When The Details Become Life Changing

I did not post yesterday about 9-11. I wasn’t trying to be insensitive and I certainly did not forget, but I took that time and those thoughts to myself yesterday. I did post on my personal Facebook page

“I’d just like to thank all first responders and military personnel, both past and present, for protecting and keeping this country safe both home and away. I am proud to be a firefighter and remember our fallen brothers and sisters as well as all the other men and women who lost their lives 12 years ago.”

But as far as blogging, I just wasn’t feeling it.

I was only 14 when 9-11 happened. Actually, I was only 13 and just started at a private high school in a city far away from my small town. That day was completely terrifying for everyone and anyone and it is interesting to see how anyone you talk to knows exactly where they were and what they were doing exactly at that time. I was in Mr. Burke’s Biology class when they made the announcement over the loud speaker. It was one of those “Wait-what?” followed by “This isn’t good”. Ultimately, we got dismissed early through a lot of confusion and chaos. The parking lot was packed full of parents desperately trying to get their children. Living 45 minutes away from school in another state, I didn’t know what I was going to do. My aunt lived in the next town over and my cousin was in my class so she came to pick us up.

That point it was out of a movie for me. Almost slow motion. Many were stone faced and quietly ushering their kids into their cars and promptly heading home while others hugged and cried. My poor aunt had to park on the street and came walking towards us in great big steps with purpose, seemingly lost in her thoughts. She walked with conviction, her shoulders squared and her head held high. Crying. She was crying.

Puzzled, we didn’t know what to say. “The towers!” she cried. “John! Oh John!” We were still confused. She tried to smile and keep herself together, but she was so upset. I was alarmed as I had never seen her this way. It turns out that a friend of hers growing up and a neighbor of my parents growing up was the pilot of American Airlines Flight 11, John Ogonowski. She brought us home and we watched in horror as the rest of the days events unfolded, including the collapse of the towers.

The big things like the planes crashing into the buildings and the fire that resulted were scary, but didn’t make quite as much of an impact as seeing the men and women jumping and falling from the buildings. Those images haunted me for months afterwards and still haunt me now. The people were hopeless. There was no saving them. They were completely beyond control of their situation and it scared me senseless.

There was an article I read yesterday about “The Falling Man” and it brought back memories of my 13 year old self watching helpless as hundreds of people jumped to their deaths on TV. The despair, helplessness, and ultimate fate of these people touched me deeply. All the people in the floors above the crashes-they just knew they were going to die. This fact truly broke my heart and has for the past decade. I decided then I wanted to help people-to do whatever I could to help anyone so that that helplessness that those poor souls had to endure that day could be even the slightest bit diminished. I wanted to make sure those people did not die in vain.

I have made it my purpose to help people in any way I can. Whether it is saving someone’s life, easing discomfort, making any aspect of their life a little easier, comfortable, or more enjoyable, it is my purpose to do that for other people. I feel like I owe it to all those men and women who did not have that luxury and for everyone else watching wishing with all their might that they could just do something to help those people. Even a smile can go a long way to a stranger.

Those towers crashed down sending dust and debris for miles and losing so many office workers, firefighters, police, EMTs, chaplains… loved ones. Those images, while horrible and heart wrenching have nothing on me the way the images of those bodies falling has on me. My 13 year old self instantly changed from a teeny-bopping little girl to an old and tired soul. The horror that they kept filming was an instant growing monster inside me. The world was not a bright and beautiful thing, mine for the taking. It was evil and grotesque and decaying. My happy go lucky childhood had suddenly darkened like a sunny day when a storm suddenly approaches.

I am not special. I was not the only one to watch these things nor was I the only 13 year old kid who had to grow up that day. I was so lucky to go home to my family, to have everyone healthy and safe. I didn’t lose a parent in the attacks like so many other kids. My neighbor wasn’t filmed on TV jumping to her death or my friend wasn’t missing for days and days. I was so very lucky.

God bless those who perished and the survivors from that day. God bless the families affected, the first responders who are now suffering cancer and disabling diseases. God bless the men and women who have given their lives to serve this country as a result.

But please remember-any little bit helps. A smile, a helping hand, a kind word.

Do what you can for others.


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