Every year at this time, I carefully avoid the 9/11 coverage. I still cannot bear to watch the documentaries, the interviews, or the historical footage. For me, the shock has never really worn off.
I wrote an essay last year (re-posted in today's Chicago Parent) that helped me honor just one of the many people I have not forgotten. For anyone who worked at Aon at the time, "business as usual" was never quite the same. The company would lose 176 people that morning.
Before that day, I had a tendency to save old voicemails on my work phone until projects were completed. But with all the post-9/11 chaos, long hours, and revised focus, it was months before I got around to clearing out old messages. That was when I came across voicemails from lost colleagues. They talked excitedly about new initiatives and projects we had been working on together. They said we should talk soon. One message came just 15 hours before the second plane hit.
I could never bring myself to erase those messages. They remained on my voicemail until I left Aon. I listened to them every so often, trying to make sense of it all. It reminded me that 9/11 hadn't just been a national tragedy, but it also took the lives of fantastic people with fantastic New York accents. People who told me I needed to relax and quit being so serious. People who mocked me and other Chicagoans for only ordering sausage on our pizzas. People who lived full lives and who had friends and family who loved them very much.
Last year, I chose to write about one particular individual I knew pretty well. Had it not been for Denise Benedetto, I know for certain my career in corporate America wouldn't have lasted a month. I was a disaster. Denise was a mother, a daughter, and the type of person I hope my sons to be one day. She was generous, kind, and ridiculously funny.
Whenever people suggest that women do not support other women in business, I correct them. My experience had been so much different. I had a Denise. I wish we all had her a bit longer.