We all clearly remember where we were on September 11, 2001. I was at a conference inside Disney World. We all gathered together in the hotel ballroom that morning as we watched in disbelief. Some got quiet, some cried, some questioned, some became angry.
Disney World immediately closed everything, theme parks, golf courses, restaurants. We were restricted all that day to the hotel. No one knew what was going to happen next. Was the park a potential target? It certainly fits the profile: lots of people, well-known public place that would hit at the heart of our country.
That evening, a few restaurants opened for onsite guests. We gathered a few people and took them out to one of Disney’s seafood restaurants. The talk around the table was muted by the scenes that have been burned into our memory.
After dinner, a few of us walked outside onto a dock facing the Seven Seas Lagoon. The Magic Kingdom was lit up, but there were no fireworks, no festive music, no people. As we stood there in silence, the person next to me just melted into tears. With the airports closed, how was she going to get home to her family? And how long was this lockdown going to last?
I did the only thing I could think of: I wrapped my arms around her and held her close. I could feel her body heaving up and down with her deep sobs of grief and loss. We all gathered around her, supporting her, feeling her loss and the loss for our country.
But then September 12 came, and hope arrived.
It arrived through the hard work, creativity, and community that sprung up. Everyone pitched in. Corporate big wigs, administrative personnel, it didn’t matter. There was no hierarchy, only helping hands.
Over the next couple of days, we organized people by geographic areas and rented minivans, sending them off in small groups to different parts of the country. We rented a large touring bus and sent over 20 people to one city. We drove people to bus and train stations so they could make their way home.
September 12th would not have happened without September 11th. A shepherd boy who grew up to be a king once wrote:
Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
It’s time for us to let go of our dark, hopeless night and embrace the rejoicing hope that has come in the morning.