As I mark the anniversary of 9-11 I take a moment to reflect on that typical statement of “where were you on 9-11.” I remember being a child and hearing my grandparents and other relatives talk about where they were on significant dates: Depression, Pearl Harbor, JFK. They spoke of their feelings, their clothing, and their actions that day. Never did I think that I too would have a similar event that I would always be able to remember with such clarity.
10 years ago I was in a completely different mindset than I am now. Weren’t we all? I had just left my husband and returned to my childhood home with a 3yr old in tow to live off the good graces of my parents. My days were filled with the humbling work of cleaning rooms at a local hotel and my nights were filled with tears and sobs of failure. I was, in short, a pathetic mess of a girl tending her wounds in glorious self pity.
But, that morning…
I was sleeping on the living room floor of my parent’s house. There wasn’t a lot of room with four kids and one grandkid. My mother came rushing down the hallway, maneuvering around me sprawled out on the floor and turned the TV on. I remember our conversation something like this.
Me: “What are you doing.”
Mom: “I’m turning the TV on. We are at war.”
Me: “We aren’t at war mom.”
Mom: “Look, right here. That is the World Trade Center. Katrina called me. We are at war.”
As a 23 year old girl consumed with her own life and with a limited small town education, I had no idea what the World Trade Center was. Pathetic, I know. I got up, went to the bathroom and got dressed, came back out and stood next to my mom who was as close to the TV as she could get.
Mom: “Terrorists flew a plane into that building right there.”
Me: “I’m pretty sure this is just a movie or something fake.”
Mom: “We are at war.”
Just then we watched as the second plane hit the second tower and listened as the broadcasters on the new erupted in shock and a little panic.
Mom: “see Katie, we are at war.”
I don’t remember what else happened that morning as I got dressed for work and fed my daughter. I only remember going about my day, room to room at the hotel. Turning on the TV in each room so I could watch and listen as events unfolded and the experts analyze what had happened.
When I came home I noticed a few things about me. My situation in life wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought it was. Our world was changing and I knew very little about it. I noticed that people immediately put the American Flag up at their homes. And I had the overwhelming urge to do something.
10 years later I’m in a program that manages public health emergencies. My days are now filled with preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. My nights are filled with “what if” scenarios. I am doing something. Something local. Something important. It’s consuming and I absolutely love it.
Now my conversations with my mom go something like this…
Me: “Mom, the use of social media in emergencies is crazy. You should get on twitter.”
Mom: “I am not getting on twitter. I don’t want everyone knowing my business.”
Me: “Well how about a blog?”
Mom: “What would I write about? Charles Poopie Hand?”
Me: “That’s a great idea. Do it mom. Charles is a legend.”
Mom: “Don’t you put that on twitter!”
What will the next 10 years bring?
This is so meaningful to me. Why? Because I feel like I am in the place you were – 24, newly single, living off the help and kindness of others until I can get my shit together (no kids but no prospects). I forget how consumed I can be with my life, given the fact that I, too, witnessed a plane crash into the second tower live and thought it was a movie.
How quickly we (I!) forget that things can be worse? I am grateful for your experiences. I am grateful that a community like twitter brought us together. I know I should be more thankful for what I DO have instead of what I don’t have. Thank you for reminding me of this.
Reflection is wonderful and I can’t say that my whole life changed for the better during 9-11 but it did help pull me up out of my depression at the time. It took me a few more months to be self reliant and I had friends and family behind me the entire time.
Just think, what will the next 10 years be like? It’s almost unimaginable.