There are a two days every year that I take some time on my train ride and think about the big picture. I think about how fragile life is and how in an instant it can all change. One of those days is September 11th. I first became aware of the events taking place while I was on the train and people's cell phones began ringing. It was strange, like a scene from a movie. First one, then another, then 5, then 10, all ringing with news that something was happening at the World Trade center. I remember sitting on the train and overhearing that a small plane had hit the tower. I guess I'd learn more once I got into the office, I thought. Almost always, on September 11th, I'm on a train at the two times that the planes hit, 8:46 am and 9:03 am, and I always stop and close my eyes and pause to remember.
Today is the other day that I stop and remember. On December 7th, 1993, a man who had no business being on a rush hour train home to Long Island, and a man who certainly had no business possessing a gun, waited about a half hour after the train had departed Penn Station and then, in a ruthless, emotionless and calculated manner, got up and started firing into the seats. Six New Yorkers were killed and 19 were injured on a train ride home. Commuters who were probably doing the same things that I see commuters do every day. Reading newspapers, books, magazines, sleeping, answering email, deleting email, listening to music, making to-do lists, talking on the phone, texting, browsing, meditating, snoring. Commuting. And then, in the short time it takes a train to travel from one station to the next, it all stopped, and the lives of those men and women and their families we're never the same. It made no effing sense whatsoever, and yet, it happened.
So on this day every year, I look around the train at the same people that usually make me so miserable on a daily basis, the loud cell phone users and the shopping trophy wives with their seat hogging Bloomie's bags and the self righteous teens with their feet up and the people eating smelly food and spilling drinks, and I say whatever. Today is not the day. Today is the day that we are all one family in this rumbling tin can we call home for two hours every day. Because no matter how mind numbing and boring a daily commute is, no matter how much you may hate that person sitting across from you, every now and then the normalcy of life, and the routine of arriving home safely at the end of another day, is a gift.