“You can love Jesus and Glitz.” Or, so says the t-shirt of one of the tragically captivating moms on the reality show Toddlers and Tiaras. For the past few days, I have tried to write about the combined feelings of horror and fascination I have for that show, and for that world of Preschool Pageantry. I have mounds of opinion on the subject. It’s fairly easy fodder, yet an invisible wall keeps stopping me.
Three days time will mark the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. Frankly, a lump in my throat formed while typing that sentence. We were all affected by 9/11, as a nation, and as individuals. But, I have been avoiding any sense of reliving that day, minimizing what the impact was and still is, mitigating my emotions that surround the subject. Thinking that would work, I have gone about my business, ignoring the fact that my old pal insomnia has crept back into my bed, and equally ignoring the incessant anxiety dreams that have plagued what little sleep I have managed to amass.
Like a slap in the face, I am forced to recognize the date. I have to relive that day, maybe even write about it. It can’t be assuaged by trashy television and humor, at least not right now. The sadness associated with 9/11 is seeping through me and refuses to be silenced. Visceral in nature, I feel it in my bones, in the untethered tears that are just now streaming down my cheeks, in the parts of my brain that I’ve attempted to keep under lock and key. Akin to phantom limb pains, my body remembers. My soul remembers. The wound feels fresh, urgent, potent. It’s still there.
On the morning of September 11th, 2001, I was awoken by my roommate, Andrew. We had received a call, from a friend in New York, telling us about the first tower being hit. We ran downstairs, turned on the television, and watched awe-struck and impotent, as United Flight 175 crashed into the second tower. In some ways, big and small, the world was collapsing. I became cognizant of the fact that my father was flying to Los Angeles that morning, from Boston, on United.
I frantically phoned my father, my step-mother, his secretary, his best friend. I couldn’t reach anyone. For nearly 2 hours, I sat, in agony and fear, that my father was on that plane. Finally, in one of the best phone calls of my life, I spoke to my step-mom. My father had, at the very last minute, changed his flight, and boarded an alternate plane the night before. Sobs of relief washed away the adrenaline surge, giving me time to breathe before I absorbed the rest of what was to come.
Like many, I knew people who died that day, but thankfully, no one in my my immediate circle of friends and family. I cannot begin to imagine the complex affect that would have on me, on my son, on the past decade of my life. Ten years ago, on September 11th, I was in my mid-20s; still struggling, off and on, with a heroin addiction that began when I was 13; going on my first date with a man, who I would later have both a disastrous marriage and a beautiful son with; unclear on what direction my life would take.
Now, we are here, ten years later. I am in my mid-30s, divorced, following my dreams, and being a mother, to a beautiful 8-year-old boy who forever altered my life, in the best possible way. Try as I might to turn away from that day, from those ghosts, the memory persists for a reason. The phantom limbs of 9/11 linger, and they hurt, but they also remind me of how
profoundly grateful I am for all that I have.