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    Darkness on a Sunny Day

    Every encounter, every day, provides the opportunity to recognize what’s really important in life and to tolerate our own and other people’s imperfections.

    Larry J. Martin

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    My parents would often remark how fast time can pass. In a blink of an eye, events can suddenly become distant memories in our rearview mirrors. So much has happened in my life and that of our nation in the past 16 years. But as I look back, some things seem like only yesterday.

    Larry J. Martinorg lmartin wisbar Larry J. Martin is the executive director for the State Bar of Wisconsin.

    What I remember most about that day was how perfectly sunny it was. Early fall was in the air. It was simply a beautiful morning. Martha and I were in our routine. We dropped off the boys at school (our daughter still only a gleam in our eyes) and headed to work. On the way, we stopped at the credit union. Because this was our all-too-rare time alone together, we didn’t have the radio on – a chance to catch up and talk about our days. Rosie, our regular teller, told us that a plane had flown into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.

    How bizarre. I remember thinking someone in a small plane must have had a heart attack and flown off course. A few minutes later – with the radio now on – we learned that a second plane had hit the second tower.

    In the days after, I could not help but think of how routinely life must have started that morning for the people who worked in the World Trade Center and in the Pentagon. Like millions of others across the country, they were settling in for another day at work. For some, it might have been the first day at a new job. For others, it might have been their last week before a well-earned retirement. So many people, so many stories; colleagues who were about to be united by a shared twist of fate.

    Stories have been shared of the many phone calls to loved ones to say goodbye, after the crashes and before the towers fell. The stories left to our imagination are the conversations that occurred between colleagues in hundreds of offices in those final minutes. I’m sure there was panic and chaos. But I bet there were also words of comfort as well as countless acts of selflessness, valor, and strength.

    The events of 9/11 have made me value the relationships I have with family, friends, and yes, my coworkers. It’s encouraged me to be more tolerant of those little things that can drive us crazy about each other and to look instead for the talents that each of us possess that make us unique. But it’s also made me less tolerant of mean-spiritedness, bullying, and incivility. As the events of that day show, we are together in our small corner of the world for too short a time.

    Each year, there are ceremonies filled with eloquent speeches and soulful music to mark this sad day. But I believe the most meaningful tributes have been and continue to be the ones that occur in each of our minds and hearts. We have not forgotten. We never will.

    We honor those we lost by quietly fighting hatred through our thoughts and actions. We do it by how we treat each other, and in our own small way, by what we do to try and make the world around us a better place.