A guest post from Steven J. Spear on this solemn day. You can also read it here.
Ten years ago, I watched on television as a plane- stolen from the city in which I live-slammed into buildings in the city that is my hometown. I later learned that among the thousands killed were former colleagues, a neighbor, and a high school classmate. We all had such terrible experiences.
Today, 9/11/11, we should mourn-we have to mourn-those who perished.
But we should also remember, Bin Laden lost this contest. Not just on the day that Navy Seals shot him, but on 9/11/01 when he was likely most sure that he had won.
Bin Laden’s vain theory of self aggrandizement was that nihilistic destruction would cause chaos to spread infectiously. Destruction was to be his fullest expresstion of self worth as well as that of pathetic jackasses Mohammed Atta and company.
But, even in the moments of Bin-Ladens greatest “glory,” what actually happened?
Firefighters, police officers, and EMT ran towards the inferno, not away, to establish order in the face of entropy. A fire captain, who had climbed dozens of floors, called down for two companies to follow him up so “we can stamp this thing down.”
In honor of the actions of one of those heroes, the town today dedicated a bench outside the local fire station in his memory: Manuel Del Valle-a 1988 graduate of our local high school, Brookline High, and member of FDNY Co. #5.
But it wasn’t just uniformed first responders who responded extraordinarily. Strangers helped other strangers to safety and went back to help again. Friends remained behind with friends who couldn’t escape, so they wouldn’t perish alone. On a day a sociopath meant to dedicate to destruction, sacrifice on behalf of others was the dominate theme.
In short, Bin Laden took his best shot as fostering destruction, misery, and despair that would spread unchecked.
Mercy, kindness, selflessness, heroism, and basic decency found unbelievable expression.
Since then, we all have the daily experience of seeing our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and relatives strive to do work that is valuable to those around them. Sometimes it is in quiet, routine ways. Sometimes it is in response to flood, wind, and fire. Sometimes we don’t know who to thank. Sometimes we know who to thank, even if we cannot thank them directly, like Medal of Honor recipient, Army Private Ross McGinnis, who pinned a live grenade against the wall of his vehicle with his body so his fellow soldiers could escape.
Time and again we see that the innate desire to create for and protect others is more pervasive than the pathetic impulse to wreak.
That is why Bin Laden lost and his like will always lose. Their need to destroy is the pathology. The desire to build is the norm.
Sr. Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management
Sr. Fellow, Institute for Healthcare Improvement
Author, The High Velocity Edge.
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