A few days ago, a friend returned from her vacation, the first in years. As luck would have it, she has to go on business and that travel will take her on a plane during a time when so many of us experienced 9/11. We spoke about our connected fears and tried to think positively about our travel. I too am traveling the weekend of September 11th. The very first time for me. I am nervous, I am scared but I am on a mission and that mission has to be greater than my fear. That does not negate my emotions. They are very real.
We decided to first get it all out: our fears, our thoughts, our memories and our emotions.We then decided that we would take control of all of these feelings, all of these fears and figure out key words, that we could use to get ourselves under control.
Let me first say, when I state “Under Control,” I am not saying that we go nuts on a plane. Trust me, what we feel is very much under control to the outside world, it’s what happens within us that we need to work on. After awhile, we felt good about our progress and very positive only to realize that we should not even have had to explain to any one what we were dealing with. People should understand.
The most insensitive thing that she had been told was, “Please don’t book your seat next to mine. I can’t handle you freaking out.” Mind you, she is the last person who will show her emotions, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel them as do I.That comment made me think: What is it that people who did not experience 9/11 think the rest of us that lived it expect from us? And what right do they have to expect anything of us?
I grow weary of people who utter within listening distance, that they get sick and tired of hearing about the fear, the sadness and all that comes with our memories of 9/11. I’m not sure if they were referring to me and I honestly don’t care but what I do know is that when people begin to treat each other in this cold-hearted, careless, removed way, we are in trouble.
I have spoken to people from all over the world whose only connection to September 11th was via a television. As far as I’m concerned, you watched it, you were with us. At the end of my talks, so many come up to me and hug me. Their responses are usually the same but nonetheless comforting:”I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.” “I saw it and still can’t believe it but thank you for connecting things for me.” “Can I hug you because I think after all these years, it’s still very new to you.” And it goes on and on. All words I take back home with me feeling super comforted that they get it.
Yet, for some people, they want it over. And that’s fine. And if I could do that, I would. Why on earth wouldn’t I? Why wouldn’t any one else?
I was very honored to be a guest blogger on Huffington Post by another 9/11 survivor, Artie Vanwhy. I wrote from my heart what it feels like fifteen years later. It hasn’t changed. Some days may be better than others, but 9/11 left a mark in my life and in my family’s life. And I know that’s the way it is for so many others. Respect that for you know nothing of what a day, a week, a night, a morning or a moment is like for us.
You are entitled to believe what you choose to believe but you do not have the right to discredit any one else’s beliefs. So I ask all of you reading this: If you were a First Responder, Recovery Worker, Volunteer, Survivor or Family Member, I stand with you today and every day and I will be with you in spirit on 9/11. If you are not, you have the right to move on, and if you have a magic solution for the rest of us to move on, bottle it and share it with us. Because none of us want to relive this but we do. So try to be considerate this year and every year. If you didn’t live it, you are fortunate.
Be kind to each other. Be good to each other. Remember the hatred that came into our lives 15 years ago but most importantly remember what we as a nation went through and still go through. We must be better people. We must be kinder. We must be more understanding. And if you can’t be, trust me, none of us will judge you. That’s what 9/11 was about. Besides the hatred, it was judging us as a group of people that did them wrong. Don’t make us feel as if we are doing wrong now. If you can’t offer a hug, a kind and understanding thought, if you can’t stand with us in silence, that’s okay. But don’t diminish how we feel and what we deal with. We are still the same people you knew Fifteen years ago, just a little more dented.
Help us, don’t hurt us.