We all remember where we were when we got the news of the attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.
But I’ve been thinking about a different question. What do people remember about September 10th?
I have one small memory of the day. I was coming home from work, driving on the 10 freeway in Los Angeles, listening to a radio show about the stock market.
“The market is sitting on its hands,” a commentator was saying, suggesting that investors were taking a wait-and-see approach before they made a major move.
They didn’t have to wait long, and then they saw plenty.
The next day the Dow lost 20 percent of its value.
The stock market probably wasn’t the only entity “sitting on its hands” on that now seemingly idyllic September 10th. A day destined to live in non-infamy, just like December 6th, 1941.
But here we are, more than a dozen years later. And how many of us are still sitting on our hands, taking a wait-and-see attitude, just like the market on September 10, 2001?
The world rewards proactivity. In nature, as in human affairs, coasting is frowned upon; as the expression goes, we can only coast one way.
The scientific term for the phenomenon of things breaking down inexorably, over time, is entropy. The classic definition of entropy is that if you trained a camera on a brick building for 200 years, the building would eventually turn to dust. But if you could train another camera on a pile of dust for 200 years, under no circumstances would it become a brick building.
9/11 certainly knocked the entropy out of all of us. We stopped sitting on our hands. We stopped coasting. Most of us became far more appreciative of the people we loved, suddenly conscious of how quickly they could be taken from us.
And then time passed, and human nature being what it is, most of us resumed the position of entropy, of coasting, of not appreciating where we are, what we have, or whom we are with.
As a world, we’ve become inured to sudden violence, sudden loss, and sudden death. Not much surprises us.
Inevitably, there will always be more 9/11s of different size and scope, but sad to say, we haven’t seen our last senseless loss.
But there’s always a day before 9/11, or before December 7th, or before any day that lives in infamy. In other words, every day. While any day could be a September 11th, the reality is that every day is a September 10th.
As Billy Joel wrote, “These are the days to hang onto. We won’t, although we want to.”
And if history is any guide, we have no business sitting on our hands.
Not even for a single day.