The Loss of Something Important

This has not been the best of weeks. Anniversaries are usually a time of celebration but this one, ten years since 9/11, brought up a lot of memories and feelings connected to that dreadful day. We as a nation lost so much: our naiveté and innocence, family and friends, fellow citizens, sense of safety and security and more. We knew in the moments the terror was unfolding that our lives would never be the same, we just didn’t know what that meant. Now we see the effects of 9/11 where ever we go: passing through detectors as we enter many buildings, especially government buildings; lengthy security checks at every airport; random bag searches on just about every metro-area transit system, etc. We are much more apt to report suspicious behavior or unidentified packages left anywhere out of the ordinary. Our fears are pricked when traveling with folks who “look different” from us. Sad, yes, but true.

I lived in Allentown, Pennsylvania. September 11, 2001, was like any other day for me. The day was sunny and bright reflecting my mood. Richard, my then-fiance, was visiting from Dayton at the time and was planning to return home later in the day. We were planning a wedding in October. I went to work as usual. I was the director of the county women’s community corrections center and I enjoyed my work immensely. The first two hours or so were devoted to paperwork and administrative blablabla. Around 9:00am I heard a commotion in the hallway outside my door which did not subside even after a few minutes. I poked my head out to tell people to keep the noise down. Obviously agitated, the women (3 or 4 of them) began telling me at once that something terrible had happened in NY City; a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. My first reaction was that it was very sad and I hoped that not too many people got hurt. Most people were probably not even at work yet. My inner thoughts were that the women were in their “drama” mode, a state of being that is common in correctional facilities. In order to maintain my integrity, I had long ago consciously decided that I would not succumb to the daily drama in that building. I closed my door and went back to work.

Within minutes though, more women were pounding on my door. Now a plane had flown into the Pentagon. I casually asked if they had seen it, or was a reporter talking about the “what ifs?” Now the story was that both towers had been hit, and the Pentagon with passenger planes (far fetched) and another passenger plane was missing. By now I figured they were trying to dupe me about something ~ I had a reputation for being gullible. But, there was an urgency in their voices and fear in their eyes which raised my radar a bit. We all walked into the tv room together and there I was greeted with the images we are all now familiar with. I caught my breath and blurted out “We are under attack!” All of us, residents, staff and myself, sat glued to the tv for the following hours into days. I gave the women unlimited phone privileges for the rest of the week because many of them had family members in NYC. A new staff member was especially distraught. She had been offered a position in the World Trade Center the same time I offered her a position at the Correctional Center. She and her husband had chosen to accept my offer because they wanted to get their children out of the city and raise them in a more bucolic setting. 9/10 would have been her first day on the job if she had accepted their offer. Many of her family were still in NY. We were less than two hours from Wall Street. Some of my friends were the ones walking around, after the buildings collapsed, covered in white dust, choking on the air.

When I arrived back home fighting back tears, Richard was still there. He and I had been in communication by phone all day long. In fact I was the one who told him to turn on the tv. He stayed for days afterwards as we watched in disbelief at everything that transpired over and over and over again, and then some more. Our minds simply could not wrap around the tragedy of that day and the days to come. The world changed on 9/11, the day we lost our innocence. The first anniversary of that day was awful. Our grief was still palpable. The mood was somber, to say the least.

This tenth anniversary brought back a lot of those memories and feelings. This year there were other complications, too. What can I say. My son and his lovely wife were expecting their second child. As you can imagine we were all so excited for them, and the talk on everyone’s lips was about the upcoming birth. New life. The family grows. Maria just completed her first trimester and we all felt they were in the clear now. On Sept 9, 2011, Maria suffered a miscarriage. How does a mother comfort her son and daughter-in-law through the loss of their child? I don’t know.  We all hurt. We hurt for the life that was lost, and for the dreams and plans unfulfilled. We grieve the child we never knew, and the person he or she may have become. Yes, the loss is immense.

To add insult to injury, my children have had to watch from afar as their father and stepmother lost everything they own in the floods in the east this past week. While I do not have communication with my ex, I ache for the pain that my children are going through for their father’s loss. As a parent, I want to shield my children from the aches and pains of life. It never occurred to me, until now, that at times the roles are reversed as the children wish so fervently that they could protect their parents from the vicissitudes of life as well.

My children, all of them, are strong and powerful and insightful and faith-filled people. We will all get through these days and will go on to thrive. I’m sure of it. That is what we do. But we have lost important things. Life will be different than we imagined. Losses take a toll. We will in the end be stronger, but now we grieve.

Despite these immense losses, there is life to celebrate. Through these events we learn what is or is not important. We learn to live in the moment and to be thankful, always, for each breath of air we breathe. We learn the value of being present for each other, for expressing our love, for pursuing our dreams, for remaining hopeful in trying times. We learn that it is ok to rely on family and friends during rough times, and that we will get to return the favor in time. We learn to see, to hear, to feel.

This has turned into a more lengthy post than I had planned so I’ll stop here. Please feel free to share your thoughts if you wish. I’ll be “invisible” for the next few days as I finish up my final project of the quarter, and then I’ll have a break. So, I will be back! Thanks for indulging me as I rambled today.


32 thoughts on “The Loss of Something Important

  1. thank you for sharing your thoughts. and i am so sorry to hear of the loss of your little grandchild as well. my heart goes out to your son and daughter-in-law….
    As someone who lives north of your great country, the story hit close to home here as well. i will never forget that day. i couldn’t grasp it when I first heard the news, because here on the west coast it was very early, and for some reason I had not turned on the radio on my drive to work.
    when i arrived at the office, it was one of the first things i heard from my co-workers. it seemed impossible, unbelievable. i immediately phoned him even though it meant waking up someone who was trying to sleep in. however, this was just too important, and i had to call home. and yes, it was really true. it was confirmed to me over the phone as it was being watched live on tv at home.
    i heard the unthinkable – that only one tower was standing. and that it was smoking. and that people were running. it seemed so surreal, like a bad movie going from terrible to worse. i had just been to NYC a few years earlier, and those towers were an unforgettable landmark that somehow took over many of my photos, even when my camera was focussed on other things.
    it was awful. i knew no one personally there at the time, and yet this was not just another piece of foreign news. this was a dark moment in our common history on our planet, and everything had changed. living in vancouver there are always planes flying overhead. however there was no air traffic. the airport got fuller and fuller as planes that landed were grounded, one by one. the hospitals were on high alert in case of any medical emergencies with so many thousands of additional passengers stuck mid-travel with nowhere to go and nothing to do but wait. everyone was obviously shaken.
    i did not sleep well that night. i still remember the end of that terrible, dark day on the west coast, and how i was mourning the loss of something much greater than two towers, some planes and all those innocent people who died that day, and all the loved ones they left behind…. it was all this, and much, much more.
    soon after i bought myself a pin with an American & Canadian flag on it, and wore it fiercely and intentionally for many weeks. i will never forget that day…..

    1. Thank you for sharing, P&K. It was a difficult day for everyone and lives were forever changed. It is also good to remember the heros, and the stories of survival and perseverance that have been passed to us as well.

  2. What a beautiful gift you offered to me an your other faithful readers today. Your memories of 9/11 and how they unfolded and the sorrow in the air was tangible. As I read, I knew how it would end but kept hoping perhaps there was a new twist. There was not.

    And thank you for sharing your stories about your other losses you and your family have deal with – time after time. There truly is no rhyme or reason for so many losses — and yet, there they are.

    With appreciation — Marge

    1. Thank you Marge. This has not been one of our better weeks. But we continue forward, trusting that all will work for the good. In Hebrew we say “Gamzu L’Tova,” this, too, for the good. Blessings to you.

  3. Thank you for sharing such a touching memoir of those days that still haunt us. I have stared into the eyes of many a parent who has lost a child trying to find the words to comfort, it is so very difficult. I will pray for you and your loved ones. Blessings to you.

  4. Thank you for your post. I too remember that day. I was just going out the door to work when CNN started talking about the first plane hitting the WTC. I didn’t hear much else untill a few hours later when I heard nothing at all. Where I worked was on the approach to Montreal’s airport so the area was uncharacteristically silent. It wasn’t until I got home that the full extent of the horrors of the day became known to me. I really hope that somehow the peoples of the world will find another way than violence and terror to promote their ideologies.

    1. Thanks for your response HoaiPhal. Reading your response reminded me of the silence in the air. I had forgotten. If my memory serves me, I think that planes were grounded for abut a week. I also remember the first plane I heard when they were allowed to fly again. For a little while thereafter I felt fear ~ heart palpitations, sweaty palms, heightened hearing as I consciously focused on the sounds of the plane to listen for telling noise of something unusual. Those were indeed trying times. In order to accept other people for who they are, we must each become confident in who we are. Then we will feel no threat from the “other,” no need to destroy “perceived threats” of those who hold different beliefs. Oy… long way to go.

  5. Please accept my deep sympathy for your loss under such tragic circumstances. Nonetheless, I admire your optimism by not failing to look at the bright side.

    Life is always beatiful!

  6. Oh boy Cecelia… so much pain and anguish. My heartfelt condolence to your son and daughter-in-law, and also to your ex for his loss… These are difficult times and I send you hugs and blessings…

  7. Cecelia, I don’t know what to say, particularly when you have said so much, so well already. Birth, death, marriage, the rich textures of life which both bless us and try us. So many best wishes to you and your family.

  8. I am very, very sorry to hear about the unimaginably difficult things you have been going through recently, Ms. F…
    you and your family are in my thoughts… my sympathy and best wishes go out to everyone…

  9. Please accept my heartfelt condolences for the loss of your grandchild. May the pain and heartache currently filling your children’s lives be eased.
    “God is closest to those with broken hearts.”

    1. This was different. Viet Nam was about our involvement in a country on the other side of the world, and it was awful, yes. We learned a lot, we screwed up a lot, we did awful things, and had awful things done to our soldiers . . . on the other side of the world. Here in the contiguous 48 states, we felt invincible. We acted invincible. Whatever happened in the world happened “over there.” Whatever happened here was a domestic issue. 9/11 broke all those rules and beliefs of invincibility in an instant.

  10. Hi Ceceliafutch. Please accept my heartfelt condolences for the loss of your grandchild. My heart and prayers go out for you and your family. I do hope your weeks and years ahead are much brighter. Blessings!

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