I am a former New Yorker and as much as I try to escape it, I am part of the collateral damage of 9/11, as are many who lived in and around New York City at the time and thereafter. When 9/11 happened, fear enveloped the areas surrounding Manhattan, including Long Island where I lived. I was working in Cyber Security at a national government laboratory when the towers were struck, and with a nuclear reactor at our facility, the fear over whom or what would be struck next was very real. My husband at the time was a federal agent who responded to the World Trade Center disaster and remained there for several months, while I remained on full alert at the laboratory.
Many don’t understand or even know of the dark cloud that remains over survivors of and responders to Ground Zero that to this day refuses to dissipate. The fact is everyone in New York has a story to tell about 9/11 and its affect on their lives. And often it’s a story about how we attempt to overcome adversity.
For those intimately impacted by this event or anything equal to it–every day presents the challenge to be happy, to not think about where we’ve been, to not feel guilty for surviving when others haven’t or for moving on when others can’t. But every day also presents the opportunity to rise above adversity, to pick ourselves up and make the conscious choice to reclaim our lives.
Every year as September 11 rolls around, I am deeply affected by the surge of images on TV and on the internet, all triggers that tap into my mind and viscerally remind me how life changed so much after that day in 2001. Ever since, I have tried to use the day in a positive way, early in the day attending memorials, paying respects, allowing myself to let out the tears and feel the sting of the losses, and then the rest of the day doing anything I can to acknowledge the blessing of being alive.
Most years, I simply cried all day, purposely submerging myself in anything and everything related to the disaster. But after a time, I was successful in carving out precious hours in the latter part of the day where I redirected my attention to something positive–hopeful even. In recent years, I’ve gotten even better at it, requiring of myself a cut-off time for suffering.
This year will be different. My ex-husband has passed on–at age 58, way too young to no longer be with us . . . he is the true collateral damage of 9/11. I don’t know what this year’s 9/11 anniversary will bring. I’m actually a bit afraid of it. Maybe this year will bring closure, because he’s no longer suffering, or maybe it will be worse than it ever has been.
The fact is that I, like so many others whose families were affected by that fateful day, have been trying to heal for a long time. I’ve been trying to make sure I honor the fallen and the still suffering by making every day meaningful–to do good, to be good, to be part of the positive energy in the universe and not part of its darkness. There’s a lot of pressure to get it right, but I think it’s important to try.
To all who continue to face the aftermath of 9/11, may the light of love and hope be ever within your reach. May you always know that you are not alone.
Love and Peace,
Related Article: 9/11– For All That Ails Us, We Are Stronger Than We Know
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