Once There Was Only Dark: A Rumination on September 11

By Mike Coughlin, President & CEO of Crotched Mountain

September 11, 2001.

There aren’t many times that we, collectively, look back on and recall what each of us was doing at that moment. The days of infamy that have been etched into our shared cultural experience are few and those that immediately evoke what we were doing at that time down to the minute are even fewer.

But 9/11 is one of those. And though it’s been 17 years, the emotions are still ragged. It is a somber anniversary and one that will linger with us for a long, long time, and not just because of the violence of the attacks; the proximity plays a big role. Having that kind of close encounter with overwhelming darkness leaves a mark.

But here’s the thing about darkness–it can be disrupted with ease. I am reminded of the final scene of the HBO show True Detective. Following an intense pursuit of a brutal criminal, where all manner of terror befell our hero detectives Rust and Marty, the two men take a walk and look in the star-dotted night sky. Marty observes, metaphorically, that “the dark has a lot more territory.” Rust tells him he’s looking at it the wrong way and says: “Well, once there was only dark. You ask me, the light’s winning.”

When I hear the stories of Crotched Mountain, the tales of transformed lives, I picture these individual starbursts, growing and growing and taking over our view, overwhelming the darkness.

There will be tough times and challenges and once in a while we’ll all get clobbered with something frightening. But, friends, the work you do every day, helping people and bringing hope, is filling the night. The uniqueness of the “Crotched Mountain Constellation” is keeping the darkness at bay.

So on this day, I choose solemn remembrance and gratitude to those who sacrificed–but I won’t tell you what I was doing that day. I’ll tell you what I did today, though, and that was walk through the halls of our school, saying hello to our staff, and watching students and adults take immense joy in the simple act of feeding the chickens at Farm School.

We’re winning.

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