9/11/2017 – I can’t believe it’s been 16 years since the tragic events on 9/11/2001american-airline-flight-11-crashes-north-tower, yet it still so fresh in my memories what happened that day. I’m sure I am not alone. For many, that was an unforgettable tragic event. For some, they were too young to remember, and the rest haven’t been born yet. I remember being awaken by a phone call from my sister, frantically and emotionally asking if I have seen the news.  My husband and I got up and immediately turned on the TV to CNN.  My husband and I were both horrified to see the devastation and seconds later saw the second plane crashed! Both our hearts sunk as we embraced each other. We were both emotional. We were both angry at what we were seeing on the screen.

What made this day even more memorable for me was, I started working for an aviation company just 6 months prior. I was their first HR Manager. I was also their Administrative Services Manager. I oversaw at least 40 satellite offices nationwide. Majority of our staff are pilots, flight attendants, and mechanics. Many of them are current/former commercial airline pilots.

Once I regained my composure, I told my husband to stay home with the children, called my mother and told her not to take the subway home. As the HR Manager, I felt the obligation to report to work. This was before smart phones or the ability to work from home as possible options.  Everything I needed to work were only accessible in my office. On my way to work, I called my staff from my cell phone to give them the option to stay home or report to work.

I went to work for moral support and helped in our call center. I met with the executives and reviewed our safety plans, ensured that our staff who were away from home due to work can call in to let us know that they are ok in case they can’t get a hold of their families.  We have employees in NY and the other affected areas.

I was a Girl Scout growing up. I also went through ROTC. I was also a HR Pro in an earthquake prone zone. I grew up learning about the importance of safety, preparedness, & survival. We go through drills, we have a checklist of necessities, emergency contact, etc. I implemented those same concepts at home. Once I knew it was safe to drive to work, I got ready to go.  My husband understood why I needed to be at work. He knew that is where I was needed the most. We knew that he and the kids will be safe at home. We had enough food and water to last us a month so we didn’t need to run to the store for any food, emergency kits, etc.

As I drove to work, it was weird to see all the planes grounded, the freeways empty. It was one of those days you wished for the typical SF Bay Area commute.  For someone who lived and worked next to the San Francisco International Airport, the next few days were just as eerie. I cried every time I passed by it. I cried every time I read or watched the news. I cried tears of joy with a sigh of relief every time we heard from staff across the globe and be able to share it with their loved ones.

I remember to be awaken at midnight to hear the sound of a plane passing by…and all I could say to my husband…YES! We’re flying again! It was a joyful day to drive to work, back to the traffic, noise, and flying planes.

After 9/11, many cancelled their flights. We didn’t! We had a planned family trip to Hawaii two months thereafter. Many told us that we were brave to continue with our plan when there was so much uncertainty. We said, so much of life is full of uncertainty. Why succumb to fear of what we don’t know? Why let the unknown keep us from enjoying ourselves? Yes, the airport experience was horrible because of all the changes and having to rechecked our luggage every step of the way. Other than that, our vacation in Hawaii was all worth it!

The horrific event on 9/11 is forever engrained in my mind and in my heart. Two years after the 9/11 event, I worked as the HR Generalist at San Francisco International Airport, one of the busiest airport in the world. I worked for a contractor with Homeland Security and we hired TSA passenger screeners and baggage handlers. After OJT, part of their graduation ceremony, they watched the footage from 9/11. The faces and names of the first responders who lost their lives were shown. I don’t know how many times we have shown this montage of videos with every new hire we had. I cried every time it played. It tugged my heart each time.

However grim that day was, I never lost faith in humanity, I never condemned any religion, especially Muslim. They too were victims on that day. 9/11 victims vary in religion, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. Many signed up to serve our country regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation after 9/11.  Why is it 16 years later, it seemed our country is more divided.

To remember those who lost their lives on 9/11, we must remain vigilant at the same time to never lose our heads. Courage is not just about killing, it is also about helping with whatever it takes, to keep the civility and not incite riots or civil unrest.  For me, we stand a better chance of survival and be able to move forward as a better and stronger nation if we work together in unity, cooperation, patience, use our collective strengths, skills, and intelligence to help one another. I think, if anything, the 9/11 event taught us to be there for each other, and together we can continue to overcome adversaries!

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