My friend and fellow blogger, Jane, mentioned on Sunday how she was thinking about doing a post about where she was on 9/11. It got me to thinking about where I was – personally, emotionally, physically – on that date and what has happened in my life since. Considering that I was not in New York on that date, nor did I know anyone who was killed in the attack, I fear that what I have to say is so small and inconsequential that it almost merits not to be written. But, since this is my blog, and I was alive on that date, it does hold some significance for me, so I will continue.
I moved to the Chicagoland area on July 19, 2001. I was physically hurt, emotionally hurt, mentally exhausted and spiritually down. I had just finished what I have *lovingly* come to call “my 19 months of hell” (which ended in June 2001) and really had no business moving at all, except that I knew it was a move that had to be done. I’ve never really spoken about my 19 months of hell, and without going into much detail, here are the highlights. In December 1999 I took a business trip to London that lasted 2 weeks, during which time I developed a rather severe and persistent cough. So severe and persistent that at one point (the day after I arrived back home) I nearly suffocated to death (seriously) because I couldn’t breathe. I had this cough for 4 months solid before the doctors finally figured out that it was an allergy and Allegra D took care of it. During that time people in my work place were beginning to figure out that there was something “up” with the management and they finally announced that the company was going up for sale. Guess what that does to the morale? Yeah, it tanked. I also happened to be working with a woman who was so insecure with who she was (no, it wasn’t me) that she literally became the wicked and evil nemesis of me, sneaking around eaves dropping on meetings, fighting for “territory” that she had no business fighting for and literally spreading rumors about me an other co-workers so that she would be painted in a good light. Her “escapades” lasted for over a year. Imagine working with that type of attitude for a year.
Also in the spring of 2000, my very first small group leaders, Dick and Jackie, lost their daughter to suicide. She had been severely injured in a car accident and was recovering from serious head trauma, and was most likely going to be physically and mentally challenged for the rest of her life. The good news is that while she was in her coma, she “met Jesus” and her entire countenance and demeanor and attitude towards the people she loved changed completely – so much so that no one doubted for an instant that she was lying or that something completely miraculous didn’t happen to her.
In June of 2000 my wonderful sister got married. And before you think that I wasn’t completely happy for her, I was. But, as with other things in life, it really brought to the forefront my loneliness. She married her highschool sweetheart and after 10 years today, they couldn’t be a better couple with wonderful kids. Right after the wedding, my Mom and my Aunt and I went to Louisiana to go through my Grandmother’s house to prepare it for sale. It was really tough going through her house that was still largely untouched from before my grandfather passed away in 1992. Lots of memories and treasures were sorted through, given away and packed up. Then, just a mere 2.5 weeks later my Grandmother passed away.
Later that fall I received word that another friend had passed away. Dick Bird had been fighting lung cancer for some time and finally succumbed. Dick was married to Marion, someone who I worked with at the Salvation Army in the mid-90s (notice, Jane, the proper use of the plural?). Dick and Marion invited me to church with them – a church that I was at for 6 years before moving to Illinois. That church was amazing, Dick and Marion were amazing, and I know that my spiritual journey would have looked very different if it were not for them. Losing Dick was hard.
So in the fall of 2000, it was finally decided that the company had a buyer. Oddly enough, it was a company that is based up here in the Chicagoland area. Going into the late fall and all throughout December, we were told – the 13 members of the “corporate IT staff” – that our jobs were valuable, that the purchasing company needed more IT staff and that our jobs were safe. Well, it was rather a shock when I came to work on January 6th, 2001 to find out that my position had been terminated – along with the other 12 positions that were supposedly “so valuable”. I had never been fired nor had I ever been downsized. Let’s just say it was a blow.
Then just a few weeks later I tore my ACL. The frustrating thing about that was that it went undiagnosed until May. From the end of January until the beginning of May, my doctor tried to convince me that it was just a sprain. Never, ever, having been seriously injured before, and being a little on the, shall we say “unaggressive” side, I simply went along with him. Until I couldn’t. Then, when I finally got my orders to have an MRI I chipped a bone in my elbow. Torn ACL and chipped elbow. Fun times. I finally had my knee surgery at the beginning of June, 2001.
So, that in a nutshell was my 19 months of hell. Which finally brings me to the events of September 11, 2001. I moved here to Chicagoland having only been here once before for a very brief interview trip (I didn’t get that job – the only job I have ever interviewed for and not landed, BTW). I only knew my Uncle Woody (my mom’s brother) and his girlfriend, Maria. (I had met Maria at Kristin’s wedding the year before.) They were absolutely gracious to me and allowed me to live with them for nearly 2 years – until I felt grounded enough to live on my own.
So, moving here July 19th, 2001, I had no job, knew no one and didn’t even have a church I could go to. I put my resume out to every conceivable higher education institution that I could find…but even by September 11th, I had no nibbles. I had, however, finally found a church and a small group – people who helped me to become spiritually grounded again. Thankfully.
On that particular morning, though, I had just woken up and was watching the Today show. It was my habit to get up at about 6, stay in bed and watch the news until about 7:30 and then make my way out of the bedroom for breakfast and such. I believe I had turned on the TV just minutes before Katie Couric mentioned the first tower being hit. I sat in bed, completely mesmerized by the news. And completely shocked when the towers fell. I can honestly say that I’ve never felt so alone as at that moment.
Before I go on about Sept. 11, let me first mention that, back in 1992 I had watched the Rodney King riots on TV. I think that was the first time I can consciously remember being frightened by something that was happening real-time on TV before. I was living in Louisiana, with my Grandmother (the same one whose house I helped pack up in 2000), and sat alone in her living room glued to the set. I was outraged at the injustice of the rioters and I was deeply grieved that the police officers that were on trial were not going to pay for what they had done. But there was a feeling of loneliness and isolation that night – one that until September 11, 2001 – had been an isolated moment in my life. Think I’m going to end this post here, because if I don’t, I fear I may drift into commentary that I may regret.
I will say, to close, that I can’t imagine the pain and loss of having lost a relative to a terrorist attack. Or the fear of being caught in a building that is going to fall down. I’ve been to the top of the World Trade Center – I know how tall those buildings were, and I know what it symbolized to New York. Unimaginable fear. It also symbolized to me personal fear that I’ve not felt very often in my life. I live a relatively safe life. I have friends and relatives that love me and will protect me. I live in a safe neighborhood and don’t have any fear of gun fights breaking out or of gang wars going on. I drive through one of the most impoverished communities of all of Illinois every day but don’t have fear of violence. I count myself lucky and I count myself as blessed. But my heart does go out to all of the people who were victims of 9/11. My life has moved on, but yours never will. I pay that you have found peace in the terror that you were part of.