Tuesday will be eleven years that our world suffered one of the worst tragedies of our lives.
Tuesday will be eleven years that two of our close friends were murdered because of the hatred of others along with 2,751 other innocent people in the World Trade Center
Tuesday will be eleven years that the world we knew had changed in a matter of minutes.
It feels like yesterday.
The pain is still raw.
The memories still vivid.
I was speaking with a friend of mine the other day and I told them that for some reason, this year has hit me harder than all the others years combined. I remembered the first year sitting in my room, crying for four hours listening to the names being read, waiting to hear the names of our friends. I remembered whispering very quietly so no one could hear me that I was so grateful that God brought my husband home. I didn’t think that I could handle losing him on the very day he was born. Silly, I know. But those are the things we think about when we are dealing with a truckload of emotions.
I remembered the second year. I sat through the name readings again. I kept getting annoyed every time someone would stand up and speak. I just wanted to hear the names. I didn’t care what any one else had to say, it wasn’t about their words, it was about the names. I felt that’s all we had left and I didn’t want it to be marred by any thing else.
The third year, I said to myself that I just couldn’t sit at home any more for four hours and watch the memorial ceremony. It was just to hard. No matter how hard I tried to distract myself, I found myself staring at clock and waiting for the right time to turn on the television. I cried just as much as I had the first three years. I couldn’t stay away.
The Fourth and Fifth years were no different. I tried to do something during the day but I couldn’t peel myself away from the television because I had to hear my friends names being called. It was all I had left of them. I began with earnest to make more of the ribbons I had made weeks after September 11th, 2001. I had so many requests from people I did not know but the ribbons made me feel as if I was sending a part of New York to them. It made me feel as if the ribbons somehow would keep us all connected.
The sixth year was a little easier as my husband said he would let us take him out for dinner after he got home from work, but when he came home, none of us felt the energy to do much of anything and so we prayed, stayed in that night and begged for sleep to come.
The seventh year something changed. My mother was dying but in the midst of all that we were going through as a family, we found out that a new life would be born and the date that was given was September 11th. I know that first time babies don’t always come on their due dates but I found myself praying that this baby, my niece would be born on September 11th.
I like to think that God sent her to us. I’d like to think that she serves as a reminder that life is good. She’s the sweetest child I’ve ever met but of course, I’m her aunt so there might be a little prejudice there.
My mother told me that maybe now my husband won’t be so sad on his birthday because he shares it now with Natalie. I quietly hoped that she was right. Then she asked me why I hadn’t volunteered as I used to. She thought I had given up my volunteering because I had chosen to spend my time caring for her. Of course I did. But that wasn’t wrong. Only in my mother’s eyes, she always felt that regardless of how bad someone felt, there was always someone else far worse off and if we can’t rise above our own pain to help, then that was not a good thing. I promised my mom that I would get back to volunteering very soon.
My mother died that November.
The following year, I was blessed in a way I could only see today. That was my first year as a volunteer docent with the September 11th Families Association/The Tribute Center. I woke up that morning and made my way into Manhattan with a lump in my throat. I had no idea why I was going to the Tribute Center even though it was open only to the docents and family members of those that were killed on 9/11/01. I thought I’d be out of place. I was new. I imagined that people would look at me and wonder why I felt I had a right to be there. By the time I got close to Liberty Street I was ready to turn back but I knew that I’d miss that first bell at 8:46 and I just couldn’t do that.
As I walked into The Tribute Center, I was welcomed with open arms. Hugs, kisses, smiles and the best comfort I could have hoped to feel on that day. I roamed around the Tribute Center that day. I met people I hadn’t met yet since I was new but in my heart I had a feeling that we’d all become a family in no time. I left that day emotionally drained but with a sense of peace. I can’t explain it so I won’t try.
The following year, I did the journey again but for only an hour or so. I heard my bells and left when my friends names were called and then I went to meet my husband who was surprised that I had come down to see him. I told him, it’s your birthday. And I know you don’t feel much like celebrating but if I’ve never told you before, I’m telling you now before one more year passes us by, I’m so grateful that you came home. And I know you feel you can’t celebrate this day as your day but know that today we honored those that died but I want to honor you as well. He had turned 60. I thought that was a reason to be happy in spite of what happened nine years before.
Last year, he came down with me. I was surprised.
He said he had to be close to his buddies and this was the only way he knew how.
He saw the site differently then. He said every time he came to pick me up, all he could see was devastation, dust, jagged windows, ash and death. It didn’t matter that by this time the area had a rebuilding, a regrowth. It didn’t matter to him because all he could see was what he saw that day ten years before and he didn’t think he could ever see what all of us had been seeing each time we did a tour.
He met friends that day he hadn’t seen in years.
He made new friends.
He came home and said, “Thank you”.
I asked what for?
He said, “Because I can understand why you feel you have to be here. You have to be with people that understand what’s in your heart. You have to be with people that were there. You have to tell people that what they saw on the television years before was far worse than what they were seeing. You just have to be here because other’s aren’t and you want to be here for them. I get it. I get it now.”
So back to my friend.
Why is this year so much harder than the years before?
I’ve met and become friends with the mother’s and father’s whose sons and daughters never came home. I now hear their names and shed more tears. I cannot imagine a life without my daughter.
I’ve met the wives whose husbands gave their lives for others. I know their children who are adults now will never get to experience what my daughter has all these years. I hear their names and I cry for the women that have become my friends.
I’ve met daughter’s whose father’s will never walk them down the aisle when they get married and the son’s who have changed their life’s dreams to walk in the footsteps of their fathers who never came home. My daughter informed us a few months ago that she too would like to become a police officer and if the commissioner allows it, she would be proud to wear her father’s shield number. My daughter is a history major.
It’s been almost four years since I became a docent at The Tribute Center. I have made some really good friendships. I have had the best conversations. I’ve gone on trips with some of the docents. We have talked about so many things that aren’t related to that horrible day and yet because of that day we are connected.
And that’s why it hurts more this year than all the other years before.
I know personally of their loss. I know personally of their pain. I can feel their hearts beating each time they share their personal stories on a tour.
I’m in awe of them.
My story has a positive ending although I know it could have been different.
But they have all made me realize that my story and the story of others are a mosaic of September 11th, 2001. I take no credit for that line. A very dear woman whose husband died in the line of duty said that and it stayed with me all this time.
I am a part of September 11th.
And so are you.
You didn’t have to be there.
You didn’t have to know any one personally.
But you are part of September 11th, 2001 because you life changed as did ours.
On Tuesday, I’m going down there again. It’s where I belong. Its like going home, as a friend of mine stated. There’s never a need to break the ice with any one new that comes into Tribute. We just belong.
Tuesday the hugs will be tighter;The smiles sadder. The conversations will be short and sweet. But it will be a day of comfort, a day where we can all share our grief and our love. A day of hope. A day where we mourn those that were killed but hope for better days… hope that this travesty never repeats itself. Hope for a better tomorrow
In honor of the 2,953 people that were murdered on September 11th, 2001, I ask that all of you reading this… do something in their names… do something in the name of love and hope. Do something positive…
I ask that you NEVER FORGET
GOD BLESS YOU…and GOD BLESS AMERICA