Thursday, September 15, 2011
Leading From Possibility
Ten Years Later
I had a hard time thinking about this topic. It was so huge, so monstrous, so omnipresent, so incredible. My usual responses and judgments just did not fit. There was one memory, however, that totally stuck with me and I believe will stand out for me forever. It had to do with one of our Board member’s response to the day. Some background first. The morning of September 11, 2001, was the day of the Chapter’s Annual Board of Directors retreat. 25 Board members and 4 social staff were around the conference table when the announcement of the attacks was made.
The able President and Executive Director at the time asked the group what it wanted to do about continuing with the meeting that had been planned for several months. At first the sentiment was that we should cancel the Retreat.
Some members stood up immediately and said that they were leaving without any discussion. The majority of participants chose to discuss, not only the attacks that had just happened, but to relate them to our lives as professional social workers, community members and family members. Some people said they wanted to return to their offices to handle calls that would be getting from clients, employees or students. Others felt they needed to get in touch with their family members and be with them. Then one Board member stood up and declared that cancelling the meeting was just what the attackers wanted: to disrupt our lives (among other motives) and that if we stopped the meeting we would be doing exactly what the attackers were hoping to display—power over the enemy. She shared with the group that during the blitz on London during World War II, all people were expected (and did) go about their normal business, whether it was in an office, an agency, a hospital or school. The Londoners were determined not to give in to evil forces. And she, Sophie Freud Lowenstein, who was living with her family at the time in London did exactly that. She declared that we must continue our business. And we did.
This was a lesson that has stuck with me to this day. And I thank Sophie for the lesson in resilience that she graphically conveyed that morning.