9/11, we lost almost 3,000. So far this year we have lost almost 200,000.

On 9/11 the cause was the hatred of a far-away terrorist group. This year the cause is the indifference or willful ignorance of our own leadership.

On 9/11 our leadership faced up to tragedy. This year, our leadership has tried to deny it.

On 9/11 our leadership united us. This year they have stoked division.

9/11 matters. This year matters more.

I honor the memory of all who died on 9/11. But the best way to honor them is to live in the present and build a better world for the loved ones they left behind, a world that is more compassionate, a world that is more concerned about our obligations to each other as children of the same god. We can try to do that in every aspect of our lives, but this year, we have a once every four-years opportunity to honor that obligation in a powerful way, and given what is at stake, almost a once in a lifetime opportunity. In 2016, so many said, “my vote doesn’t matter.”

It matters! Vote!


See why I can’t wait to meet Harry?

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1 Response to A Nine-Eleven Survivor’s Perspective on 2020

  1. William Kiehl says:

    Yes, please vote. It matters, now more than ever.

    Our nation is going through a very rough patch. We will get through it, but with terrible scars. 200,000 dead Americans and counting, and all this buffoon can talk about is how awful Joe Biden is. Really?

    If we can rid ourselves of Trump and get a vaccine, things will improve and dramatically.

    It’s getting late in the game for me, but I worry about my children and grandchildren. We must make our nation a better place for all of us.

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