20 Years Ago Today


September, 2001, was a tumultuous month for my family. We’d sold our Orange County condo, the only home our children had ever known, and on Labor Day moved into a rented townhouse in Burbank, California. The next day I would begin teaching filmmaking at the L.A. Film Studies Center, in the shadow of the iconic Warner Brothers water tower.

The heart of the school was the Media Room with its curtain-cloth couches and theater-sized TV. It was there that the students coffeed each morning. The screen was always on, usually playing someone’s favorite movie. But for some reason, when I walked in on September 11th it was fixed on the New York World Trade Center. A newscaster was recapping the tragic airliner “accident” that had just occurred. But then, as we watched, unable to process what we were seeing, a second jet crashed into the other tower. And then, like a special effect from one of the movies we studied, the towers fell.

Four days later, my wife and I celebrated our anniversary at a restaurant overlooking the smoggy bedspread of the San Fernando Valley. In another four days, my wife’s father would pass away suddenly and unexpectedly.

Nothing seemed certain anymore. Before 9/11 we’d fallen, as people always do, into merely living. But 9/11 reminded us, as death always does, that life must not be taken for granted. By 9/12 we were remembering what life was for again.

We mustn’t forget 9/11, but neither must we live there. 9/11 was about death. 9/12 is about life. To live in 9/11 is to honor the killers who carved the date into our hearts, to focus, like them, on revenge and on eliminating “all of our enemies.” But enemies can never be completely eliminated because the very act of eliminating enemies always creates new ones. Always. It’s a hideously efficient birthing process.

And now, twenty years later, we find ourselves in an eerily familiar situation. Even while the Taliban and a reemerging Al Qaeda retake Afghanistan; and even while other ideological extremists battle for ruthless control over multiple regions–an invisible killer stalks every person on the planet. But now, just as then, we must strive to be the offspring of 9/12, not 9/11, to be about life, not death…

To remember what life is for again.

“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” 

~Deuteronomy 30:19

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Quips and Quotes and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

67 Responses to 20 Years Ago Today

  1. Pingback: 20 Years Ago This Week — Mitch Teemley – A Blog About Healing From PTSD

  2. This is so good, I had to reblog it. Choose LIFE, indeed!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. 9-11 for me is about choosing love over fear.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Amen!

    A young friend alerted us to the news, which I watched with a heating pad against my right side. Shingles. The onset of 20 years of fibromyalgia.

    Liked by 2 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      So it has other associations for you, as well, Joy. Praying, my friend.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’d been accompanying a Bosnian woman to prenatal visits, mainly to keep an eye on her two older children, and would be going with her to the birth of the new one (mainly to help with language). But a call to a nurse said not to be around her until the blisters all dried up. They finally did, so I got in on Denis’s birth October 2. I always remember how old his is!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Mya says:

    That is so true. I’m sorry about your father-in-law. Even though that was 20 years ago it could seem like yesterday. I was talking to my best friend watching the news when 9/11 happened. Cyndi and I just hashed out that horrible morning yesterday. Remembering part of the conversation being should we get the kids from school…it was a scary time. I indeed choose life also.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. I have not watched or listened to the names being read one-by-one of the people who perished on 9/11 for several years. Not because my heart is not broken about their senseless deaths and the grief their families have, but because these readings are like opening up sympathy cards sent to you when your loved one died 20 years ago and bubbling-up all the sorrow and weeping again. We must move on, and doing so does not mean we are not sympathetic. I agree, why give the enemy who took us down that day any joy as they listen to those names and see the tears. I can’t understand why we do this.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. clcouch123 says:

    Sorry to hear about the death of your wife’s father. Thank you, overall, for speaking to our heads as well as our hearts.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Gina Cash says:

    Wise words, Mitch. Thanks for this.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. An important reminder, Mitch. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Manu says:

    Well said Mitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Amen, amen! You have wisely summed up what anyone experiencing any sort of grief must do to not get stuck in it, “Choose life.”

    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)

    Liked by 2 people

  12. numrhood says:

    deuteronomy 55:44
    for the rain come down
    so shall my word
    for you shall go out with joy
    instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree
    cast my burden upon the lord
    i will pray daily
    45 years ago
    on the 13th

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Very timely. We just read that section of Deuteronomy in our weekly Torah portion last week.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. atimetoshare.me says:

    So full of truth, Mitch. We do need to remember 9/11 as a day of mourning, but out of the ashes patriotism was reborn – if only for a short time. Events like this should be a reminder that we must also be vigilant and aware of what’s going on in our world, so we aren’t caught off guard again.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. quiall says:

    Brilliantly said and incredibly heartfelt.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Pingback: 20 Years Ago This Week – Uncoffined

  17. So true.  We must remember and learn from 9/11, not fixate on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Mayank says:

    Life is a wonderful gift. 9/11 reminds us of that!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Rocky says:

    Twenty years ago this week, I was in Hong Kong for 3 days of meetings with colleagues from around the world. After a second day of meetings on Tuesday, we, as a group, went out to dinner. I arrived back in my hotel about 9:20 pm and turned on CNN International for some news on what was happening around the world. The talking heads were babbling on about a plane hitting the north tower of the WTC and I watched live as the second plane flew into the south tower. What was supposed to be a 4 day stay, turned into a 3 week adventure as I worked to get a flight out and try to do my job from 13 hours away. On the plus side, I and 6 others had an entire 747 to ourselves for the ride back home when the FAA finally opened international travel.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Hetty Eliot says:

    Can’t even believe it’s twenty years, feels like yesterday. And yet so many kids and even young adults know nothing about it. I hope this anniversary is an opportunity to learn.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. leendadll says:

    I don’t have the same “attachment” as most people. By the time I heard about, both towers had already collapsed. I didn’t have any emotional attachment to NY and was not surprised we’d been attacked on our own land. It’s weird to be an outsider to a collective trauma.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. rwfrohlich says:

    “Choose life” is the only option.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I read an awesome book about those tragic horrors, also watched a movie. But I didn’t finish the book and someone stole it from the library so I didn’t get to finish. It was just about various Religious leaders coming out to Speak about the event and offer words of kindness. It’s so lovely 🥰 Sorry about the trauma of watching it happen, I think it occurred a month before my birth.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. M.B. Henry says:

    ❤ I like how you found a good message in the darkness, one that fits today just as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. K.L. Hale says:

    Mitch, this is beautiful. Although I reminisce about the tragedy, as it was then I learned exactly what was true evil, I focus on the living~💚 I’m sorry you experienced the loss of your father-in-law during that time. What heavy hearts all at once.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Beautiful post. We do have to turn to life and taste it’s glory at every moment we can.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Mitch, as usual, your wisdom has brought this horrific experience of 9/11 into proper perspective. It is as beautiful as it is wise. I’ve used one of your paragraphs for today’s blog on White Hair Grace, the one about remembering that life is for living. I was diagnosed with shingles this week and that paragraph hit home. Thank you for always bringing deep truths before us!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Pingback: Into the Unknown | Mitch Teemley

  29. Yes, we must choose life and hope that all humans believe in a better world.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Ann Coleman says:

    That was so well said, Mitch. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Very trying times indeed, and unfortunately, they still are.

    On another note, You and I could have been neighbors. I grew up and lived my life in Pasadena until I was 36. Small world. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  32. I remember seeing it on the news and saying, “This can’t be happening, here!” It got so much worse before it got better.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. SLIMJIM says:

    Wow you use to live in Southern California too. Good tribute

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s