Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11... and why this date will always hold such an important place in my heart

Hello Ladies & Gems,
This post may not mean much of anything to those of you outside the US, but may give you a little more understanding of why this date is such an important one in not only our history, but for many of us, in our lives. I just finished watching the Daily Show with Jon Stewart's show recorded shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and I felt the need to discuss this with you in the hopes that ... honestly, I don't know what my hopes are for this post, but nevertheless, I still feel the need to discuss this with you. I will understand if you click off right now... this is, after all, supposed to be a blog about pin-up fashion, not one of social history, or any other theoretical or demanding topic. If you do, I understand. If you don't, I thank you.

To start, here is the link to the Daily Show that I mentioned; it was posted on a yoga blog (www.theyogablog.com) that I follow. If you have the time (and a box of tissues), take a minute to watch it. As today was my day off, I spent all day avoiding both the tv as well as any true reading of my facebook entries; yes, I re-posted a few of the "Do Not Forget" photos that are stock in trade today, but largely left facebook alone. Our minds have a way of remembering when we don't honestly understand what we're remembering, so I'll chalk my media-block up to that. However, I saw this link and was intrigued to see how Jon Stewart, whom I find funny regardless of political parties and situations, dealt with this tragedy. And the tears poured from my eyes in an endless waterfall (and there they go again). Watching the clip brought back all of the fear, uncertainty, REALITY of 11 years ago. I remember everything almost exactly as it was from the day, and mind you, I was on the West Coast, in Fresno, California, almost as far away from Manhattan as you could get. I knew no one in Manhattan, yet this touched me deeply and profoundly. Up to this point, there were very few events in my 24 year old life that I remember as US or world tragedies: I remember where I was when Lady Diana was killed (working at a restaurant, I had found out from a customer); when the Columbia space shuttle blew up upon liftoff (I was actually in 5th grade (I think) watching on the portable TV in our classroom with our teachers, who numbly turned the TV off and could barely make it through our class that day... we were young enough to see but not old enough to understand what had truly happened); I have lived through various earthquakes here in California that were both minor and some devastating; I was in high school when the Rodney King verdict was announced and LA broke into riots. These are meager happenings in comparison to a true terrorist attack in your world.

When you are young, there is a level of invincibility we all live with; nothing can touch us. Unless it's something like cancer, there is almost always a way to come back from whatever personal hells we've dealt with - like drinking, drugs, sexual assault - and because it didn't kill us, the old adage tells us it's made us stronger. I am no exception to that rule. My grandmother would tell me that everything hard in life builds character (and I used to tell her that I had character coming out of my ass). At this point in my life, I was a single mom to a wonderful 2 year old little redheaded monkey. I was trying to finish college because it had finally clicked when I had become pregnant that I needed to have something that would provide a life for me and my son, and that I couldn't be a full-time college student/waitress all of my life. I was proud for the accomplishments that I had made - I would be graduating that December with a BA in Psychology and a minor in English Literature, and I was working a "real" job (with horrible pay) in an in-patient psychiatric wing. Other than a roommate problem, things were going well. That morning, I was out on the patio having my coffee with a smoke (it was about 7am my time) and trying to get mentally ready for my day, which included a full day at school and then a full shift at the hospital. I had a wonderful daycare person during the day, and a family friend who would then pick up my son to keep at her house until I got off work at night at 11. I literally would spend all day (on some, not all, days) away from my son, which I unfortunately had no choice but to do in order to do what needed to be done. Anyway, I hear my son talking to me (he had climbed out of bed and come in to the living room next to the patio, which he was wont to do when he woke up in the morning; and I hated waking up that peaceful sleeping face, so I'd let him get there on his own)... and he was telling me that a plane hit the building. I had Good Morning America on as background noise, and as I turned to look and see what the hell my child was talking about, I watched as the 2nd plane hit the 2nd tower. And damn near dropped my coffee cup. I explained to my son (who I was trying to get into his room while at the same time trying to hear what the hell was going on from GMA) that it was for a movie and they were showing it on the news. As we drove to daycare, my son was pissed at me because I wouldn't put the radio on music, but I didn't need to change it to an all-news channel - every station was broadcasting nothing but what was going on in Manhattan. And I began to silently (God forbid my son hear or see me) cry. I will advise that crying and driving at the same time are not advisable. By the time I made it to daycare, Angie had been dealing with prying our children from our arms for a good hour now and knew exactly how to get me back out the door. The only thing I could think of as I stood there was that these parents in Manhattan had done the EXACT same thing with their kids that morning, and now those kids would never see their parents again. And knowing that, I breathed in my son's smell a little deeper, hugging him a lot closer, and making damn sure he knew I loved him (which he  pushed out of my arms to go play with his friends.). I had also had to pack an extra bag for him. The hospital I worked for was one of the only trauma units in the Central Valley, as well as one of the only burn units there as well. I knew that I could be held over at the hospital for days if needed. (For those who don't know or realize, the Central Valley of California is where 3/4 of crops for the nation are grown. Fresno was actually on high alert at this point because of the chances of a biological attack on the farms in the area, making the hospital I worked for very important in case this happened.)
As I drove onto campus and parked, I sat in my car for what seemed like an eternity because I didn't have it in me to go study Personality or Ethics... I needed to know what the hell was going on in the world because my world was upside down now. It was in sharp focus that the things you take for granted - like dropping off the kids at daycare, going to work, picking up the kids, etc - could be taken away from you at any time. As a parent, I cried for those parents lost. I cried for those children who would never see their parents again (and I still cry for them). I was not the only one sitting in my car, listening to the radio - there were scores of us, just sitting there, some smoking, some not, but all listening. There was no chit chat that you hear in a college campus parking lot. There was nothing but silence. I went to class - Personality - and the Professor refused to let us have the day off from studies because he did not want the terrorists to win, and by not doing what we would normally do in our lives, we were letting them win. The TV in the classroom was on, however, because he had 2 kids, and the school districts were currently debating releasing kids from school (which he needed to know about). In my Ethics class, my Professor simply stated that there are sometimes things more important going on in the world than a lecture on Psychology & Ethics. And he turned the TV on and allowed us to stay as long as he could to watch the news so we could know what the hell was going on.
Work was divided, but the nurses won; the news was not allowed to be on, and the staff was not allowed to discuss what was going on with the patients. If we needed a moment away, we could have it, but only a moment to get it together. The idea was that the patients already had difficulty in their lives - which is why they were in an in-patient psych unit - that watching the news was going to add to that stress, which none of them needed. And again, the concept that if we allow this to ruin our night, the terrorists would win.

And I picked up my son that night from the sitter's and headed home. By this time, it was close to midnight on the West Coast, and my mind was numb and my day felt surreal. Then I fell into bed, remembering what had made me lose it in the first place - all of those parents who will never have the chance again to do what I just did - put my son to bed, kiss him on the forehead and watch him sleep for a few minutes before I headed off to sleep myself. And even though it happened 11 years ago, the feelings that I felt then are still as real and as vibrant today as they were then. I learned - I think we all learned that our world could be shattered into a million pieces at any given moment. That every moment we have with our child is precious and should be savored (even the really bad ones). That we take for granted - as a nation - that ours is a preferred belief and political system. That the US is not immune to terrorist attacks. That our freedom comes with a cost, which has been paid over hundreds of years with millions of American lives. That, in spite of political beliefs, religion, sex, gender, whatever it is that normally divides us, we can and do come together to pull each other out of the depths of hell when needbe. And I agree with Jon on this one point: the Dream Martin Luther King, Jr. had came true on that day after the attacks, and will continue to do so in times of need.

This is one day out of a year that we actually take the time to remember - even if it's just for a moment - what we said we'd never forget.