Fifteen years….

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Tragic events which leave deep emotional scars on those left behind tend to soften as time passes.  But not always.  Not even after fifteen years when, on that beautiful September morning, each of our lives was severely impacted by the willful, destructive ideology of radical Islamic extremists.

As I sat and watched the yearly ceremony in New York City, it seemed to hit harder than in previous years.  It was almost as if it had just taken place for the first time.  The incredible pain of watching innocent lives disappearing as two majestic icons collapsed into clouds of smoke and twisted metal was…overwhelming. 

My personal reaction might have been due to recently spending time at both the Freedom Tower and 9/11 Museum with my family.  The footprint of the North Tower had us walking on what I deemed sacred ground; there was a sense that many who had perished were watching over each visitor, perhaps looking for a familiar loved one, waiting to send some spiritual comfort to those left behind.

Today, I again watched, and listened, as names were read by family members.  Their tears gently fell as they spoke about the losses they suffered, each vowing to never forget.  Brave families, with such unimaginable voids in their lives, who took time to share sweet stories and express their love as they looked to the heavens.

Fifteen years have passed; many more will follow.  Ceremonies and observances will continue.   One day, the September 11th tragedy will become a chapter in history for generations that follow.  That is, until those generations walk on hallowed ground and learn…to never forget.

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And I remembered…

As I sat down to write this post, I was fuming, over an unkindness, one of those malicious events that are all too common where children are concerned.  What was it about?  Ignorance.  Blatant stupidity on the part of a parent which dictated the inexcusable behavior of several children towards someone I love dearly.

The rage inside of me was escalating.  I was so ready to blast each of the individuals involved but then stopped.

And I remembered…

Ten years ago today, ignorance, anger and the quest to destroy innocent lives played out in front of our eyes as surreal images stared back from our television screens.  The Twin Towers became a heartbreaking and painful realization for the civilized world who watched, cried, and tried to understand why.  We couldn’t fathom how could anyone be so cruel and have no respect for decent human life, we couldn’t understand the intense hatred against our country.

I won’t try to analyze the mentality of the common terrorist, to do so would be an attempt to make sense of, or even excuse, the psyche and subsequent actions of a murderer.  The anger churned inside my chest as I thought back.  Again, I stopped.

And I remembered…

Ten years ago, I sat with my middle daughter and held my two year old granddaughter as we watched a nightmare unfold; we knew from that point forward our lives would never again be the same.  I looked down at my squirmy, bubbly little grandchild and my heart was overcome with fear for the future she would face.   Her rightful freedoms would now be challenged at every turn, for the rest of her life.   I wept as she looked up at me. 

And I remembered…

Today, on the anniversary of this horrific event, my husband’s club held a yearly camping event for its members and children; something that is always planned around 9/11.  Families and friends gather to enjoy quality time together and thank God that we are able to do this, that we are alive and together.  Some of the kids who attended were toddlers or just entering school ten years ago, they were insulated from the pain that we witnessed.  Last evening, the children ran around club grounds, playing and having fun while the adults sat around the bonfire and recalled, once again, where they were on that fateful day ten years ago.

Early this morning, I prepared breakfast for everyone and a group of teens gathered in the clubhouse as Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” played on the radio.  I listened to the kids as they talked and one asked me where I was that day and what it felt like as I heard the news.  Another boy explained that his parents didn’t talk about it much, what he learned about 9/11 was through conversations in school, on the Internet and television.   So I sat down with them and shared my experience of that September day,  how I drove into work, more focused on the car radio than the trip itself, one hand on my cell phone talking to my husband about his only brother who was at Five World Trade Center. 

Immediately, the boys wanted to know if he made it out alive.  I told them that he did but we didn’t know that fact until hours later; my brother-in-law somehow managed to walk away from the collapsing towers, for more than 16 miles, to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, where he was found, sitting in a state of shock.   The boys around the table just shook their heads and almost all asked at once if I thought the United States would ever be attacked again. 

How do you properly address those fears?  How can you assure anyone that they will be safe from any type of disaster?  All I could say to these boys was that there are no simple answers other than to trust that our government will exhaust every means of security to keep us from harm and to preserve our freedoms.  The hatred and jealousies of outsiders cannot be stopped but we must never allow ourselves to succumb to the bullying tactics of such militant extremists.

This morning, I was angry over a petty childhood incident.  It doesn’t matter now and those involved aren’t worth losing sleep over.  This morning, a small group of young people made me realize things that truly are significant; they reminded me of the importance of this day.

And, with them, I remembered.

 

                           

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The Bad Day……

A small scrap of paper, tucked away in a drawer, with child-like handwriting that read September 11, The Bad Day.  This memory that my mother did not want to forget was neatly rubber-banded with a few torn photographs and greeting cards that had scrawled next to the sender’s name.  She kept the cards because they were pretty but had no idea who sent them.

It was January of 2003.  Two weeks earlier, my mother was found wandering, early on a frigid, snowy morning by the local police, dressed in her nightgown and slippers……with a New York Times tucked under her arm.  Outside temperatures, at 2:30 a.m., hovered at 16 degrees which did not factor into her incessant banging on the door of a house located not far from her apartment.  The homeowners, obviously terrified at the sight of this tiny, frail, elderly woman, armed with a newspaper, called the authorities and cowered behind their door as my mother kept knocking.

The phone ringing in the middle of anyone’s night is never a sign of good news waiting to be shared at the other end.  As my husband answered the call, I heard silence and watched him shake his head as he looked in my direction; “yes, that’s my mother-in-law, uh-huh, I see; thank you for calling, we’re leaving now to come pick her up”.

Frantically, we both dressed for the fifty mile trip, rushed out the door and my husband attempted to fill me in on the details as we pulled out of our driveway.  He was talking but it was impossible to focus on anything he was saying until he mentioned the address of the home my mother had been found at…131 Church Street.  This house had been my mother’s childhood home and suddenly I knew….it was Alzheimer’s, nothing else could be responsible for her midnight stroll, attempted home invasion and so many other incidents that I had, too easily, passed off to the woman’s advancing years.  What I couldn’t figure out is where she got the New York Times from, my mother never read anything outside of the local paper and that was just to check the obituaries each day.  I cringed in my seat thinking that she must have lifted it from someone’s doorstep as she roamed the streets that morning.  Whatever the situation, one thing could not be denied, Mom’s living alone was now out of the question. There was nowhere else for her to go other than to come and live in my home, that was it!  Done deal!

All I could think about was that my life was over.  Selfish, I know.

Standing in the midst of boxes, as I packed up her belongings, I kept glancing down at that scrap of paper, that one brief written touch with reality that my mother chose to record two years prior.  I thought back to that horrific day when so many lives disappeared into huge, wailing clouds of smoke and dust. Life as we had come to know it, up to that fateful day, would never be the same.  I knew that what I was facing, as I became a caregiver to my mother, was totally insignificant compared to the events of 9/11/01.

It was……a Bad Day.

 

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