9/11 a spiritual awakening in real time

Part of a series in tribute to the 10th anniversary of 9/11

“Grief discriminates against no one. It kills. Maims. And cripples. It is the ashes from which the phoenix rises, and the mettle of rebirth. It returns life to the living dead. It teaches that there is nothing absolutely true or untrue. It assures the living that we know nothing for certain. It humbles. It shrouds. It blackens. It enlightens.

 “Grief will make a new person out of you, if it doesn’t kill you in the making.”

The term, a spiritual awakening, sounds so pristine, doesn’t it? At least to those who’ve never been through one and seen the carnage first-hand. A real spiritual awakening is blood, bone and gooey entrails—up close and personal.

And grief is a spiritual awakening of mind-bending proportions. It’s full of contradictions and paradoxes that threaten our sanity for a while.

September 11th, 2001, was a wake-up call for us as a country, but for those who were personally affected it was a day of true spiritual awakening. The survivors were forever transformed. Life for them would never be the same again. There was no negotiating with it. No way back to the halcyon days of pre-9/11. Worlds were destroyed. The rubble was vast. The concept of life ever becoming normal again was laughable because it was so inconceivable.

The most poignant interview I saw in those days and weeks after 9/11 was Connie Chung’s interview with the CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, who lost nearly 700 employees when they were trapped on 101st to 105th floors of Tower One. He, alone survived, because that morning, he’d taken his son to his first day of kindergarten.

To the untrained eye, Lutnick is obviously distraught but he is still able to articulate his feelings and the events that happened. What it isn’t so evident, except to those of us who’ve been there, is that, although clearly in shock, he is transcendent.

Watching this interview, I witnessed a spiritual awakening in real time. Clearly, he knew he was part of something larger than himself. Any concerns for himself were totally diminished in the face of the greater losses of those 700 families. He is humbled by the way that his remaining employees pulled together. He is lifted up and carried by it. I would even venture to guess that this became the crucial reason that he went on, not just to save his company, but to rebuild it with a new vision that enabled him to take care of the 700 families who lost loved ones that day.

Absolutely raw and intimate, this interview captures the rarest of moments, when a human being shares the true face of grief.


Cantor Families Memorial
Cantor Relief Fund
On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, & 9/11: A Story of Loss & Renewal 

Copyright 2011 Stephanie Ericsson