My wife and children were returning from a trip to visit my in-laws in Italy, so I had taken the afternoon off to pick them up at Logan Airport.


 

 


My wife and children were returning from a trip to visit my in-laws in Italy, so I had taken the afternoon off to pick them up at Logan Airport. Before I left for work that morning, my wife called to tell me that their flight was canceled due to a mechanical problem. Because they had already missed the connecting flight to Boston, their trip home was postponed until the next day.


It was Sept. 10, 2001.


The next morning, I made it out of the house without a call from my wife, so I presumed that she and my children were en route without difficulty. While sitting in traffic on my way to work, I heard a report on the radio that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York. By the time I got to the office, a second plane had hit the other tower.


We grabbed a television from the media closet and watched footage of the second plane erupt into a fireball as it struck the south tower. I made several unsuccessful telephone calls trying to ascertain the whereabouts of my wife and children before my office was evacuated.


Several hours after returning home, I discovered that my family, airborne at the time of the attacks, had been turned back while flying over the English Channel. They were stranded in Milan but were fortunate to be able to stay with family in the area. I spent hours, then days, battling jammed telephone circuits trying to arrange their return. But they were safe.


Like countless others, I can recall exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news. And now, another year has passed. What we remember is important, but how we respond to those memories is even more important.


In his Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln stated that it is for the living to be “dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. ...” Lincoln’s words at once comfort and challenge, for he leaves it up to us to find redemption in the face of tragedy.


Unlike the Civil War soldiers to which Lincoln referred, most of those murdered on Sept. 11 were civilians, typical Americans going about their daily business. James Trentini was a retired teacher and assistant principal. He and his wife, Mary, were aboard Flight 11 when it struck the north tower of the World Trade Center.


Peter Hashem postponed his original flight to Los Angeles to attend his son’s soccer game. His rescheduled trip placed him on Flight 11 with the Trentinis.


The Hansons — Peter, Sue Kim, and 2-year-old Christine Lee — boarded Flight 175 at Logan Airport just hours before my family was due to arrive. They were on their way to visit relatives in California when their plane struck the south tower just after 9 a.m.


While not explicitly fighting for a cause, the activities of the victims nonetheless displayed a tacit devotion to a cause: to freely live their lives as they chose. And like the fallen at Gettysburg, it is now up to us to preserve their memories and find a purpose in their loss.


The world didn’t change on Sept. 11, 2001. Now, as then, it is still filled with wonder and worry, happiness and horror. What made sense on Sept. 10, 2001 still makes sense today. It is our perception of the world that has changed. We have a deeper understanding of our role in the world — and of how small that world has become.


In light of this new perspective, we can take Lincoln’s cue and dedicate ourselves to learning what we can about our place in the world. We can ignore the mindless celebrity culture that permeates our society and devote our attention to things that matter. We can resolve to become better citizens, participating in our democracy and actively fighting to keep our way of life.


If the memories of that day can inspire us to do these things, then none of those murdered on Sept. 11 will have died in vain.


Matthew Casey is a Medford resident.