Posts Tagged ‘9/11’

What you do when you don’t want today to be today.

September 11, 2017

I am going to have a lot of feels today. Sixteen years worth of feels. Also: I have friends and family who were in Irma’s path who sheltered in place and now aren’t checking in.

So.

I did things. I did lots of things yesterday to try to take my mind off of today.

I made last-minute fudge with my daughter because why the heck not?! Who cares that it’s twenty minutes til bedtime. We. wanted. fudge.

I was a little worried that Bee would expect to be able to have some tonight, but there was no way it would set in time. Her sister wandered through the kitchen when we were almost done, and was all “FUDGE?!!…?” and Bee was all “Yeah, but it won’t be ready til tomorrow.” So that took care of that. And then Gracie left and I gave Bee the pan and the spatula to lick clean. And we were happy and not thinking of today.

I rearranged letters in Target:

911b

Because I will go see this movie, even if I will have nightmares for weeks. It looks amazing, even if they weren’t completely faithful to the book. Somehow marquee letters makes IT seem a lot less nightmarish. And IT certainly distracts me, at least for a little bit, from thinking of today.

There was a mandatory clean-up of Miss Bee’s room, too. I made the mistake of looking in her room after she got home from her dad’s house. Then Bee took it to a new level and cleaned-out and re-organized her closet so it could be more like her friend N’s:

911e

A squishy, laughy (not so) little girl sitting on some pillows in her new closet fort? That definitely makes my heart swell and keeps me from thinking of today.

I tried to fill my night last night with happy things. I tried to remind myself that today would hurt, but the hurt would pass. I can both remember and be okay. Being okay does not betray those who died on 9/11, and those who responded. Because I know I’m going to think of reporters breaking down on-air because of the enormity of what happened. I know I will think of people jumping from high rises because actively killing yourself was better than staying and burning alive. I will think about the firefighters and other first responders – hell, ordinary people even – who went up the Towers, trying to help people.

No matter what I do, I’ll still think about it. I’ll remember.

I heard from my friend just now. The one hit by Irma. He and his are okay. The house isn’t, but they survived. Which is great because I also took this pic this morning:

And sunrises are kind of our thing.

911

However you have to do it, I hope everyone can be okay today. Be well. Even today.

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Five for Friday.

July 7, 2017

It’s been a weird, tough week. But not too tough for Five for Friday! I love my little mental colander that lets me sort out the things I can throw overboard before the weekend. We don’t need no clutter ’round here, mental or otherwise!

Let’s see what we’ve got…

1 Poor Bee is home with a fever. I got the girls for dinner last night, and Bee mentioned a headache, but that’s not necessarily out of the ordinary (though I hate the near-constant pattern, poor thing). As soon as we got home, Bee went to lie down instead of towards the kitchen for food, so I knew it was serious. I checked on her a little bit later, and as I brushed back her hair, I noticed she was approximately 390°. Okay, or maybe just 101.3°, once I checked with the thermometer. Stepmom graciously allowed Bee to stay the night with me so I could take care of my sweet baby. Her temp did go down a little with some Tylenol, and it’s gone this morning, but the headache lingered. Here’s hoping it’s not an ear infection from her swim lessons!

2 I was glad for the company because I was a little afraid of sleeping alone in the house last night. Know why? The night before, my house alarm went off in the middle of the night! Scared the pants off me! I called 911 and the cops took their sweet time – more than 10 minutes to get to the house. They didn’t see anything amiss, and all the doors and windows that I could see (I wasn’t going into rooms where the doors were closed until the cops got there) were secure, but I was still scared out of my mind. That happened at 2:30 a.m. and I never went back to bed. Every time I shut off the lights and tried to close my eyes, I broke out in a sweat and started to freak out. So nope. I didn’t necessarily want Bee to be scared like that if it happened again, but I like having another person around to help me make sense of everything. I hate being alone. I can do it, I’m tough – but I hate it.

3 Which is just one reason why I hate July so much. It’s the month the girlies go to their Dad and Stepmom’s, and I have to stay home by myself. The custody arrangement flip flops. I used to love it when the girls were toddlers and I needed a break. But now the girls are older and (usually) fun to be around and I enjoy my time off with them. The arrangement has stayed the same, regardless. I just have very different feelings about it. (And so does Bee – she begged me not to make her go, but I think that might have had everything to with the fact that she got in trouble and didn’t want to face up. She knows better though – Dad, Stepmom, and I have worked hard to be a united front, so she was marched straight back over to her dad’s. No mercy! Heh.)

4 There’s a nice big reward at the end of the month for those of us who make it through. I purchased our tickets to go home! It’s the same week we’ve gone since time out of mind – nothing ever changes in our family routine – so we’ll be vacationing the first week of August, like always, including the weekends on either sides, like always. I’m so excited, I have perpetual Kermit-arms over here!!! I can’t wait for our family cookout and to catch up with cousins and see family and friends and hear everyone talk with the right accent and have a break from this insipid heat and eat some real fish & chips… oh my god, the list is my happy place! Kim asked me what the girls were the most excited about, and I didn’t have an answer, although honest-to-god, it might be packing. HA! Prepping for and anticipating the vacation is at least half the fun!

5 I think besides catching up with my favorite people, what I am most looking forward to is our vacation-within-our-vacation. My sister Kim graciously sprang for a cabin in New Hampshire at Weirs Beach. It’s the same property (if not the same house) that my family has vacationed in since I was a little girl, and we’ve stayed there with the girls before. We have all the fun! It’s a 2-minute walk from the boardwalk, there’s a beach, arcades, mini golf, bumper cars, tiny little tourist shops, boat rides… I fell asleep last night daydreaming that we were there and having fun doing all of the things we’ll get to do in a little less than a month. And having our vacation-within-a-vacation smack dab in the middle of our trip home is so well-planned because I’m sure by then we’ll be ready to get away from my parents’ house for awhile. I love my parents, but seeing how sick my mom is…it’s harder than words could ever describe. And my dad is…well. He’s the same as he’s ever been. I sacrifice my children as buffers. (Sorry childrens.) So the vacation will break all of that up, and still give us enough time on the back side of the trip to get back in good graces with the parents and aunts after leaving for a few days. Oh! And my brother was able to take that entire week off from work, so the girls will have fun hanging out with their crazy uncle! I am really, really, really looking forward to going home!

And that is a very happy place to leave our 5 For Friday! Hopefully the fun and excitement carries me through today and spits me out the other side ready for some fun this weekend! What do YOU have planned? Anything fun?

It always feels like the mourning after.

September 12, 2016

I did a lot of different things yesterday, with the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 never far from my mind. I thought quite a few times about writing a blog post; I even started the opening paragraph in my mind. But every time I sat down and reached for my laptop, I stopped. I stopped and wondered if they were the right words. Big enough words.

I finally found some as Jeff and I sat on the couch, licking our wounds from another tough weekend and watching coverage on TV: those things that happened fifteen years ago, those momentous events that will haunt all of us for the rest of our lives, there simply aren’t words big enough for what happened. The images we saw on the screen, the memories we had of our own reactions, our memories of the reactions we saw play out on countless hours of live television: there were no words big enough. I remember being aware of that feeling, that sinking incredulousness, on and after 9/11, but not being able to quite pin it down.

It’s almost unnatural. For me as a writer and such a voracious consumer of words, I expect them to always be there at the ready. Words comfort me. Words rebuild me. Words arm me and protect me. Words do not fail me. But they did.

They still do. I felt that same jaw-dropping emptiness last night as I watched the footage. How do you…? Why would…? How do we…? But last night might have been the first time I was able to say that we might not ever be able to pin down the right words. There may not ever be words big enough to capture how overwhelmed and terrified we felt. The events of 9/11 were bigger than that. The idea that such evil could exist. That people could really delight in killing as many civilians as they could. That buildings tall and strong enough to scrape the sky could just fall down. That jumping from those buildings could be the better choice than whatever the alternative was. That veteran newscasters could break down, sobbing, mid-broadcast. That days, weeks, years would keep unfolding and we would still be here. Even that possibility seemed unfathomable at the time. Everything was unfathomable.

I kept letting my hands fall away when I sat down to write. I didn’t have the words. I didn’t want to go looking for them and come up short. I didn’t want to try, but feel I had missed. It was tempting to give in again this morning. Let the words dance out of reach. You can’t fail when you don’t try. It’s no longer the anniversary, so wouldn’t a tribute be too little, too late?

But it will always be the same: the words will never be enough and the wounds will always feel raw and gaping. Whether it’s the day after, the year after, or any number of days in all the years since. Events like this will always feel too much, too big, too everything. Retelling the stories grounds us. Tricks us into thinking we’ve found a way out, a ways to trap everything we felt, to throw a net around everything, even for a fleeting moment.

So I will remember the lives that were lost that day, all the lives that were lost since then because of that day, and try to find peace with the idea that what happened is too big for words. I will remember the good things. That there are people (God bless them) who run into fires every day to help, that we stood united for a moment in time, and reached for each others’ hands when words failed us. We’re still standing, the morning after – years after – the thing that has no words.

Je Suis Paris. Again.

November 16, 2015

Three days have passed since the terrorist attacks on Paris first ripped us open. But three days isn’t long enough to stop thinking Not this. Not again.

Three days isn’t long enough to heal. It isn’t long enough to turn to other matters. It’s not even long enough to wrap your minds around what exactly happened? Who was behind it? Where are the perpetrators hiding? There will never be enough time for Why? Or How could someone possibly hate a people, a nation, a world so much that this seems reasonable?

Three days.

Three days is almost long enough for some of those who couldn’t look, who couldn’t watch, to peek from inside their hastily constructed sanctuaries. I’ve talked to so many people who just couldn’t, who had been traumatized by similar attacks of violence, or who wore their fragility, their scars in other ways. A few were seeking forgiveness? No…permission…to look away. To protect themselves. It’s okay. It’s okay to care for yourself first. To be responsible to your own mental, emotional, psychological well-being.

Three days isn’t nearly long enough to understand the small minds of some critics, those who bashed the strict gun control laws of France, or who blamed the victims for allowing in refugees. Do they truly not see that the refugees were running from the very people perpetrating these horrific crimes? Would they persecute New Yorkers who no longer felt safe living in the city after 9/11?

Three days of manhunts and bombings and talk of invasion. Three days of rumors and breaking news and endless news cycles to hide from the kids. Three days of heartache and overtime at work and wondering if this world is just going to keep sliding further and further towards a place where this is just what happens.

Three days without answers. Three days without expecting any.

Three days closer to a new “normal.”

Three days ain’t nothin’.

Reflection, foreign and domestic.

September 11, 2014

Thirteen years ago, after buildings had fallen, our military headquarters smoldered, and a giant hole in the ground of Pennsylvania lay open, I took a time-out from the crisis atmosphere at work to call my mom. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one; I’m sure a great many Americans called their moms that day, probably a lot earlier than I was able. But I work for a company directly affected by 9/11 and so it was late afternoon by the time I was able to stop for a moment.

It took a while to get through, but when I finally did, despite everything, we sounded perfectly normal. “Hi. Are you okay? Isn’t this crazy?”

Crazy, indeed.

Who would have thought that such anger could exist to wreak such devastation and destruction on buildings filled with innocent civilians?

Who would have thought that thirteen years later, my mom would be so ravaged by Parkinson’s Disease and the onset of its accompanying dementia that I couldn’t reliably call on her to be my touchstone in a world gone mad?

This afternoon my mom is being released from rehab, three weeks after her stroke. She’s not physically ready to be released, and yet. Everyone is distraught, trying to find a solution to a largely unsolvable problem. No one wants to send her back home, back to an unhappy situation where she’ll be left unattended for large portions of the day. My mom refuses to go anywhere but home, to the place she’s spent 36 years of her life. She doesn’t care that she will be left alone with just the TV and a white board prepared by her home health care helper, reminding her what day it is, what she’s watching, what’s on schedule for the rest of the day. She doesn’t care that she might not be able to make it to the bathroom. She doesn’t care that she might not see her brothers and sisters (or daughters) as often, because they feel unwelcome. She wants to be home. And everyone in the family – my aunts and uncles, my sisters, myself – we all want her to want something better. Even if we don’t know what that is.

Crazy, isn’t it? I mean, not so much, but it is all the same.

Thirteen years later, a crisis of an entirely different nature, but it still feels like my buildings are falling down, my family headquarters is smoldering, and gaping holes are left. Coping feels just as difficult, the situation as unfathomable.

And yet. There are moments, for which I am so thankful, when I accept that things are the way they are. When I can connect with friends and see an entirely different side. Mum’s still here. She still has good days. Her stroke wasn’t worse. She has family who loves her. I have friends and family who love me. Thirteen years later and we’re still safe. Still fighting. Still living.

Living. Sometimes laughing. Putting one foot, one day, one more story in front of the other. Crazy, isn’t it?

Sunrise

Thanks, Bill, for making me laugh this morning, and for sending this beautiful red, white and blue sunrise.

Still.

September 11, 2013

I just can’t today.

Too many words, too many feelings, too many grown men and women in tears at this morning’s memorial.

I can’t.

Still.

September 11, 2012

I am a big ball of stress, anxiety, and 9/11sies instead of a calming tranquil river of elegance from which I wanted to write this post. Yeah, see? So I am going to attack this need to say something – anything – stream-of-consciousness style.

Things I don’t like about today: That it’s Tuesday. That the sky is that same shade of shockingly cloudless blue. That I have friends flying today. I should have to worry that I have friends flying today. That I’ve spent an ungodly amount of time wondering whether this year will be the year the girls come home asking questions. That the girls won’t be with me to deliver cookies to our neighborhood firehouse. That I’ve spent time wondering whether there will be any cute firemen there, instead of focusing on why I’m going in the first place. That “normal” activities like city council meetings are scheduled instead of observing a day of remembrance. That more media showed up for yesterday’s political events than today’s ceremony. That so few seem to remember.

Things I like about today: That I wasn’t the only one moved to tears this morning. The sound of the airplanes overhead drowning out part of the speech. That the politicians were asked to stay away from the memorials, making them more about the families. That we’ve had the luxury of eleven years. I finished another incredibly researched and beautifully written book: 102 Minutes, about the survivors who made it out of the towers and their incredible journey. The first song I heard on the radio this morning was Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” which always makes me think of his performance during one of the 9/11 tributes. That we’re still getting on airplanes, carrying on, living our day-to-day lives; I wish some people did so with a little more respect and deference to what today means, but at least we’re not cowering in the corner. And that sky is such a beautiful, perfectly clear blue.

As always, my timing is impeccable.

September 16, 2011

Last weekend, after “stealing” the suggestion from Renee and Heather over at Raising Boys World (which I found by way of Firemom over at Stop, Drop, and Blog), I decided to bake a bunch of cookies for our local firefighters. This year is the first year in recent memory that I’ve had the girls on 9/11. I knew I planned to read the 9/11 book I’d bought (the graphic adaptation of the 9/11 Report) and I planned to watch the coverage and I would certainly spend the day remembering and mourning, but…I wanted to do something. Something with the girls that would include 9/11 without having to really explain it to them. I don’t think I’m quite ready to spring all of that on them, although I had resolved to answer straight any question they asked.

So. Cookies! Cookies are an excellent way to thank you. A small token, yes, but I hear it’s a much appreciated one around the fire house. So, Saturday Bee and Gracie and I baked literally dozens of cookies. Chocolate Chip and Mayan Hotties and Peanut Butter Kiss cookies. We filled containers and made a pretty platter and while we were finishing up, I explained that on Sunday when we were delivered the cookies, the girls should tell the firefighters “Thank you for keeping us safe.” Simple. True. And something that would have a much different meaning for the grown-ups than it would for the kiddos. Firefighters (and all first responders) keep us safe. It’s a concept every child has mastered by the time he or she is five. It wasn’t a new concept for my girls. But years from now, when they’ve learned about 9/11 and what it means to our country, I want them to be able to look back and connect the dots. I want Bee and Gracie to understand that saying thank you on 9/11 meant enough to me that I found a way to include them, but at a level that’s right for our family.

So the girls practiced what they would say when we got to the firestation and we had a plan and then….Gracie caught the stomach bug going around and was the Puke Monster all day Sunday. Yeah, so not bringing that to the fire station. “Thanks for keeping us safe, oh, and never mind that smell. Or the kid throwing up behind us.” Yeah, okay. Instead, we waited until Monday right after work. I ran in to pick up the containers and the platter and we drove over to our local station near the park. We found a parking spot, walked up to the door, the girls practiced again what they would say and…then just as the fireman opened the door, the alarm went off.

Of course.

The girls said quick “thank yous” and I handed over the cookies with a “Okay, go keep someone else safe now.” The poor guy felt bad, but the girls didn’t. They thought it was pretty hardcore to see all the action. And when we walked outside back to car, when the door rolled up, all of the firefighters yelled thank you. I thought that was pretty cool. (Hey, some of them were pretty hott!) The girls were more impressed that they got to see the truck zip out with full sirens and lights. Not something you get to see close up everyday.

It wasn’t quite what I had pictured – in fact, I literally didn’t get a single picture. But maybe that’s the point. Sometimes a thank you is just a simple, (mostly) anonymous thank you. …Or maybe we can just have a do-over with the station down the street on the other side of our house.

And the questions keep coming.

September 11, 2010

All week I’ve been intimidated by the idea of writing my September 11th post. There were so many angles I could choose from: anger and absolute amazement at That Guy in Florida who is so lost in his own confusion and (misplaced) anger; wonder that nine years have gone by since that morning; a book review of the thoroughly engaging 9/11-esque fiction I’m reading right now, Incendiary by Chris Cleave; questioning whether to discuss 9/11 specifically and terrorism in general with the girls. I had a lot I wanted to write about, but very little faith that I could write about anything with the proper level of brilliance the subject deserved. Whatever it was, I wanted what I wrote to be profound.

While I was trying to sort all of that out, I kept coming back to the question of how to handle the anniversary with the girls. They’re home this weekend so they would be around while I watched the news coverage and revisited accounts and pictures online. Should I monitor what I watch in front of them? Wait until they’re asleep to visit online memorials? Should I force a cheerful atmosphere and take them on errands and pretend like it’s any other Saturday?

The other option, of course, would be to explain – on of several possible levels – what happened to our country on 9/11 and why we stopped our lives every year to remember. Bee is young. She’s four – and not a mature-beyond-her-years kind of four. More of a “Oh. Okay. Can I have some cheese, Mom?” kind of four. But she’s also horribly afraid of the dark right now and I feel like I should be reinforcing the idea that she is safe right now, not introducing anything that could fester once the lights go out. Then there’s Gracie. Gracie understands far more than is probably good for her overactive imagination. She is my dramatic child, the one who will understand whatever I throw at her and ask insightful questions…and then brood about the answers. She is a wee bit scary because as much as she talks about something (and sweet mother mary is that a LOT), she internalizes a lot more. Does she need even more heavy, emotional problems beyond her control to think about right now? Or is it something that could wait? Am I being too protective if I purposely keep my children on the innocent side of this mess for awhile?

I think I’m going to try to find some sort of middle ground in this squishy minefield. If they ask, I certainly won’t lie. I’ll try to find some sort of age-appropriate response, depending on who’s around and why they’re asking. But I can not treat 9/11 like it’s any other Saturday. And I can’t just sit my children down and say to them, “Today is 9/11 and everyone is sad because some bad people think we shouldn’t try to help everyone be free and did some bad things to prove their point.” I think when my children are ready to know, they’ll notice what’s going on around them and ask questions. Now, that might not be right for every family – to each his or her own. I would never want anyone to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do with my own family. But this decision feels right for us.

I never thought I would have to make a decision like this. I knew there would plenty of tough ones I’d face during my Adventures in Parenting. But never this one. I’m sad that my children will never know how blissful it was back when we most Americans were ignorant of the hate. But I’m hopeful that one day they can help fight the hate on both sides of the ocean.

Another year gone by. Another day of remembrance. Still here trying to sort out all the answers and wishing it hadn’t happened.

9/11: eight years later.

September 11, 2009

I’m having a hard time writing my 9/11 post. I feel like it should be something profound, something moving. Something that speaks even a little to the enormity of what happened that day.

I don’t feel profound. Just sad. And maybe a little bit angry.

I am sad (and angry) that the country no longer feels united, but full of vitriolic bipartisanship. That when news of the Aeromexico hijacking broke on Wednesday, my first thought was, Oh my god, what could it hit? That my daughters will never know how wonderfully, blissfully ignorant life was pre-9/11. That I will never be able to walk through Boston Logan on the way back from my mom’s house without picturing the hijackers walking around and inhabiting the same space. That I have to worry every single day about people I care about very deeply who travel internationally for a living. That people could have forgotten already, that they could think that 9/11 happened 8 years ago instead of yesterday. That, at the same time, I can’t push the thoughts from my own mind.

People I know have told me all of that is crap. That we should be able to move on and live, to just be however we want to. Otherwise, they win.

Oh, really? I say. Who are they, these bullies, to define who I am and how I feel? And who am I to let them? If I don’t move on with my life, they win? I think that respectful remembrance is different from dwelling, and I think this so-called “moving on with my life” is a fine line away from pretending nothing happened. If I don’t do something “normal” then these bullies win? Who am I to give them that power? I would much prefer not to act and react in such a way that none of my feelings, thoughts, or actions belong fully to me. That doesn’t work for me.

But you know what? If it works for you, then you should do it. In the spirit of 9/11, in the spirit of respect (something I think everyone’s forgotten about these days), I think if that acting “normal” will help get you through the day, you should go ahead and do it. Go to a high school football game. Go shopping. Hang out with friends and watch stupid sitcoms on television. Because I understand that what works for me, might not be the right answer for you. It’s called pluralism and I embrace it. Not everyone has to be the same. But I do think that everyone needs to be a little more respectful when we disagree. If we don’t remember what it means to be American, if we don’t rediscover that sense of unity we felt immediately following the brutal attacks on our country, then I really fear for the direction we’re headed in.

Unity: I think that makes for a wonderful broader theme in our post-9/11 world; I think that is profound enough to reach for. We won’t always march in lockstep and when we disagree I think we need to remember to be respectful as we work out our differences. Otherwise I really don’t know what we’re fighting for in this country.