Sixteen years ago, about this time of the day I was sitting in a perpetually unbearable conference room in a temporary building being rented by the health system to accommodate an overflow of people needed to support a number of mission critical implementation projects.
I was pregnant with Z and still in the first trimester. I was being closely monitored by my OB as it was considered a high-risk pregnancy due to deficiencies in my hormones. I worried daily, sometimes hourly about things going wrong. Work was a kind of blessing as I’ve always had the ability to be highly focused on the task at hand, pushing all other thoughts away.
Unfortunately meetings, such as the one I was in that morning, were slow and uneventful and left lots of space for my mind to wander. My back was to the slightly frosted over wall of windows. I could feel the cool coming through. I never imagined at that moment that events were happening that would change the course of history forever.
About three-quarters the way through the meeting one of our IT directors, Steve, came into the room and interrupted to announce that an airplane had just crashed into one of the twin towers in New York. The initial reaction I remember was from the gal that was running the meeting. Her face was a cross of annoyance and dismissal. I think she even rolled her eyes a bit. I am sure she was thinking this was just a joke. It was, of course, not a joke.
He proceeded to back up the news with sources and facts. I personally don’t think I could comprehend what he was saying. Hours would go by before the gravity of the situation would sink in. After he left the room, we actually finished the rest of the meeting. I sat half listening and holding my not-yet expanding abdomen. After that I went back to my desk.
People who had radios were tuned into the news and those who didn’t huddled in the offices of those who did. The day unfolded like a slow motion train wreck. We could only watch and listen as the towers crumbled and fell. We could only get bits and pieces of information about what was really going on and amidst the drama there was not yet anything about all the heroic efforts we would eventually hear about in the days and weeks to come.
I happened to catch a clip of people jumping from the building. To this day the image of that in my mind leaves me shivering and cold. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for those people, deciding to jump. I can’t ever “unsee” it and it will forever be a part of my memory of that day.
Sometimes my empathy is overwhelming and it’s worse when there is nothing I can do to help. I probably tuned out a lot of the news because I didn’t want to be exposed to more things I could not “unsee” or “Unknow”. I channeled my thoughts and feelings into writing and tried to think more about the nation coming together amidst a tragedy and finding the persons responsible. As the days passed I engaged my power of focus and centered my attention on work and being healthy for the tiny little life inside of me.
In quiet moments I wondered if I made a mistake bringing a new life into a world where things like this could happen. And yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
On the one year anniversary of the day I wrote a tribute poem about the day and shared it with my co-workers. They had it framed with the American flag and hung in the office. It remained there for the duration of our stay there.
This day, one year ago, the world was changed forever.
The horrible, unspeakable thing
That was put on us a year ago today,
Is like a burden on our souls.
It was a tragedy born out of evil,
That conveyed no other meaning than evil,
And served no other purpose but evil.
Yet we bear that burden like no other nation can.
We hold it in our hearts and wear it openly.
We champion the task of overcoming it,
And letting the world know that such a thing can not break us.
And though we look back today,
In remembrance of those lost,
In honor of our fallen heroes,
And in the sadness and grief for all those
Whose lives were tragically altered by the events of 9.11
We also look forward…
To a stronger nation and a people more united,
With hope that our struggle to make the world a better place is a victorious one.
Together we shall bear all, remember all, and conquer all.
I still believe in these words today. We continue to bear the weight of that tragedy and remember all those affected by the day and we are still striving to make the world a better place and safer for all.