This past Sunday, as you already know, was the 10th anniversary of September 11th. Here at Academy for Five Element Acupuncture, we honored the day with Year One exams.

When I originally saw the schedule for 9/11, I was conflicted. For myself, my own memories of where I was weigh rather heavily. I prefer not to schedule anything important because I believe the day should be one of reflection. Exam days are so fraught with tension and anxiety. While we test students’ knowledge throughout the year, the year-end exams seem to carry so much more importance than all of the others. The fourth session, when students take exams, is also the first time that the A and B sections come together as one class. They’re meeting each other for the first time. Throwing all of that emotional turmoil on top of 9/11 seemed like a lot, to say the least. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was insensitive to the memory of those lost lives and their families to schedule exams.

The more I thought about the situation, though, I realized that, in some ways, taking exams might be the best way to mark the day. Of all the rhetoric that the media has used to describe 9/11, what most resonates with me is how life stopped when the first plane hit the Towers. Time stopped as our country froze in fear. Very slowly, we had to figure out how to move forward, how to live honorably in the wake of tragedy. And that’s what our exam day represented for me this year: the ability to move forward; the necessity of living life to the fullest and giving back.

The student body at AFEA is very unique. It’s comprised of compassionate men and women who have a distinctive purpose to contribute, to bring healing to the world. They are a group focused and determined to make a difference. They have made the decision to change careers, go back to school, so that they can learn how they can best give back to their communities. And through a very gentle, healthy, non-aggressive, and effective form of medicine, they are achieving amazing results. Many of our students express their desire to work with the veteran population to help ease the chronic pain and PTSD symptoms that inhibit the lives of many returning veterans. Through our free veterans clinic on Thursday nights, they work to do just that.

With each intensive, each assignment, each patient, they move forward. They effect positive change. I can’t think of any better way of honoring the lives lost on 9/11 and those lives lost in the ensuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than by living with purpose and making steps to effecting positive change where it is needed. And while in between the morning and afternoon exam sessions I asked the students to observe a moment of silence, I was also silently thankful for the individuals in the room with me who are working so hard to help heal the world.