The Day After

I don’t mean to be insensitive. Sometimes I get so busy that I don’t even look at the date for days at a time. This can’t be good, but I was surprised when the anniversary of 9/11 caught me completely unawares this year. That’s the kind of summer it’s been. Not acknowledging 9/11 to New Yorkers is like making ethnic jokes—it’s inherently offensive. The City is always subdued on this date of infamy. Coming the same week as Labor Day this year, I think my timing was just off. In my family, September was always the month of birthdays. My present to my brother of the 12th was late in 2001. I wanted to find something old. Something solid. Something time-honored. I wanted a sense of stability to return to a chaotic world. Being an inveterate fossil collector, I went to a local rock shop and bought him a fossilized cepholapod shell. It wasn’t much, but it was a message and a metaphor.

Today, being a birthday and a day after, feels a little like an apology to me. At the time of 9/11 I knew a few colleagues teaching in New York, but in 2001 I’d not really known the city. I’d visited a few times. I was still employed, although my personal career trauma was, unknown to me, already underway. And looking at the state of the world some fourteen years later, I wonder how much better things are. We haven’t suddenly improved, and as a nation we seem more deeply divided than ever. Candidates who resemble their caractitures more than actual people frighten me. The rhetoric is a sermon of doom. Have we all forgotten how that morning felt?

Television reception was poor, or it may have been the tears falling from my eyes as I watched, at the safe distance of Wisconsin. We’d just sent our daughter off on the school bus and now wanted her back home. I called my brother in Pittsburgh in a panic. The news had said a plane had crashed in southern Pennsylvania somewhere. It seemed the the possibilities of horror were endless that day. And yet. I awoke yesterday fretting over work. My mourning routine was harried and frantic. I didn’t even know what day it was. I glanced a paper headline on the way to work and realized that I’d overslept a tragedy. Some scars never heal. Those wounds cut by religion are the deepest. So we find ourselves on the nexus of a tragedy, a birthday, and a new year. How we respond is entirely up to us.


2 thoughts on “The Day After

  1. Deb Skinner Kisly

    Bernie and I picked 9/11 to legally marry for a specific reason. It is certainly a sad day, but life must go on. We married on 9/11 because we both rescued each other. He had divorced, was just starting to learn that life goes on and he could be happy again. I had lost my first husband, was wasting away and he came in like a knight in a shining Crocodile Dundee hat and rescued not only me but my kids as well from living in the shadows of a broken and abusive life. Bernie lost frat brothers, friends and colleagues in the Towers. He, himself. was supposed to be there for a meeting that day but something came up and he missed the flight and was not in the Towers. For us 9/11 is a day of joy for lack of better words. For us it represents the realization that in sadness comes joy. It represents that God has ways of using people to teach lessons to others. I grieve for those who were lost that day. I pray that out of those losses there are stories of God’s grace at work. For us, we learned together that God’s grace and love is always at work. God brought us together for 2 years and 16 days. We learned to love, to work together, to bring two families together, to move on, to smile, to laugh, to enjoy life and to love again. We certainly in not understand why God was “so cruel” to tear us apart after we had just found each other. But in those 2 years and 16 days we learned a whole lot. Bernie is still with me and pokes me and talks to me over my right shoulder. He was there holding my hand when I had my recent surgery. Through loss I learned the lesson of love and Bernie learned how to love even though he is not with me physically. Through loss I have learned how to actually care for others even though I may get hurt along the way. We will be together always and forever as we would say to each other and I can not wait to see what God has planned for us in God’s kingdom here on Earth and then before God’s Heavenly presence.


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