Of course I remember what I was doing on that day: I was driving to Concord to see my mom and do some shopping, driving in a car with a radio that didn’t work. It wasn’t until I reached my mother’s office, and she asked me if I’d heard about the planes, about NYC, and the towers, and saw the footage on various computer screens that I passed in the office… it wasn’t until then that I knew what happened. I spent the next year being afraid that someone would bomb the nuclear power plant a few miles away from where I worked, constantly asking myself: what if the bombing happened during the night, during one of my overnight shifts? Would I simply try and save myself or would I be a better person and try to also save the women and children whose care was entrusted to me? Luckily I never had to answer that question. The great shame is that I’m still not sure I have an answer today.

As I was scrolling through my youtube feed this past evening, I was glad to be reminded of Carl Sagan’s pale blue dot

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
–Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

“Where were you? What were your thoughts?” by mjthomas43 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


  1. I too remember. I was at work, in the library sitting at the enquiry desk in front of a computer when one of the other library assistants who was on her lunch called down over the balcony that I should go onto the bbc news site. I remember other people (staff and customers) gathering around me and apart from a gasp as we watched, it was eerily quiet. No one could find any words to describe what we’d seen or how we felt, and as other customers came into the library completely unaware of what had happened we had to mentally shake ourselves to try and return to some sort of normality.


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