The day I didn't hug

I tweeted this earlier. It's a lie. [box]Hug somebody extra hard today. Eleven years ago I was hugging dust-covered strangers in NYC.[/box]

The first sentence is true. I hope you'll hug someone extra hard every day.

The second one, the lie, is what I wish happened 11 years ago.

At the time, I worked on 13th Street and 8th Avenue at CRT/tanaka, one mile from the World Trade Center. I was in the subway at 9:08 a.m. that day.

Like most mornings, my fellow commuters in that crowded car were quiet. We were in our own worlds, pre-caffeinated, and ignoring the fact that we were pressed up against one another. It was jarring, then, when someone spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. He pulled his headphones away from his ears and announced that a plane had struck one of the towers.

No one spoke. I'm pretty sure that everyone else, like me, was deciding if he was crazy. That's New York for you. People doing something out of the ordinary are suspect until proven otherwise. Without cell reception underground, we were all silently considering our options.

Above ground was a different story. There was no denying what happened.

Through the windows to the office, I could see the panic on my colleagues' faces. Opening the door, there was a flurry of sound. Everything was heightened.

I sat at my desk.

I could hear from the open cubicle the latest news as it was gathered and passed around. The crying. The stories. The attempted phone calls to loved ones that only sometimes went through. It was all too much for me and I let it swirl around with no way to hold onto any of it.

Within an hour strangers began arriving. Some had walked from the financial district when their buildings were evacuated and they had nowhere else to go. Well-dressed, dust-covered, expressionless strangers who sat with us while we all figured out what to do next.

Someone ordered pizza. There was a consensus about taking care of the strangers. Of turning our office into a refuge.

That was when I should have been hugging.

"Should" have. The word that can ring in your ears when you blame yourself for being yourself.

Maybe I was in shock. Maybe I didn't realize how much we all needed a hug.

It doesn't matter why.

It doesn't matter because it's not going to change what happened.

People took care of themselves the best way they knew how to that day. That's what happens during a life-changing event. We are human. We do what we can. Some people are heroes, and others sit at their desks.

Asking more from yourself, or someone else for that matter, isn't fair. It especially isn't fair in retrospect.

The lie sounds true because of who I am now. The hugger I became years later.

And that's what is really important, isn't it? What you do now. I may not have done all I could that day, but I can hug now.

I'm wearing my Hug Like You Mean It t-shirt today, because this moment is all that I can control.

What will you do with this moment?