Grief. I recently had a conversation with a friend about this very topic, which prompted some interesting insight.
As we all know there are many stages, as well as types of grief. So much so, complete sections of bookstores contain publications on this very topic.
As my friend and I spoke, she shared how sometimes (in the instance of a loss) the anniversary date can sneak up on you. Busy with life and all the distractions, the day of the passing now years past. The void is never filled. The sadness never gone, but somehow time has a way of pushing that heartbreak to a different part of our brain.
“It never gets easier,” I shared, “we just get more numb.”
So this past Monday morning, as I woke with my cup of coffee and a book (my usual early morning routine) I opened the pages of a book titled “Loud and Clear,” by Anna Quindlen. The book had been dropped by our office sometime during summer and has sat on my nightstand waiting to be picked up.
A sweet note was attached sharing sentiments of reading the book made the reader think of my writing, so they decided to share.
Monday morning, I finally summoned the book from my nightstand and literally opened it for the very first time. What was this book anyway and what made this reader think of me when reading it?
Opening sentence in the Preface read: “On the morning of September 11, 2001…”
Somehow, some way and for some reason that’s the date which I opened this book and it was not until that moment that it dawned on me what day it was.
It never gets easier, we just get more numb.
Staring at the page I recognized a few things. First: I’m definitely supposed to read this book. Thank you, reader. Second: How true is that quote about becoming more numb. Third: Did I honestly slip in remembering this day? Me. A former military wife whose life, plans and everything in between was firsthand affected by this day. And lastly, where’s my laptop, there’s a column here.
Pondering the morning, remembering the day all flooded back as the aforementioned thoughts cleared my wheelhouse, aka, my brain.
If being honest my heart hurt a little as I thought back to the beauty of our country which came through the ashes of that day.
I had not yet lived in Oakdale one month, the day the towers fell. New girl to a small town with a husband halfway around the world serving our country as a US Navy Chief in Japan. There were no kids for us back then; while we had family close by everything familiar to me was in the Bay, everything, and now we’d be at war.
I say it all the time, we all have a 9/11 story, I’m no different.
As I thought back to 22 years ago however, the sadness of the past three years crept to the forefront of my brain.
For those of us who remember that day 22 years ago and the weeks/months that followed the tragedy, it paved the way to a beautiful thing. Flags became top sellers, love was bubbling in abundance and everyone suddenly became neighborly. While the terrorists may have destroyed some real estate, ended the lives of the innocent and sent a clear message, as Americans we spoke back.
Suddenly I was prouder than ever before of the life choice my husband and I had made. Proud to see the love and patriotism pour through a small town and proud that we had decided to make military service his career.
Funny as I reflect on how a country of terrorists tried to tear us apart and break us couldn’t, yet somehow a virus has.
Think about that for a minute, it’s not completely out of line. From spring of 2020 to present day, our country is more divided now than ever before. No longer do we listen to one another to hear, we listen to respond. Thanks largely to instant news and the World Wide Web we now walk the streets with “Google experts.” Anywhere you go, it is not unlikely to stand in line with someone who wants to lecture on corrupt government, herd mentality or the disgrace of vandalism happening all around us. And they’re not wrong.
What is wrong is that we’ve stopped listening to one another. We’ve stopped engaging in real conversation and the keyboard warrior game is alive and well. No thank you.
In some ways I feel the past three years have damaged us as a union far greater than the events of that day 22 years ago; how sad is that?
As the rainbows and butterflies girl that I am, I further could not help but challenge myself by what is my message in all of this. Who am I, after all, to offer the solution or even address the problem?
My hope is simple, as we reflect back on a day and its occurrences we had no control over, how can we (as neighbors) be better now. Let us each reflect on life then versus life now in a real honest way and then – pivot. Remove our hands from the keyboard, put our devices in our pockets when in public and reconnect to the love, compassion and patriotism we each had at that time.
We don’t all have to agree politically, but as I tell my children, we learn more from those with differences than we do from those “just like us.”
In closing, thank you to the men and women of service, be it fire, police, EMT or military, you are still appreciated by a large quiet majority. Gratitude and blessing to each of you as well as the families which support you. We will never forget that day, the lives which were lost, the fearless who served us and the sacrifices made. You remain heroes and I for one am grateful.
God bless us all and may we never forget and continue to share the stories with those whose lives came later … Amen.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 209-847-3021.