Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler
The Day it All Changed: A 9/11 Reflection
I celebrate my sixteenth wedding anniversary this October, six weeks after 9/11. In the sixteen years since that awful day when the surreal became very real—who ever thought a plane would crash into the tallest building in New York City?—I’m still trying to make sense of it all.
That September morning dawned sunny and crisp with the promise of a perfect early autumn day…my favorite. A kaleidoscope of maple trees along the highway on my way to work flaunted their emerging orange and red leaves, as if to say “just wait till I’m fully bedecked in color.”
After parking the car, I settled in my office as I did every day doing the job I loved, a family nurse practitioner in a busy primary care office. I was getting paid to do what I loved doing and on top of that, I was preparing for my wedding to Wayne. What more could I ask for? A feeling of harmony and gratitude swept over me as I walked to the nurse’s station to get my schedule.
Tunes from an easy listening station played in the background…until it stopped around 9:00 a.m. while on my way to my next patient.
“A plane has crashed into the Twin Towers” came across the airway.
We all froze in place then huddled around the front desk, leaning in to listen.
What? Surely this must be a mistake.
Soon after, another announcement left us cold… and scared. What is happening? This is America. How can this be?
“A second plane has hit the Pentagon.”
“A third plan has gone done in a field in Pennsylvania”
Oh my God! Who do I know in New York City? Brian (my son) lives in Connecticut but goes into New York all the time. Who was on those planes? My cousin Robert flies into New York often on business….
As it all unfolded, in slow-motion and shocking, my patients waited for me. Time to keep moving and I started walking, robot-like, down the hall.
When I opened the door, my female patient was sitting on the exam table wringing her hands on her lap and dabbing her tear-filled eyes,
“My nephew, he works at the Twin Towers,” she said, her eyes wide with terror, “for Cantor-Fitzgerald.”
We didn’t know the full extent of the damage at the time and still hung on to hope that he had somehow escaped.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, helpless, “I hope you hear soon.”
What can I say? I feel her terror. We all feel it, the oppressive fear of the unknown.
We all walked around for days after zombie-like and confused wondering what was next….
Soon, people waving American flags above their heads started popping up along highways as a spirit of patriotism prevailed.
As time went on, our lives changed with the Iraq war and the legislation that was meant to increase our security placed restrictions on the freedoms we, as a nation, had taken for granted. Deep divisions about how the crisis should be handled dominated the news.
We experienced increased airport security, travel restrictions, terror alerts and an increased sense of hyper-vigilance which all morphed into the nearly daily acts of terror, domestic and global, that flash across our TV screens today.
Have we become desensitized?
Will world peace ever be possible?
It’s our way of life, our new normal, our current reality.
Where do we go from here? How do we teach our children and grandchildren to live in a world with so many uncertainties? How do we cope with the fear of another 9/11 or a nuclear war?
It all changed on September 11, 2001, probably like it all changed for Americans on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
We are Americans. We are more aware of the dangers, constant and real, but we keep living our lives the best we know how. And we don’t take our freedoms for granted. Perhaps we cherish them even more.
The wedding of my dreams happened in the aftermath. We all knew the world was different but as I stood on the altar next to Wayne, surrounded by our six children and their spouses, I embraced the beauty around me and the sense of hope that life goes on.
It felt like a miracle.
I often think about my patient and wonder how she is doing.
In tribute to the over two-thousand innocent Americans from all walks of life who died on 9/11/2001, may we never forget the price they paid for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Collectively, we grieved their loss. Let’s honor their memory by coming together as a nation and standing strong against the evil forces that want to see us fail.
God Bless America!
How about you? How do you remember 9/11? How do you think life has changed? How have you moved forward?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share them below and let’s get a conversation going.
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