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Never Forget.

Never Forget.

I forgot. I am embarrassed to admit that I did not remember it was September 11th 2015 until 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

I was in my car driving to a meeting and tuned into a talk radio station that was encouraging listeners to call in with their stories and remembrances. I nearly had to pull the car over to regain my composure when I realized I had forgotten the thing I along with millions of others had solemnly vowed to never forget 14 years ago.

I contemplated how this could have happened. I woke that morning, never turned on the television, headed off to work and went quickly from one meeting to another. I have gotten in the habit of keeping the car radio off in order to remain focused and peaceful on the road. It seemed like just another day. Just like September 11, 2001 had seemed like just another day until it wasn’t.

It was midday before any mention of the tragedy crossed my consciousness. I was so grateful I had turned on the radio and the stories of others brought me back into the reality of the anniversary. Hearing the recollections brought the day back into clear view. I remembered.

I spent the rest of the day compensating for my lapse. I made a point to mention the anniversary of the attack on our country to various people, watched hours of programming on the history channel, and spent some time with my 14-year-old son recalling where we were that day.

We were living in Northern Virginia and a family member was traveling by train up the east coast for a visit. Once the attacks were underway most all forms of transportation came to a stop and we had to travel several hours to pick up our guest. She was terrified and shaken and we were grateful our family member was safe, when so many others trying to locate their friends and family were dealing with the reality that they would not be reunited. My story is not remarkable in anyway, other than the fact that it happened to me and is my tether to the day. My teenage son does not remember the events of that day first hand but he can tell you our story.

That’s what happens when we share a collective moment particularly a tragedy. Our individual stories create the tapestry of our collective grief.

Most weeks in this space I write about our local community and the issues we face together. We have our own sorrows and victories that are unique to Southwest Florida. But sometimes we must widen that lens on community and expand our support. We must support both our national and global community from a local perspective. When I had the opportunity to visit the 9/11 Memorial for the first time last year I realized the great role philanthropy could contribute to memorializing and curating our collective experiences.

September 11th is an anniversary, but not my only chance to remember. Never forgetting spans more than one day. We just have to keep telling our stories. If you have a story to share, please do at [email protected]

Sarah Owen
Sarah Owen

Sarah Owen, President & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, leads a passionate and diverse team dedicated to driving regional change for the common good. The Foundation is committed to engaging the community in conversations and action that creates sustainable positive change and provides the funding to make those changes a reality. More