There are some parts of my past that I don’t revisit very often.
In fact, I spent quite a bit of time in weekly therapy learning how to lift myself up and out of that past and live for my future.
But for Americans, today is all about remembering. And so I allowed myself to go back into my past, to feel all of the interconnected memories, to recall my experience of September 11, 2001.
In September of 2001, I was living in Durango, Colorado. I was a 26 year-old waitress, nervously counting down the days until my wedding the following month. I was awakened that morning by the telephone…not a cell phone, few people had those yet. It was my fiancé calling from work, telling me in a firm and somber voice to wake up and turn on the television. In my half-asleep daze, I fumbled around for the remote control, and asked, “What channel?” He said it didn’t matter, and as my eyes cleared, a smoky image of the Twin Towers came into focus. I clearly remember his shaky, frightened voice saying, “We’re being attacked.” as I struggled to make sense of what I was seeing. I begged him to leave work, which he did, and we spent the entire day, glued to the television in shock and horror and fear, clinging to one another with tears streaming down our faces.
Living in Durango had often felt like living in a bubble. Pretty isolated from any big cities, it’s a tiny, idyllic mountain town in Colorado where it’s easy to lose sight of reality. That day, as terrified as we were as Americans, I had a feeling of safety there, tucked away in the San Juan Mountains. But we had close friends who lived in Manhattan, connections and ties to many people directly affected by what was growing into an unthinkable tragedy. I remember a feeling of helplessness that I wasn’t accustomed to growing up in the United States. It was one of the few times I looked at President Bush in a hopeful light. We needed a leader, and he was it. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt if he could please somehow make it better.
I was scheduled to wait tables that night. I assumed that the restaurant would be closed, that the owners wouldn’t open that night, out of respect. But they did. I remember being irate as I walked into work. All of the emotion I had been feeling all day morphed into fierce anger. I glared at the handful of people who rang the bell on the door as it opened. Who would go out to dinner on a day like today? How dare they?! Why weren’t they home, mourning like the rest of the country, like I wanted to be? And then I saw the looks in their scared eyes, their weary faces exhausted from a day filled with horrific images and heartbreaking truths. These people needed comfort. They needed to feel a taste of normal. They needed a smile, a hot cup of coffee, a stiff drink. They needed their community.
I gave away a lot of free drinks that night. I drank a few myself. These people were mourning. We all were. We still are.
Eleven years later, so much is different, impossible to encapsulate in a few sentences on a blog. Our rules for travel are forever changed, our feeling of security altered somehow. Our individual character and overall trust in humanity was challenged. I got married 39 days later. The groomsmen wore American flags pinned to their lapels. Some of my family was absent, too frightened to board a plane. I moved to Utah by November 1 and played newlywed. We got a dog, a German Shepard named Zamboni. We bought a fixer-upper. We celebrated sports victories and birthdays and promotions. There were happy times and a lot of struggles. We ignored significant issues that eroded our relationship past the point of return. I plowed through a difficult divorce, hid in a hole, rediscovered the sun, and now am, again, nervously counting the days until my wedding. I’m where I’m supposed to be. It’s been eleven years of LIVING, eleven years of the ups and downs of life. 9/11 is there, in the background of every American’s mind, an indelible piece of each of us. Memories remain, but people begin to heal. Life goes on.
And thank God for that.
We will never forget.
Amber…what a beautiful post. I don’t seem to have a lot of words handy today, but just wanted you to know that what you shared is really amazing. i’m sorry you had to go through that long winding road, but it seems that life has take such a beautiful turn for you, happy for you 🙂
Thanks. Everyone has struggles, obviously, and mine don’t compare to the hardships others have had to endure. I can’t believe it’s been 11 years!
The important thing is that you totally appreciate where you have been, and where you are now, and it’s obvious that you do! 🙂
I wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t go through all of it. Like I said, I’m where I’m supposed to be!
Amber, thank you for sharing this personal story. I had no idea about some of this in your past, and it’s really amazing to be able to read and connect to these types of stories in the blogosphere. Some of my teacher friends posted statuses about how they’re teaching kids who were too young to remember 9/11, and it made me really think about how fleeting time really is. I think it’s so important for those of us who do remember to take a moment on 9/11 as long as we live and think about that terrible day.
I can’t believe that time in my life got condensed into a few sentences. Like every experience, there’s so much to it. It’s good to remember that stuff to remind myself how lucky I am to be where I am today.
How crazy to think that children learn about it in school, while we saw it happen. History.
A wonderful piece. I was in middle school – they wouldn’t let us watch t.v. My partner’s mom worked at the Pentagon – they wouldn’t tell her why they pulled her out of school. Now we’re almost 25. Life has changed… so, so much. But I will always remember.
It’s been such a long time already. It’s incredible to have the memories really still be so fresh. I also can remember the space shuttle disaster in the mid-80s. I was too young then to really be affected in the same way as the 9/11 nightmare….but it’s a memory burned in my brain.
Such an awful day. My dad was working close to the towers that day and walked across the george Washington bridge home. Such a scary feeling. I too was with my first husband then and feel just like you. I remembered what is like to be happy and to put myself first. 🙂
So scary! Interesting to look back on that chapter of our lives, huh?