September 11, 2001 changed my life in many ways, but not in the same way most people will reflect and say it changed theirs. It didn’t change the way I feel about national security, it didn’t make me a more patriotic citizen, and it didn’t make me think about why this bad thing had happened to this great country.
The reality is it changed my life for the better. And that fact, the fact that what was such a devastating tragedy for so many made my life better, is difficult for me to come to terms with.
I have basically lived my whole life in Lodi, arriving here when I was six, taking a break for college and early adulthood. It was a surprise to end up back here at age 31, pregnant with our third child. Transplants from the Bay Area, we had sold a house for a ridiculous amount of money, and we were headed to Sacramento for a job change for my husband. I left him here in Lodi, by himself, while I finished a job in the Bay Area. My conservative husband fell in love, and Lodi was where we stayed and settled down.
My whole life in Lodi had been under the radar, quiet, not easily recognized. I was the girl who didn’t show up in snapshots in the yearbook, just that one posed picture from picture day. I was an attorney’s daughter, and then later, my brother the bartender’s sister. No real identity of my own. September 11th would happen not long after our move here, bringing with it my newest supporting identity…the woman whose husband survived the 9/11 tragedy.
On that day, while a nation sat by TV’s in shocked silence, while people came to terms with the loss of loved ones, while the world began to mourn the losses…I was relieved, I was rewarded, I fell to the ground in gratitude upon hearing my husband’s voice on the other end of the phone. I would spend less than an hour thinking he was dead, and then the next ten years grateful for his survival.
There have been years when the actual day of September 11th has not bothered me. I have gone to work, taken the children to practices, paid bills, run errands and lived life like any other day. Often times, I end the current September 11th with my husband watching the footage from 2001. Many years the footage is new to me, as though I have not seen it before. The reality is… I probably haven’t. Because while the world watched their TV sets that day and into the next week, I did not. That week in 2001, I returned phone calls, talked to family, friends and business associates. I answered the door to reporters who had tracked us down. I waited for Corey to call when he could get through on phone lines, and later I made the travel arrangements that brought him home to us that next Sunday, the 16th.
There have also been years when half way through the day I want to curl up in the fetal position and cry. This year is ten years. The babies of 9/11 will turn ten. This is always the hardest for me to see on news specials or read about in magazines. Our daughter Paige will turn ten in November. She loves her father, she knows her father, and she is blessed to have him in her life. It is difficult for me to see the children, just like her, who never knew their father. We went on to have a fourth child in 2004. We have four girls. People assume we were trying for a boy I am sure. I wasn’t. Our last girl is our 9/11 baby. Proof that hope springs eternal, and in the end what is important is family, love, and the eternity that awaits us all.
In 2003, we went back to “ground zero”. The trip to New York that Corey had always promised me, made difficult by the fact that it seemed shallow and wrong to look forward to the things I had once dreamed of…the shopping, Broadway shows, a taping of Regis and Kelly. When people ask me about that day, and our place in history, the word that most often comes to mind is surreal. Standing at ground zero, surrounded by quiet whispers in a city of noise, surreal seemed more fitting than it ever had. To retrace his steps and listen to him talk of the events and the day, to listen to both the small and big things that he remembered, it all just seemed surreal. We went on to enjoy the trip…the shopping, the Broadway Shows, all of it, because in the end New York had survived, and that is how it survived and thrived, by people loving New York and all that it stood for.
On Sunday, September 11, 2011 our family will be at our church. We will be grateful. We will remember what is important. I will struggle to balance the guilt and celebration of the day. The guilt for all that I have because he survived, and the celebration for all that I have because he survived.
I wrote a piece for the paper on the one year anniversary. I ended it with this quote,
“Sept. 11th took so much away from our Country. God willing, I will cherish all that it gave me for a very long time.”
It is nine years later…I am still cherishing.
A quote from Corey, my husband: “Never forget September 11th. Never forget those months that followed. Months filled with nationalism, patriotism, volunteerism, bipartisanship, God’s love, giving and unity that galvanized us as one nation. Those qualities are still in each and every one of us today.”