When I do my 9/11 story, I don’t always tell the entire story. There isn’t enough time. In the very beginning, I used to tell the story of my ribbons and the minister that received one while I was stationed at St. Johns Respite Center where I was stationed for my midnight shifts during the rescue and recovery at Ground Zero. I hadn’t shared that story in years. Yesterday, I shared a part of it. I’m not sure why I did but I had no support so I was able to extend my time and I said to myself, “Self, why not? Today seems like a pretty good day to bring that story up.” And so I did.
I told the visitors that out of frustration and fear, I had to go help and I signed up with the Red Cross and became a Recovery worker. They sent me to St. Johns and one day I filled my pockets with Ribbons and Hero Sticks that I had made out of chap sticks and on my way I went. That day a minister wanted to meet the person who made the ribbons;They pointed me to her and she came my way. She began to tell me about a group of ladies who sat in church, knitting these blankets, as they prayed, then they would send out these blankets to people who would to Christ’s work. The minister wanted me to have one of the blankets. I told her I couldn’t accept the blanket as I wasn’t doing Christ’s work, I didn’t think the ribbons were that great. She felt that by coming down and handing out those ribbons in honor of all those that were killed, and facing my fears was close enough. I was in awe and I accepted.
To be honest, I never thought of the blanket again. I didn’t think I was very deserving of it.
I continued volunteering, making my ribbons and finding my family’s and I, new normal, until we would get the news that I would have Kidney Cancer and there was no treatment for it. I have to be honest, if 9/11 did not happen, the news would have affected me very differently but I thought, so many people were taken from us and never had a chance to say good-bye, I would have at least a year, and then I thought, my husband lived because God knew I was going to die, I was not going to dishonor a gift like that, so I accepted this harsh reality.
I decided since I had a goal, to make one ribbon for each person taken from us and we still did not have an exact number, I would settle the number at 3000. I put ten ribbons in an envelope and had them all ready to be mailed out so that even while I was sick, the ribbons wouldn’t stop being delivered. While waiting for the surgery to take place, the ribbons were mailed out. I volunteered a few more weeks and then I had to stop going doing my midnight shift on doctors orders.
One day, while lying down in bed, I decided I would rearrange my room and I came across the boxes of thank you cards and gifts people had sent me. I began to open them and in them were angels of all sizes and shapes. I placed the angels all around my room. Angels surrounded me. About four days before surgery, it finally hit me. I hadn’t cried until then. In my family, you had to be strong. I had my father to thank for that as well as my mother. They both were cancer survivors, although my father had finally lost his battle before I would become sixteen. I laid in bed that evening and cried, I looked around and saw all the angels and a thought came to me: Either God was telling me that I was going to have safe passage to heaven and that’s why the angels were sent to me or he was sending me a message that the angels were telling me that I would be okay, I chose to believe the latter. Then I saw the blanket I had put on my rocking chair. I hadn’t dared open it since the day it was given to me. I still didn’t think I was worthy of it. I unwrapped it, and enveloped myself in it and cried. I asked God to forgive my being selfish but I didn’t want to die. I gave him my list for reasons and I asked him to please reconsider.
I’m here thirteen years later. I’ve shared those angels with people I’ve heard had cancer. I’ve only kept a few. I’ve shared my blanket with a few that have had cancer, it’ has been returned and they are still alive. I shared a part of this story of my tour yesterday with a group of Christian students from Texas. When my tour was done, a young man came to me and said, “I have been struggling for year what to do with my life. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in nursing or move into business but now that I’ve heard your story, I know I want to go into nursing. Thank you for helping me to decide.”
To tell the truth is very important. It makes a big difference. This young man will change the life of someone one day.
You see, one thing I left out about my ribbon story that makes what he said more meaningful and powerful. A young man had sent me a box of ribbons back when I was backing a lot of them because he heard I would not take money. He said that he was so hurt that people who did not know his aunt had killed her but then he heard that someone who did not know her honored her and he wanted me to have the ribbons to continue my mission. He became a doctor. And now a nurse is born.