On the 31st August 2013, Lesley, my wife and soulmate, retired after 35 years teaching in secondary schools. Two days later, as planned, we set off for a magical celebratory holiday, taking in New York, California and Oregon. Our trip became known as the ‘Freedom Trail’.
While on the Freedom Trail, I journaled every day and ended each entry with a leadership moment/lesson. Over the coming weeks, I will share those lessons.
September 11, 2001, is a date vividly etched in many peoples’ minds. That awful day I was at work. I remember an urgent summons to the Press Office, where live coverage of the events played on their television. We watched in abject horror as the second plane flew towards the World Trade Centre. I recall staring in utter disbelief at what then unfolded. Those events left an indelible mark. I vowed one day to visit ‘Ground Zero’ to pay respect to victims, survivors, and those that gave herculean efforts in the days and weeks that followed.
We ended up visiting ‘Ground Zero’ in 2005, as part of our 25th-anniversary celebrations. It was a sombre, eerily quiet place though filled with people. Endless queues of people viewing the scene of this outrageous act of terrorism paid respect, each in their own ways. The whole occasion deeply moved us.
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As part of the planning for the Freedom Trail, we agreed to visit the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. The site transformation from the earlier visit stunned us. The serenity of the new trees and fountains, the symbolism of the Survivor Tree, and the horror depicted in the striking images, sounds, and materials in the 9/11 Memorial Center held us spell-bound.
I absorbed stories of individual and collective heroism, of desperate struggles to help and of sadness and despair. The experience was powerful and moving, one which every sentient being should experience, at least once in a lifetime.
Walking away from the Monument that day, I reflected that, in times of crisis, it is amazing how leaders will appear from the most unexpected of places. There are stories aplenty at the National September 11 Monument and Museum to support that view. While a memorial to a deadly event, you will find the peace and serenity, the stories and images, and the examples of resolute human spirit, courage, sacrifice and joy uplifting.
Leaders share and sacrifice … and show they care!