Not for nothing

September 17, 2016

Everyone has their 9/11 story. And that story is still being written for each of us.

The effects of that day are still trickling down into our lives in countless big and little ways.

We are still learning from it. We are still crying, growing, grieving. And sometimes, we are still forgetting, which is part of the story, too.

I had a big work event last weekend. I was too busy to think about anything else.

I completely forgot that Sunday was 9/11 until I saw the commemorative postings online.  

My head dropped in shame, and my heart dropped in sadness.

It’s tough finding a balance between moving on and forgetting entirely.

Whether it is a personal heartbreak or a global tragedy, getting stuck in grief and despair serves no purpose.

And yet, it is these experiences that build our character, keep us humble, and put things in perspective.

We can’t afford to stand still, paralyzed by fear and pain. But neither can we afford to forget.

We must let our heartbreak take our breath away now and then. We must revisit the places in our heart that are damaged as if we are visiting an old friend.

We shouldn’t linger too long or we’ll risk getting stuck. But now and then we need to wrap up those places in love, and love everyone who suffered alongside us.

On the morning of September 11, 2001 I’d come into the office early.

My coworkers discovered me typing away at my computer. They thought I was busily working on case notes, but I was actually writing a letter to my now ex-husband asking for a divorce.

As the workday began, I saved the letter on my desktop with the intention of printing it and giving it to him that evening.

Around 9:00 a.m. a coworker told us to turn on the radio. Someone pulled an old TV out of a closet and set it up in the conference room.

And that is where we sat in shock for the remainder of the day, a huddle of social workers unable to help.

That afternoon we tried as a group to donate blood, but the local Red Cross had run out of space as an entire city rolled up its sleeves.

It turned out much of that donated blood couldn’t be used. There weren’t many injuries in this catastrophe. Only death.

This was not the time to file for divorce.

Five years later, less than one week shy of the anniversary of 9/11, I gave birth to my oldest child.

My marriage to his father was not meant to be, but my son certainly was. Not a day goes by that I’m not grateful he was born, and grateful for all the experiences that brought him into being.

Life has an uncanny way of creating beauty from devastation.

If I could somehow snap my fingers and bring all the 9/11 victims back to life, I’d do it in an instant. But I can’t.

And so I choose to be grateful for their sacrifice. I choose to appreciate all the millions of miracles and twists of fate that occurred in the wake of the tragedy.

Even if we forget, history will not. We don’t even know yet how the world has been changed by the events of that day.

Whether it was changed for better or worse is entirely up to us.

This article first appeared in the Lewistown News-Argus and the Sidney (Mont.) Herald on September 17, 2016.