This has not been the best of weeks. Anniversaries are usually a time of celebration but this one, ten years since 9/11, brought up a lot of memories and feelings connected to that dreadful day. We as a nation lost so much: our naiveté and innocence, family and friends, fellow citizens, sense of safety and security and more. We knew in the moments the terror was unfolding that our lives would never be the same, we just didn’t know what that meant. Now we see the effects of 9/11 where ever we go: passing through detectors as we enter many buildings, especially government buildings; lengthy security checks at every airport; random bag searches on just about every metro-area transit system, etc. We are much more apt to report suspicious behavior or unidentified packages left anywhere out of the ordinary. Our fears are pricked when traveling with folks who “look different” from us. Sad, yes, but true.
I lived in Allentown, Pennsylvania. September 11, 2001, was like any other day for me. The day was sunny and bright reflecting my mood. Richard, my then-fiance, was visiting from Dayton at the time and was planning to return home later in the day. We were planning a wedding in October. I went to work as usual. I was the director of the county women’s community corrections center and I enjoyed my work immensely. The first two hours or so were devoted to paperwork and administrative blablabla. Around 9:00am I heard a commotion in the hallway outside my door which did not subside even after a few minutes. I poked my head out to tell people to keep the noise down. Obviously agitated, the women (3 or 4 of them) began telling me at once that something terrible had happened in NY City; a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. My first reaction was that it was very sad and I hoped that not too many people got hurt. Most people were probably not even at work yet. My inner thoughts were that the women were in their “drama” mode, a state of being that is common in correctional facilities. In order to maintain my integrity, I had long ago consciously decided that I would not succumb to the daily drama in that building. I closed my door and went back to work.
Within minutes though, more women were pounding on my door. Now a plane had flown into the Pentagon. I casually asked if they had seen it, or was a reporter talking about the “what ifs?” Now the story was that both towers had been hit, and the Pentagon with passenger planes (far fetched) and another passenger plane was missing. By now I figured they were trying to dupe me about something ~ I had a reputation for being gullible. But, there was an urgency in their voices and fear in their eyes which raised my radar a bit. We all walked into the tv room together and there I was greeted with the images we are all now familiar with. I caught my breath and blurted out “We are under attack!” All of us, residents, staff and myself, sat glued to the tv for the following hours into days. I gave the women unlimited phone privileges for the rest of the week because many of them had family members in NYC. A new staff member was especially distraught. She had been offered a position in the World Trade Center the same time I offered her a position at the Correctional Center. She and her husband had chosen to accept my offer because they wanted to get their children out of the city and raise them in a more bucolic setting. 9/10 would have been her first day on the job if she had accepted their offer. Many of her family were still in NY. We were less than two hours from Wall Street. Some of my friends were the ones walking around, after the buildings collapsed, covered in white dust, choking on the air.
When I arrived back home fighting back tears, Richard was still there. He and I had been in communication by phone all day long. In fact I was the one who told him to turn on the tv. He stayed for days afterwards as we watched in disbelief at everything that transpired over and over and over again, and then some more. Our minds simply could not wrap around the tragedy of that day and the days to come. The world changed on 9/11, the day we lost our innocence. The first anniversary of that day was awful. Our grief was still palpable. The mood was somber, to say the least.
This tenth anniversary brought back a lot of those memories and feelings. This year there were other complications, too. What can I say. My son and his lovely wife were expecting their second child. As you can imagine we were all so excited for them, and the talk on everyone’s lips was about the upcoming birth. New life. The family grows. Maria just completed her first trimester and we all felt they were in the clear now. On Sept 9, 2011, Maria suffered a miscarriage. How does a mother comfort her son and daughter-in-law through the loss of their child? I don’t know. We all hurt. We hurt for the life that was lost, and for the dreams and plans unfulfilled. We grieve the child we never knew, and the person he or she may have become. Yes, the loss is immense.
To add insult to injury, my children have had to watch from afar as their father and stepmother lost everything they own in the floods in the east this past week. While I do not have communication with my ex, I ache for the pain that my children are going through for their father’s loss. As a parent, I want to shield my children from the aches and pains of life. It never occurred to me, until now, that at times the roles are reversed as the children wish so fervently that they could protect their parents from the vicissitudes of life as well.
My children, all of them, are strong and powerful and insightful and faith-filled people. We will all get through these days and will go on to thrive. I’m sure of it. That is what we do. But we have lost important things. Life will be different than we imagined. Losses take a toll. We will in the end be stronger, but now we grieve.
Despite these immense losses, there is life to celebrate. Through these events we learn what is or is not important. We learn to live in the moment and to be thankful, always, for each breath of air we breathe. We learn the value of being present for each other, for expressing our love, for pursuing our dreams, for remaining hopeful in trying times. We learn that it is ok to rely on family and friends during rough times, and that we will get to return the favor in time. We learn to see, to hear, to feel.
This has turned into a more lengthy post than I had planned so I’ll stop here. Please feel free to share your thoughts if you wish. I’ll be “invisible” for the next few days as I finish up my final project of the quarter, and then I’ll have a break. So, I will be back! Thanks for indulging me as I rambled today.
- How to talk to kids about 9/11 #parents #kids #tcot #NeverForget #prolife (littlebytesnews.blogspot.com)
- Nation Mourns, Reflects on 9/11 (online.wsj.com)
- New York Commemorates 9/11 (online.wsj.com)
- Ceremony at Pentagon honors victims and families of flight 77 ()
- ‘It was our Pearl Harbor’; U.S. marks 10th anniversary of 9/11 (news.nationalpost.com)
- Sept. 11 taught us many lessons – including ones for health IT infrastructure (medcitynews.com)
- All Things Come Together For Good (awarmcupofcomfort.com)
- There’s been an incident at the World Trade Center (operavision.org)
- Where were you on 9/11/01? (jennicinparadise.com)
- Firefighters honor 343 brethren in NYC (msnbc.msn.com)
- September 11, 2011: My Reflections Ten Years Later (channelofhispeace.wordpress.com)
- A decade later, a nation still grieves (marketwatch.com)
- September 11: St Paul’s Cathedral marks 10th anniversary (telegraph.co.uk)
- Obama Marks 10th Anniversary of 9/11 at Ground Zero, Pentagon (businessweek.com)
- A solemn dedication in Shanksville, Pa. (philly.com)
- Where were you when the world stopped turning? (pinktoesandpowertools.wordpress.com)
- 9/11 Tributes Reach All the Way to Space, to Mars and Back (space.com)
- September 11, 2011 (reflectionofabuddhistmonk.com)
- September 11, 2001 Tenth Anniversary Tribute (livesharp.org)
- Twisting Personal Tragedy to Advance Unrelated and Evil Public Ends (skydancingblog.com)
- President Obama, Inspired to Lead by 9/11 (minx.cc)
- To “Remember 9/11” is Not Enough (waronterrornews.typepad.com)
- Nancy Altman: Reflections on the Importance of Security — Social Security — on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 (huffingtonpost.com)