A story about the what if's of life
| The What If's
My mind was swirling, as if in the midst of a dream, while I sat on my wooden thirsty- for-paint deck. Temperatures were soaring high in the mid-September sun causing beads of perspiration to trickle down the back of my neck. A frosty mug of sweet tea and two lovable pooches were my companions. Somewhere in the distance a familiar melody drifted through the air, almost seeming to float in the light breeze of the day. Without knowing why, I started to hum the tune. Recognition of the tune came suddenly and it invaded my heart, as it always had. Today, as my lips formed the shape of words in their automatic march of the beloved lyrics, the song held special meaning. The song was God Bless America and today was September 11, 2019. Here, in the simple pleasures of my life, I allowed the music and dream-like ambience of my mood to carry me back through time. I remembered.
The first thoughts were of personal nature. I pictured my children, now fully grown, as the small babes that they were on that day and my husband, young and strong without the gray hair that now graces his head. I remember exactly where I was, who I was with, and what I was doing. Like a little micro-chip was stored in my brain, I can feel the turmoil, the fear, the helplessness, the hopelessness, and the overwhelming sense of loss. Even this many years later, the experience is real and it is harrowing. I am bombarded with images of planes, falling towers, falling people, and infernos. The stench of pungent smoke and burning ash wafts across my deck as my mind replays the war-like scenes witnessed on the television over and over again. I am just a bit-part player, an inconsequential bystander, to the horrific visions before me. The ache stabs me like a knife, though I was nowhere near the towers and my feet were firmly planted on the ground free from planes. Even in my trance, I am nauseated by the sights unfolding.
I woke from the dream, not knowing how much time had passed. My heart was racing and my face was covered in the wetness of tears. It was sobering moment spent in my lawn chair after waking. My story is not unique as across this country millions of people are paying a silent tribute for all of the lives lost .
After calming myself, I visited the what-if's category of life. What if we had never experienced the trauma of September eleventh? Pictures of the faces of the people that died that day flash through my mind. I imagine all of the contributions they may have made to our country had they lived. For a moment thoughts of worry creep through my mind, that maybe one of the souls lost that day was meant to give birth to the child that would one day save our planet from destruction. It hurts to know how many gifts of talent and potential were lost within mere seconds of hatred. It is a mind-numbing process of what might have been and an effort in futility.
I make note of how many ways our country has changed. Intense security on planes, new for the older generations, has now become standard practice for the kids of this generation. Rise was given to the scrutiny of nations and nationalities blamed for our pain. We rallied in our patriotism for a short time with our hands firmly clenched at our chest. We sought answers and we taught respect of one another. So I wonder, on this day that we memorialize a bloody day in history, how almost twenty years later our differences are so great. What if it hadn't happened? Would our divisions be so varied and longstanding? Would we speak with one voice and raise each other up for the contributions each side brings to the table? The aftermath or outcomes of any historical event will be studied and explored for decades by greater minds than mine. It is my hope that our unity blossoms once again Strength and hope can rise from the ashes of our remembrances if we vow to never to allow another day such as this to happen.
The reality is that all of the Americans born before 2001 carry with them a form of post traumatic stress disorder. No one more than the people at ground zero, the families of the people lost, or the strident rescuers on the scene can recall the pain of that day more emphatically. It is ingrained into the persons that they are today and sadly it is a part of their soul. Reflections of 911 appear in the recesses of our minds in unexpected places. Cryptic thoughts are triggered from unlikely sources permitting the sadness to overtake us.
I lift myself up from the chair, moving toward the house still feeling the weight of an explicit dream in my heart. . It is the realization striking me, that my what-if tale impacts the masses in ways, we have yet to understand. It is the knowledge that I am powerless to turn what-if's into reality that saddens me. It is a feeling that our lessons learned from 911 come to surface on only one particular day of remembrance each year that frightens me.
My Side- time Tale
I was in the third day of my clinical psyche rotation for nursing school. Our assignment was to talk to the patients about the events leading up to their hospitalization or just things that were going on in their lives that were making it hard to function. We were all gathered in the lounge, playing games and chatting in small groups. There were 3 wanna-be nurses and about 15 patients. There was only one actual hospital employee watching over all of us at the time. One very large television was playing in background, to serve as a distraction during lulls in the conversations. The first lesson of nursing school was that you couldn't force a patient to talk. You could only offer questions or options that made them want to engage. The variety of patients served was vast, ranging from alcoholics that had fallen off the wagon,drug users unable to control their habits, schizophrenics with mania induced delusions, and people with depression and suicidal thoughts in need of monitoring. .Â
The television flickered back and forth in the background between several news stations. The sound had been turned down low. We were watching the aftermath of the plane hitting the first tower as a backdrop to our conversations. No one was focused on the events playing out until the second plane hit. Everyone in the room, rose to their feet, almost in a mechanical fashion, screaming at the television as if it would somehow undo what we'd witnessed. Within seconds the volume was increased on the television and the newscaster relayed news of the events that were occurring. Suddenly, and without warning the room turned into a chaotic center of emotion. Problems once faced by the individual turned to rage for the nation. There were a few patients that cheered as they replayed the plane crash and others that began throwing things at the television in anger. I will never forget the fear I felt, first for my own safety in that moment and then for our country and all that we had lost. We turned off the television and eventually restored calm to the room. There were so many tears and hugs. Our instructor pulled us out of the room during a break and told us to call our families.Â
We were not allowed to leave our clinical commitment because they needed us there. It was the first day that my conflict as a mother and as a nurse reared it's head.I live near an Air-Force Base and my kids attended school in a military community. My oldest son was six and in kindergarten My daughter was in day care nearby and only three years old. When I called to check on them I was told that they needed to be picked up immediately because all of the nearby military kids were being picked up because the base was going on lock-down.I was frantic when I called my husband not knowing how to get to the kids. He was able to leave work to pick them up. He talks about seeing the buses pick up the kids going back to base with armed guards on board. He talks about having to explain to our son that they weren't allowed to take the backpacks with them and that all of his favorite things would be safe at school. It broke his heart to see our son waving goodbye through tears to his friends boarding the buses. None of the children understood the fear and sadness in the faces of the adults that surrounded them. And none of the adults understood the devastation taking place at that time, only later did it become a sad historical page of our history. When I finally got home, I hugged my kids so tight. I wanted only for the ugliness of the day to rubbed away by their goodness. Days later when the kids returned to school and Americans loved each other and our flags were embraced we took a picture of the kids by the fence of the school. The children of the school had made a makeshift flag from painted solo cups glued to the webbing of the fence. I cried once again, but for many reasons. While a nation busied itself with the task of mourning, there were many people lifting us up in unity and strength.