I was nowhere near New York or Washington DC or Shanksville PA on 9/11. Still the event had a huge impact on me. So as the 10th anniversary approaches, I wanted to take a moment to share what I remember from that day. I'd love to hear other people's stories as well.
The morning of September 11th I woke up a bit grumpy. I should clarify that by "morning" I mean around 11am, since I am a lifelong night owl.
I am also a lifelong fan of the Denver Broncos.
And therein lies the principle reason for my grumpiness. We had played the New York Giants the night before on Monday Night Football. And aside from losing the game, we had also lost Ed McCaffery, one or our star receivers. (Correction - I just saw on a Broncos 9-11 show that we actually won that game... funny... it sure felt like we lost!)
I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture or not, but if you look carefully you can see his left leg bending backwards in the middle of his shin. He took a terrible hit and suffered a complete tib/fib fracture. They wheeled him off the field in an ambulance and took him straight to the hospital for emergency surgery.
The other backdrop to that day is that I had just adopted an alley cat a few weeks earlier... the utterly sweet and precious Mr. Sputnik VonWiskars (seen here during his pre-adoption alley cat phase).
He had spent weeks trying to convince me to bring him inside, and I had finally decided that although I really did not need yet another cat, he had wormed his little way into my heart to the point where all further resistance was futile.
The problem was that he had lived outside his entire life and didn't understand the concept of a litter box. So he had to spend his nights down in the laundry room to protect the rest of the house from his spraying, and I had awakened once again to find that he had peed in his bed and slept in his litter box. For some reason that is now completely unfathomable, this seemed like a really big deal.
Anyhow, I had called CatMan to let him know that I was awake, as is our pattern, and when he called back I was still down in the basement playing with Sputty and being disgruntled about the peeing situation.
"You haven't turned on the television yet, have you." he said.
"No... why?" I responded, still ruminating over cat pee.
"Oh my god..."
I could tell from the sound of his voice that something was really wrong. My first thought was that Ed McCaffery must have died in surgery. Yes... the center of the universe was about to shift.
"They've destroyed the World Trade Center." He said.
"What?!? Who?!? How?!?" I pummeled him with questions, not realizing that he too had just woken up, and didn't know any more than what was coming across the ticker on the bottom of the CNN screen.
Slowly it sank in that our country had been attacked.
You know, it's funny, the things that go through your mind in a situation like that. I grew up during the cold war, at a time when nuclear destruction was the topic of many a blockbuster film.
As a child, I was really afraid of the bombs falling. Once, in a somewhat twisted effort to comfort me, my mother had told me that I shouldn't worry about it because we lived very near a complex of federal buildings, and she was sure it was a nuclear target, so we'd pretty much be vaporized immediately.
As you might guess, her remarks did little to lessen my anxiety, although she did succeed in instilling in me a deep and abiding fear of the Federal Center.
So, when I realized that the country had been attacked, my first thought was "OMG - how far am I from the Federal Center?" I still find it a bit amusing how firmly that offhand comment from my mother embedded itself into my psyche.
At any rate, as I sat there on the floor in the basement, clinging to CatMan's voice and trying to comprehend the horror and the magnitude of the events that had transpired, the fear disappeared and I was overcome by a sudden and most unexpected emotion... gratitude.
I guess sometimes you have to be confronted with the real possibility of loosing everything before you can truly appreciate what you have.
I mean, at that period in my life I had a job that I complained about ceaselessly, and spent a great deal of time feeling sorry for myself and overwhelmed.
But somehow, sitting there in the basement, listening to tales of airplanes crashing and people jumping, and towers falling, all I could think was how thankful I was for my job, and my cats, and for CatMan, and for the fact that I had plenty of food to eat and a warm place to sleep every night.
Sputnik crawled into my lap and I swept him up in my arms. I whispered in his ear that he could pee wherever he wanted, just so long as long as he didn't leave me!
And I guess that's been the real gift of 9-11 for me... the gift of perspective, and a true gratitude for the richness of my life.
The best thing I can do to honor the memory of all those lost on that day is to strive to live my life with integrity, and to be truly thankful for the blessings I enjoy each and every day.
So please tell me... What were your experiences on September 11th, and how did that day change you?