What follows is an email I wrote to friends and family on 9/13/2001 after arriving home safely in what can only be described as the great HR Tech Conference evacuation of 2001. It was a very scary time, and what I wrote captures both my fears and my anger. If I’d had a blog then, I would have written this as a post.
“I arrived home in Fort Myers last evening after driving for two days in a commandeered Dulles Washington Flyer taxi from Baltimore, where I had been speaking at the HR Tech Conference. We avoided all metro areas just to be on the safe side. Emily Eason, a dear friend whom some of you know, and I decided that staying in Baltimore wasn’t where we wanted to be (she’s from Seattle), so we called upon Ozzie, the driver we used when we both lived in the Washington area. While our usual driver was in Turkey to see his sick Mom, the colleague answering his calls had heard of us and, after confirming with Ozzie that “our check was good,” he agreed to drive us to Fort Myers — and to take our check. We’ve been checking on friends and family too, and so far, so good.
I know you all remember the start of the Yom Kippur war. I remember it vividly. Sitting in Kodimoh (my family’s orthodox schul), in the women’s section (can you imagine me being told to go sit in the women’s section?), deep in prayer, when the sabbath goy (the schul’s handyman) ran in and right up to the rabbi waving a note. We all continued the traditional chanting, thinking that the interruption was some housekeeping matter. And then the rabbi stopped the service to tell all of us that Israel’s enemies had chosen that day of all days to attack the Jewish state. First there was absolute shock and silence, then the murmurs began, and then I remember (but perhaps I only imagine it in my memory) that the sound of singing broke out, spontaneously, as we raised our voices in the Israeli national anthem. When the congregation took their seats again, our Rabbi Weisfogel challenged us to do whatever we could to demonstrate our solidarity with Israel and to show our commitment to the failure of our enemies by succeeding. Success not just in war but in living. Again, it may be more in my memory than it was in reality, but I came away from that day really believing that in our individual and collective success lies the failure of our enemies. Where did you think they got the expression “living well is the best revenge”?
All of that came back to me Tuesday morning when, at the HR Tech conference in Baltimore, I was sitting on an industry analyst panel which Bill Kutik moderated, when a man walked in and up to Bill with a note. Bill stepped out for a moment while we continued the panel discussion, thinking it was some housekeeping matter. We finished the panel and then he announced, with utter disbelief, that the enemies of the US — the enemies of every civilized human being — had attacked the World Trade Center. We all know now just how extensive was that attack, and how well-planned. And I wish now that I had stood up and broken into our national anthem, but I was too shaken.
After two days of silent driving, it’s time to speak. If a small country like Israel has survived, surrounded by so many enemies, and Israelis have learned to live fully and richly in spite of the best efforts of terrorists to steal their freedom and their joy, can we do less? I for one intend to show these bastards that they’ve messed with the wrong woman. I’m back at work this morning, and I’m going on with a long-planned vacation to Italy at the end of September. With every successful business venture, with every successful volunteer effort, with every step forward, personally and professionally, that we take individually and collectively, we demonstrate our solidarity with our countrymen and our commitment to the failure of our enemies. ”
Let’s give them hell. Naomi