Seven years ago, about this time in the evening, we were finishing up some dinner that was likely barbecued (his forte) and swapping work stories. In the morning, he was going to sign some reenlistment papers. I can recall us hemming and hawing wondering if that's what we really wanted. Ultimately, it was.
My job was mentally exhausting. About a month before, I commenced to working in a new firm. After my first day, I went home and literally cried my eyes out. I hated it. I detested the atmosphere. I loathed the laziness I had already witnessed in my new coworker who was senior to me. I would have preferred to endure scrubbing the tile walls at Grand Central Station with a chamber brush. That's how bad (I thought) I had it. At this point, someone should have slapped me up side the head stating: Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything good in the world. ~ Helen Keller.
My employer was a discontented individual, I learned quickly that switching to this firm was a poor choice--career wise it was smart, but our personalities clashed. She was a curmudgeon, me an eager learner with a energy that would soon find itself sucked into a vacuum that was that office. Thankfully, at some point I did smarten up and find new employment elsewhere. Anyway, that's neither here nor there. My point is I had my own pitiful woes and was feeling sorry for myself for taking the overburdening job and I already had short-timers attitude wondering where the Coast Guard would take us next. I knew at some point with his reenlistment on the horizon we'd be on a new journey in the next couple of years. Or, so I thought.
I'm pretty sure there was some hanky panky that evening. I'm also sure I was probably procrastinating on some class assignment. I'll just do it tomorrow, I probably thought. Time wasn't that big of a deal. There was always time and there was always another day like the day before to get the same things done. Not much changed from day to day in those days.
Tomorrow came. I went to work. He went to work. I sat at my desk. He sat in the YNs office in Boston and started to sign his name on the dotted line (again).
He called me.
Our world stopped. Everybody's world did. It was September 11, 2001.
It wasn't a joke he told me. Look on the web--check Yahoo news. They just locked the base down. I don't know where I'm going or what's going to happen.
Bewildered, I saw the images, and any naïve sense of immortality I had slipped from my body. Individually I felt powerless and very naked. It was all so real and present.
My boss wouldn't let us leave. Where would we have gone anyway? She showed little concern despite her daughter living in NY. The office, the clients, everyone was in awe except the curmudgeon.
My husband and I were separated by an hour. My family was another two hours away. While I worried that the military bases might fall prey to an attack next, I sat befuddled in my rolling chair--helpless. I had friends there. Where were they on this day?
My heart broke in innumerable pieces for the lives lost. My mind scrambled to make sense of it all. I felt alone.
Though...in the hours, days and weeks that would follow brought changes. I never felt so connected to people, to a Nation in my life.
Seven years ago, my life and perception on a lot of things changed. It would be vain of me to think that I was alone in this transformation. All I can say with any certainty is that any self-pity I once had was replaced with feelings of kinship and empathy for my neighbor as well as a distinct awareness that freedom was fragile.
May those of you reading this who lost loved ones in the attacks on 9/11/01 continue to find peace and comfort in your memories of them.
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