Sunday, September 11, 2011

What I Gained From September 11th

I wasn't going to post today because I didn't think I could say anything that hasn't been said before. However, I've been walking teary-eyed around my house, trying to find ways to occupy my mind. I have already cleaned, cooked and showered. All the while, I cannot and will not turn off the memorial service on TV. I know that it is a painful thing to watch, trust me, I've been crying all morning, but I do not feel it's fair for me to simply turn it off. So many people do not have the option of turning off the pain they feel every single day, so what gives me the right to click a button and pretend the pain is not there? No, I am a New Yorker, and I am an American, I will not turn off the emotions that have plagued me and so many others.

Ten years ago I was in highschool and we were having a huge "class" meeting in the gym, at the end of the meeting we were briefed that there was a plane crash in the City. We were told we could call our families, but we needed to be back before the start of the next class. During the next class my teacher chose not to teach, but rather she brought in a TV and turned on the news. Some of my other teachers did go on teaching that day, as if nothing happened. But by the end of the day, it was clear that it was not an ordinary day.

When I got home from class my dad and I went out on the boat into the bay off the south shore of Long Island. The weather was beautiful, the waters were calm, and we could see Manhattan smoking in the distance.

I did not lose any close relatives, but I mourned intensely anyway. Looking back I believe I was mourning my own loss of security. As time grew on I became a more and more fearful person. I did not realize the impact 9/11 had on me until years later, when my boyfriend told me he wanted to go into the army. It was senior year of high school and he said he didn't want to go to college, he wanted to enroll in the military. I remember begging him to just have a "normal" career, anything other than the military. I cried and pleaded, and begged that he take some classes at school to explore other career paths. He tried to take some other coursework, and after a few years he decided not to enlist, but rather he wanted to be a cop. I was heartbroken, it was still a dangerous job to me, but I could never complain since the military was his alternative.

We had been together for 3 or 4 years and I was mature enough to know I couldn't tell him what to do. So he took the test, and is now a cop. He is also now my husband.

I respect and admire the women with husbands in the military. They are stronger than I am in every way possible, and I am ashamed to admit it, but it is true. I've become terrified and selfish. I do not want my husband to be a hero, I just want him to be my husband. 

I realized that while so many people lost friends and family on September 11th, I gained something. I gained an intense, deep rooted fear of loss. Today, 10 years later, I still have that fear, and I wish so badly that I didn't. My fear grips me when I least expect it, maybe when I'm in the grocery store buying cold cuts, or driving home from work, or when I'm fast asleep and get jolted awake by an intense feeling of panic.

Every year when the 9/11 memorial is held, I feel the fear that I could someday be one of those people. I could some day be the widow reading my husbands name; I could be the single mother, raising children that do not know their father; I could be the depressed, heartbroken human being that will never be able to move on. Some days my fear is crippling, and I'll have nightmares for weeks on end. My husband works at night, so I fear that while I'm sleeping something horrible will be happening to him, and I won't be able to say goodbye. Every night I go to bed with the fear that I might wake up to tragedy.

You might be reading this and thinking to yourself that I'm sick or something. I don't think I'm sick at all, I think I am exactly like all of the men and women who have a husband or wife that serve in any capacity of the word. I think that part of the attacks on Sept. 11th were specifically to instill this fear in so many people, and I am sorry to be a victim of that.

However, I also feel like my fear makes me appreciate my husband so much more. After watching the family members of all the victims from 9/11, I try desperately to take their advice to heart; appreciate what you have and let your loved ones know you love them. No matter how afraid I am, I absolutely refuse to stop living my life to its fullest. I think I've learned to manage my fear. I've decided that it's OK for me to be afraid for my husband at work, but some of my other fears need to be addressed head on. Last year I did a trapeze class, since I am terrified of heights, and while I'd NEVER do it again, at least I didn't let my fear stop me from trying!

On September 11th I think this country changed permanently because the people changed permanently. I am one of those people, and I am sure there are a lot of others out there that gained a sense of fear. I just hope we all move forward in life and don't pass the fear onto the next generation. Hopefully they will not know the fear we know.

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