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The Gift of September 11th
by Mary Foley

We all know where we were on September 11th, 2001 when terrorist attacked the United States killing nearly 3,000 people.

Myself, I was at the gym sweating on an elliptical machine when a group spontaneously gathered around the TV and started pointing. Like millions of Americans, I watched in disbelief as the planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers. It seemed like a thriller movie preview without a "Coming Soon to a Theater Near You" at the end. Instead, the very real tragedy was right here, right now.

Stunned, I cut my workout short and quickly headed home, making calls on my cell phone to loved ones and navigating the sudden rush hour traffic. As soon as I arrived at my condo I turned on the TV, something we would all numbingly do for hours on end.

September 2001 was a month I thought I'd remember for a very different reason.

Only a few days earlier than the 11th, my first book, "Bodacious! An AOL Insider Cracks the Code to Outrageous Success for Women", was released. Quietly, without media attention, copies were slipped onto Barnes & Noble shelves as a featured book on career success.

But as of September 11th, so what?

Who could think or care much about building a career when you wondered if your kids were safe going to school or when your company was suddenly losing clients and struggling for survival? We all had bigger, more basic questions to face.

Each of us struggled with what this tragedy meant. I was no exception.

I wondered if 9/11 marked the death of my dream to inspire millions of women to be what I call "bodacious". The lessons learned and hard earned advice in my book took over 10 years to experience and coalesce. Was my message suddenly meaningless?

I considered the gustiness of the brave fire fighters who rushed into the towers.

I thought about the grit of those who live and work in New York City.

I was inspired. If they can do what they need to do, then I can too.

I made the decision to forge on with my 20 city book tour of interviews, book signings, and speeches. I boarded airplanes now filled with eeriness. My bags and my body were searched over and over again by security officers.

I was constantly aware that with another, sudden tragic moment my plans could be scrapped or I could be stranded or worse. I mustered the courage to be bodacious again and again.

Six years later, I know that 9/11 wasn't the death of my dream.

On the contrary. Looking back, it was the perfect beginning.

September 11 was a day that re-awakened courage - in myself and in many others.

As I have interacted with thousands sharing what it means to be bodacious, I've met women and men who are courageously embracing life like never before. They are becoming clear about what's most important to them in their career, business and life. They are taking action and taking risks to create the lives they want. And they are fully enjoying moments of joy and happiness.

The gift embedded of 9/11 is that it forced us to face the uncertainty of life and accept that no one is immune.

Like those who found themselves on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania or on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, we each have the opportunity to shrink from this truth or embrace it. It's a choice we make every single day.

No one knows for sure if the United States will experience another terrorist attack, devastating hurricane, or economic slump. I certainly hope not, but I can't live in fear waiting for the next shoe to drop.

Instead, I'm going to live bodaciously, I'm going to thrive on shift and change, and I'm going to carve out a life of meaning and purpose.

Because, ultimately, the question isn't "Are we going to die someday?"

The question is "Have we ever really lived?"

Thanks for letting me be a part of helping you really live. It's an honor and pleasure that I'm reminded of on this important day.

Mary Foley

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