From Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

Why Are You Waiting?

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.

Oprah Winfrey

I get many e-mails, and every day I sort through a host of funny pictures, ribald jokes and forwarded chain letters that I read, enjoy and summarily delete. But every once in a while I receive an e-mail of significance—a collection of words important enough to compel me to share it with my cyberspace amalgamation of family and friends. Which is exactly what happened on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001.

A writer friend of mine sent me a most thought-provoking e-mail, which she entitled, ironically enough, “Some thoughts for a happy day.” The theme of the composition was the need to “seize the moment and live life to the fullest.”

I read it, reread it and realized that the electronic transmission perfectly matched my own personal philosophy. Further, it provided a needed reminder that life is short so we need to play hard and enjoy it. I tapped into my lengthy e-mail address book and began forwarding the worthy correspondence to family and friends. In the process, I retitled it “Life as it should be lived.”

In one of those serendipitous life moments, as I hit send and put my group mailing on its merry way, my phone rang.

It was my husband urging me to turn on the television. Within moments, my mind was reeling as I watched the incredulous turn of events play out in New York City and Washington, D.C. Conflicting emotions of fear, anger, sorrow and compassion pulsed through my body, while the relentless journalism queries of who, what, when, where and why tortured my writer’s brain.

The last time I visited the Big Apple, I went to the World Trade Center. I sat at the bar in the rooftop Windows on the World restaurant and felt as if I was truly on top of the world. It was a memorable evening that is forever captured in a group picture I have hanging on my office wall. And now, in a matter of moments, the picture and the people in it are all that remain of that magical evening. Moving my glance from that celebratory photo to the devastating reality unfolding on the television screen, I felt suddenly isolated. I wanted, and needed, to reach out and touch another human being, to assure myself that no matter how shattering this incomprehensible event might be, my family and my friends were still alive and well, and my sense of normalcy was going to survive.

At about that same moment, e-mail messages began filling my inbox—all referring to the same subject—“Life as it should be lived.” I looked at the senders’ names and discovered many of the family and friends that I had just written to moments earlier.

As I opened their letters, a flood of grief and fear filled my computer screen, along with phrases that spoke of the value of family and friendship.

At the same time, my phone began ringing. My husband, my daughter, my sister-in-law, my friends, fellow writers—people from New York to California—called, one after another. Everyone was responding to the same need to reach out and ensure the stability of their lives. When, at last, each of our senses and sensibilities had been soothed, we said our loving good-byes, promising to talk more often and get together soon.

I refocused on the day’s terrible events as they continued to unfold. I also returned to the e-mail that had so innocently started my morning. I read it again, this time with a new focus and understanding, lingering over the final line that read, “If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call, what would you say and why are you waiting?”

For the countless numbers in those four airplanes, three office buildings and random city streets, that question is now irrelevant. For the rest of us, perhaps of greater import than the question is how will we decide to answer.

Christina M. Abt

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