9/11 happened. Two days after my birthday. I was still a young doctor in training. I was eager and on my way. Then, tragedy. Not my personal tragedy, but such tragedy all around me that it felt horrifyingly personal. The following week was split between the hospital and consoling and helping families in the search for their loved ones (who were never found). Nights were about people. Lots and lots of people. There were dinners, gatherings, get-togethers and endless talking. Every night, people congregated in different groups and the bond was strong and feverish and necessary between us -- we just wanted to know we were all still alive. We needed some kind of confirmation. We needed to appreciate life and somehow, none of us wanted to do that alone.
It was Fashion Week then, as it was during this year, and I remember that a fashionista friend of mine was sunk deep in sadness. We all were, dealing with the multiple layers of grief, fear, anxiety and emotional pain. I remember that she kept questioning her purpose in life. For my part, I was running from the hospital, trying to escape just a bit from the tortured people who were engulfed in the tragedy -- the firemen, the MTA workers, the first responders. Every day for a brief moment, it felt like a small gift to just talk about something as simple as clothing. I sought out my friend for this purpose, to help bring us both to the surface for a moment. Matching colors and discussing materials helped us feel like we were living in the world again -- a world without respirators, electrocardiograms, injury, sickness, grief. It was an escape for both of us and something I cherished. She had a role in my healing, just by reminding me that something as simple as a dress could make me smile. I was afraid I was going to forget how.
This was at a time in my life when the people I knew were, as they say, "up and coming," just like I was. We were all working really hard to make a name for ourselves and we all had drive and ambition and, in the wake of 9/11, a new profound realization that life was precious. I think that colored many of our missions as we moved forward. We all came out of that time, simply because time passes, but we would never forget how life can change in a second, and how precious it all is. Many of those people that touched my life during that period have become spectacular in their own lives: people who went on to be involved in Emmy award-winning television shows, people who won Tony awards, people who became famous fashion designers, people who rose up to run companies and become executives. People who changed, and continue to change, the world. If you are reading this, you know who you are. You did it! We did it. We each found our niche and our purpose in life, and many of us became exactly who we wanted to be. In some strange way, 9/11 played a grim but inevitable part in everything that has happened since.
In the past week, I lived through another two days after my birthday, and another Fashion Week. It's been 13 years since the world changed in an instant, and may we remember, in some way, every day, not just on 9/11, that every day we have here on earth together is important, beautiful, and worth living with passion. May every day be a day to thrive, to grow, and to continue to live, until that inevitable and unpredictable day comes to each of us, when we are no more. I say it's perfectly okay, even necessary, to kick off your shoes sometimes. Or don't. A smile, a laugh, the feel of grass underfoot, or even the annoying pain of high heels and a tight-but-fabulous dress, can remind you that you are alive, and that it's beautiful.