It is a glorious late summer morning not unlike the morning 10 years ago when an act of hate changed the lives of thousands, millions all over the world. Even now I remember as though yesterday watching in horror on television the second plane go into the World Trade Center tower, a place iconic to New Yorkers and visitors alike. I remember calling my children-my son in college, my daughter at high school-simply to feel their presence, and only began to cry when word came by phone that John was the captain of the American Airlines Flight #11 airplane.
We knew John Ogonowski first as the farmer who brought his hay to the horse barn where my older daughter worked and rode and for whom I brought coffee and donuts to those early cold Saturday am mornings as she and John unloaded the month’s hay. We talked about how loving the land and nature made up for much of what was crazy in the human world and how happy stewarding land made us. We knew John secondly as an American Airlines captain committed to working a few more years until he could retire and tend his beloved farm full-time.
9/11 changed not only John’s dream and the dreams of so many people, it challenged all of us in how we respond to hate, violence, destruction when it’s personal. “Being poor does not take away poverty, being angry does not take away anger, choosing revenge does not diminish violence” offers Wayne Dwyer. Human brains are hard-wired to initially return aggression with aggression, and as the research and authors of the book “How God Changes Your Brain” illustrate, choosing to meditate and other spiritual practices literally activate the capacity our brains contain for compassion and seeking to understand“the other”.
John’s farm continues through his brother Jim who still delivers hay for the horse barn. John lives on in the many ways he touched others as well as served through his farm’s commitment to helping Cambodian refuges farmers and those he flew as an American Airlines captain. New life came through John when his brother Jim married the owner of the horse barn who he met while stepping into farmer John’s shoes the first weeks after 9/11. Life honors life by continuing forward, it is ours to choose how we honor the gift of our life so precious and so fragile.