A Little More Serious · Adventures in Imperfection

George Strait, Tim McGraw, and Remembering 9/11

George Strait was my first country singer crush. In college, my roommate and I sang “Amarillo by Morning” to each other while we Aqua-netted our hair to heavens. Mr. Strait was handsome, humble, and very helpful in snagging me a husband. (“All My Ex’s” is the perfect song for Two-Stepping and I needed a partner!)

George Strait, Tim McGraw, and Remembering 9/11
The King

These days, I never listen to him.

Hearing his voice reminds me of younger, more carefree days. It’s easier to change the channel than to note I don’t look as hot in Rocky Mountain jeans and red Ropers like back in the day.


But, this past week, I left the dial alone as his voice crooned “Run” and filled the rental car with classic George smoothness. The sun was setting in the Appalachian Mountains and the song, coupled with the scenery, made my heart flutter.  The I-40 landscape hinted at Autumn and revealed itself like the bend in the curve around the mountain–you knew it was there, but not quite in view. My soul was full of gratitude for the gorgeous day, and the mind monkeys were quiet.

Then, Tim McGraw started to sing “Live Like You’re Dying” and my fingers cranked the knob to find a less-heavy tune.

Slim Tim is a true favorite, but his song marks a sad time–the year we lost Dion. Suddenly, I realized that the very last time I’d been on this highway between Nashville and Bristol was fourteen years ago – with my husband and Dion.

A joyful time…

  • three years before Dion was diagnosed with cancer
  • before a storm ransacked our home with flood waters
  • before the Twin Towers fell and broke our American hearts

Since then, I have used three major benchmarks to note passage of time:

~~before Dion died
~~during the flood
~~after 9/11

Like my homage to George and memories, I turned back to Tim and let him sing. Reminiscent tears filled my eyes and then I did the math. We had taken the Tennessee road trip only three weeks before 9/11. We showed up at the airport thirty minutes before boarding–loaded down with liquids and gels of all weights and sizes. As the song came to the last refrain, my mind ticked off all of the ways life had changed, and I ached for my kids to know a non-post 9/11 world.

9/11 thrust us into a collective “never enough” and it feels like we’re still trying to find our way out. It would be easier if the answer was more money, more accomplishments, more power, more perfection, more security, more “better than” – but I don’t think that’s working on an individual or cultural level.

Healing scarcity and fear at a cultural level requires exactly what it takes for an individual or family: Connection. It’s the willingness to both offer help and ask for help. It’s about finding the courage to say, “Can you stand by me?” and “Can I stand with you?” Healing requires the courage to be vulnerable. This is the irony. This is the struggle.

~~Brene’ Brown*

I never felt like the 9/11 story belonged to me until I read Brene’s words a few years ago. I didn’t know any families, first responders, or victims. I couldn’t grasp what had happened, and the only thing I wanted to do was shut off the TV, huddle with my family under big blanket forts, and watch Disney movies.

As a punishment for living (survivor’s guilt), I memorized faces and stories. Like millions of others, I tried to work that week, but spent most of the time pissed off at people who said we needed to move on. A year later, with others in a hospital chapel during a moment of silence, a mouthy sales rep spouted off, “get over it already” and I let him have it.

I would never get over it.

I’ll forever remember sitting in my car and being on the phone with Scott when the first tower fell. How my mom called me and how it sucks that my brother’s birthday falls on September 11. How I wanted to grab Tanna out of school, retrieve Dane from Grandma Terry’s, and hide at home. I recall standing in our back yard that beautiful afternoon and looking up–feeling the eerie quiet of a sky devoid of contrails and air traffic. I won’t forget the stories, the piles of rubble, and the all-out-in-the-trenches prayers.


Years later, I finally had the opportunity to go to New York. While my co-workers went to happier places like Broadway and Central Park, I snagged a friend, and we visited Ground Zero. I knew it’d be tough, but the sheer emotion of the place was even more overwhelming than I could have imagined. At that time, the cavern of the parking garage remained. There were makeshift memorials everywhere, marking the pain and sadness rising from the cracks in the sidewalk. I cried for the two hours we were there.

And it felt good.

Since that visit to Ground Zero, I have tried to see 9/11 in a different light and find the positives buried in our rubble-filled brains. What if we honored the living and dead by remembering a simpler life before our collective national trauma paralyzed us?

Fourteen years ago, we weren’t chained to our cell phones, poised for an emergency, or creating images of a perfect life on social media. In this culture of scarcity and the fear of being average, can’t we let our wholehearted lives be our legacy? Imagine if we honored our post 9/11 heroes by:

  • Forgiving others, even when forgetting is impossible
  • Imagine that people are doing the very best they can*
  • Acknowledge that WE are doing the best we can
  • Understanding that people leave, die, or move on and that it has nothing to do with our personal worthiness
  • Capturing the moment, being present, and channeling a brave heart in our everyday interactions.
George Strait, Tim McGraw, and Remembering 9/11

If you are someone who was affected directly by 9/11, I am so sorry for your loss. If you are one of the many brave men and women who helped others on that day, or went to war later–thank you for your service and I hope your healing strengthens with each year.

Thank you to everyone for reading the second serious post in less than a week. My heart is not as heavy as it sounds, but I’m learning that it’s okay to roll with these tough emotions. It’s courageous to honor your memories, and look forward to the future with a brave, whole heart.

I’d be honored if you shared your experiences and memories from 9/11/2001 below. Tell us where you were, who you were with, and what you can do to promote national and international healing. No biggie, right?

And please, don’t turn that dial.


Next week: Something lighter – I promise! MamaMick snagged a home run ball (thank you Nick and Moooose!) and a ready-made story to boot. Stay tuned!!


49 thoughts on “George Strait, Tim McGraw, and Remembering 9/11

  1. This is beautiful, Michelle, through and through. Thank you. That day changed us all. Get over it? Never. Please!

    Because you asked, my friend: I was in the Syracuse daily newsroom, music and entertainment guy just getting in for a morning shift, TVs always on, bulletins break in with the plane hitting. Terrible accident? Eyes are drawn and voices are raised. Second strike. Not so! Buildings fall. Journalists become people, friends hugging in disbelief for comfort. Professionalism returns, calls are made, dashes are made to the street to find local angles, newsprint rolls through the big press, people return home to cry with their families.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Journalists become people, friends hugging in disbelief for comfort.”
      I remember being thankful that I wasn’t a journalist that day…no way could have I have kept the composure I saw on TV. That said, it’s comforting to see perfect professionals be human, too.
      Thank you for sharing, Mark.


  2. Thank you for such a heartfelt and thoughtful post. I was a tech at a corporation and I was tasked to put the unfolding nightmare on the big screen. We had an auditorium full of people when the towers fell. The whole room gasped, went quiet then everyone cried. (tearing up still) It was one of the most emotional experiences of my life. As the world started to unravel over the next few weeks many of my Muslim friends called to reassure me they were not terrorists. They were scared. I worked with many of them for years and knew they were good, hardworking people trying to make a better life for their families just like me. I worried for them when the calls for revenge started. We all were scared and heartbroken.
    As a nation and a world I think we are still suffering from PTSD. It seems to me that we haven’t taken the necessary steps to reflect, understand, reconnect or express our sadness and love to those who need to hear it. Now so much has happened since then I don’t know if we’ll ever really deal with the trauma. Some are lashing out, searching for answers and some cannot form the questions to ask while looking for answers that will never answer the questions.. Thank you again I am going to reblog your post on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Henry,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond in the kind, thoughtful way that you did. Sharing these stories, reading about others’ experience help with the healing – in my humble opinion.
      “As a nation and a world I think we are still suffering from PTSD.” I totally believe your statement and am grateful you called it out. Your words around lashing out speaks to our collective deep hurt than can only be healed by love and understanding. Thank you again for taking the time to read and comment and for the reblog. I truly appreciate your visit today. Michelle

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you Michelle. The power of blogs always amaze me. Thank you for sharing your experience. We are not alone and I know others feel the same way. Every sharing experience helps a little.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s amazing what songs can do to us, the emotions they evoke and how they can takes us back to a place in time. I have songs like that too, ones that remind me of before and after the loss of someone close or an event. Strangely, I don’t have any songs that remind me of 9/11. I think I was so consumed with the images and sounds of the news coverage that everything else was blocked out. Life definitely wasn’t as disaster focused before 9/11. I think I’m going to soften a little more today, seek out the good that I know is inside even the hardest exterior and walk gently. And maybe I’ll find a song that fits. Thank you, sweet Michelle. This is the exact kind of 9/11 tribute I wanted to read today. xxoo

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When I think 9/11 in song, this is always the first that comes to mind:

      But the bigger, more universal feeling of love and loss and frailty and hope…for me is “Thank U” by Alanis.

      Love you both. ❤️

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh yes, this one gets me, too. I will be forever amazed at the healing power of song and lyrics.
        Seems that Alanis marks many of my life milestones – love your choice here, CAB. xo


  4. And, now a station break. Let’s not forget that we are still at war. That there are still US Navy, Marine and Air Force aviators flying combat missions daily. Let’s not forget that some 1500 US soldiers have returned to Iraq to train Iraqi soldiers and serve as ground command and control for the aviators. Keep them in your hearts today too.

    Me? That day? The first think I though is “Oh man, when I am I gonna get called back?” Sure enough in 2003-04, my ancient MOS became very valuable. Luckily…

    Then there are the refugees.


    Liked by 1 person

  5. You got to the heart of this matter in a way no one else could, Michelle, bringing a kind of reverence that is as deep as it is inspiring. Being a firefighter, it’s really hard for me to see beyond the smoke on this day; being a father, it’s just as hard for me to see beyond the loss of innocense my daughter — and all of us, really — experienced that day. Being a journalist, it’s hard for me to avoid analyzing that morning and its sequence of events while covering it within our community.

    In short, it’s just hard. Every year.

    But your words offer something I had been too overwhelmed to see: a certain kind of hope.

    Thanks, Michelle 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s official…the first comment in two years that invoked the ugly cry. My hubby asked, “why do you have to write so sad?”
      My heart wondered, “yeah, but can’t you see the hope?”
      Thank you for seeing past the smoke, my friend. Xo

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I wrote a post related to this a few months ago, as live near the Shanksville, PA site. The hospital where I was working was on call for emergency and morgue services (sadly, needlessly). I took my daughter and a friend (then middle-school age) on the train to NYC at the 6-month mark and although I don’t think they really grasped the gravity, I found the site very moving. It’s been good to read both your post and Ned’s this a.m. – thanks for revisiting it and putting things into words so beautifully.


  7. What a beautiful piece Michelle! Since New York is my home town, I have many loved ones that were back there when it happened and lost a few. My mother was in Brooklyn and I knew she lived far enough away but I’m sure you can imagine how disturbing it was not to be able to get her on the phone that day. Do you know, a few days later, she found a charred receipt from the Towers on her lawn?
    When I woke up that day, we had just gotten cable and I was struggling to figure out the remotes while hearing what was going on in the background. When I finally woke up my husband to get the TV on, we watched the horrifying images over and over again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Marissa,
      I’m so sorry for the loss of your friends and can’t imagine how scary that day was for you and others who lived right there. At that time, my husband was working in the cable industry – we were surrounded by dozens of TVs with those images. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. xo


  8. Love this. 14 years. Some days, I swear it only happened last year. It still feels so raw and fresh in my mind. I will never forget the black cloud that seemed to hang over everyone after that happened. Even my kids (who were little–the oldest only 8), didn’t laugh for like a week. They could feel that something bad had happened from everyone around them. I love your ways to heal–to forgive, enjoy each moment, believe the best about everyone. Those are awesome things that do bring about change one person at a time…and that’s how the wave starts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, the little ones! Dane was only 2 and Tanna was 8. We couldn’t decide how to even tell her because she was such a worrier anyway. We did it like everyone around us – one day at a time and with each other’s help.
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment – I promised my husband this morning that happier days (and posts!) are ahead. xo

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the gentle tug and “hope you had a great weekend”
      I did! Thank you.
      BUT, in the back of my mind…I was thinking. “I’m missing something. Something I wanted to do.” You know what it was? It was that I wanted to read what you wrote, too. Thank you for sharing your story. I just can’t even imagine how scary it must have been for all of you. I’ve missed you my friend. I won’t go so long next time. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This is lovely Michelle.
    I do think that we, as a nation, are still suffering from PTSD, figuratively and literally, in the guise of so many soldiers living with the after effects.
    I have a friend who tweeted today “how come “never forget” always sounds like a call to war?”
    As someone else pointed out, we are still at war, and healing from this, at this point, seems a pipe dream.
    It was a horrible day, devastating. And it’s aftermath has been anything but vulnerable, forgiving or seeking out the good, “softening and walking gently” as Karen said. I liked what henry west said too…about not knowing whether we will ever deal with the trauma, I might add if we are even capable of it.
    I remember where I was and what was happening that day in perfect detail, and i remember the weeks after, the political polarization, the rush to war amid the peace marches, the stigmatizing of “the other”….little has changed in these 14 years. I just don’t see a place for or even a push toward healing yet, certainly not collectively. The aftermath of 9/11 has ungrounded us and stymied the entire political process.
    On an individual basis we do what we can, we soften our gaze, we pray, we work toward change and compassion, we are kind to one another, we do our best. And we remember.


    1. My dear Michele,
      You wrote all of the pieces I left out on “paper” but certainly not left out in my mind/heart. Since then, it has felt like an epidemic of lashing out, hatred, and no seek to understand except in pockets. You said it best in your last paragraph and it’s what I hold on to:”On an individual basis we do what we can, we soften our gaze, we pray, we work toward change and compassion, we are kind to one another, we do our best. And we remember”
      So true and so wise. Glad we share this space. xoxoxoxo


  10. ~~before Dion died
    ~~during the flood
    ~~after 9/11

    Omgosh, I sooooo much identified w/ this post, darling. I am so sorry for your loss.

    For me, it’s before Kay, after Kay, when Kay was here, what would Kay do?

    About 9-11—-I remember I was writing something and my husband called and asked, “are you watching the news?”

    It was like observed HELL, darkness, hopelessness, such PAIN…..

    but the SUN ROSE again….. I find that AMAZING.

    …because humans survive and thrive and lift one another up and never give up and believe in God and as ANNE Frank said, “In spite of everything, I believe people are really good at heart.

    —Fabulous read. Thank you. O, and I’ve not listened to George Strait, but I think I must!!
    Love from MN.


    1. Dear Kim,
      The more I learn about Kay, the more I wish I could have met her (and you!)
      Thank you SO much for providing Anne Frank’s quote – it’s what gives me hope and the prayer I utter when the sun rises each morning…again.
      Love from KS xoxoxo


  11. So beautiful. I love Brene Brown. On 9/11/01 I was at home, here on the west coast, and when I turned on the TV at around 9am (noon back east), what I was looking at was beyond surreal. As the hours and next few days unfolded, I remember worrying about a cousin who lives in NYC (she was fine). We all felt the fear and uncertainty. And with such devastation, the first thoughts so often go towards retribution. Payback.

    Exactly one week later was the day my new husband and I were to fly across country for our delayed honeymoon. All week we debated going: would there be flights? was it safe to fly? As the day approached, we chose to go. We had minimal fear the day we actually travelled. Orlando, FL was deserted. Disney World and Universal Studios had so few people there. No lines for rides. Waiting only 3 cycles to get the first seat of the rollercoaster. It seemed weird to be so happy, when everyone else was mourning. While the rest of the country was wrapped up in the intense fear and wanting retribution, I entered a state of exuberant joy at discovering I’d become pregnant during the trip and was looking forward to finally welcoming a baby into my life that I would not only love with all my heart, but would be able to bring home and raise. Unfortunately, a few months later I miscarried and dropped into the pit of despair that I imagine several people who lost loves ones on 9/11 felt.

    Through my own life’s trials, I’ve learned that when big shit happens, after letting the ego throw it’s temper tantrum, the only way my heart is healed and peace is allowed back in, is to find a way to be ok with what happened. There are so many ways to get there; and what is important is to find a way to get there. My hope is for our country, as a whole, to be able to move past the temper tantrum, pull up her big girl panties, open her heart, and find a way to move through… perhaps with a little grace.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. OMG, Susan….what an amazing and heart-wrenching perspective. Reading stories like yours and knowing that positive people like you keep this big old world spining makes my heart happy.
      Your comment is so poignant, and touching, and I am so honored to count you among my many blessings. xoxoxo

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Beautiful tribute Mama. Thank you so very much. You made it so personal and real – the way it should be to honor those who perished and all the heroes who provided aid (of all kinds) in the time of great need. Thank you.


  13. What a beautiful post for the day! (Sorry my reading it is so late!) I was in ninth grade when the towers fell (which seems like forever ago) and I remember sitting in art class, and almost every class, listening to the news and talking, or not talking, about it.

    Such a scary time. It really did change everything.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, dear Katie.
      “Talking or not talking about it”
      Yes, so true.
      As for being late to read, you know the deal. Our bloggy friendship will never hinge on whether or not you read my stuff. I’m not going anywhere soon and you have a LM hollering for you 🙂


  14. I was on my way to work, after which I got on the phone with my kids school and told them I wanted to pick up my kids. The principal returned my call and we had a conversation during which time he changed my mind. His calming words were just what I needed inside a morning that had supplied more questions than answers. I needed to find a constant, something to hold onto, because the world was changing and I didn’t want to let it go.

    This is a beautiful tribute to that day, Mama. And here’s a vid for you. It’s a helpful reminder to me that those peeps on the other side of the world have kids too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You captured, maybe without knowing, a very personal side of my heart. This video captures and it and why I keep the “Mama” in MamaMick. When I hear stories of violence, of serial killers and rapists, my heart/mind goes to his/her mama. I loved watching these two brave women interact – loving and forgiving are two of the most brave things that we can do.
      Thank you for sharing this and for speaking to your personal story. What a special man that principal must have been as I imagined him receivings hundreds of identical calls. Thank you for being my friend and constant strand of reason and groundedness in this one wild, and precious life (slight steal from Mary Oliver!) xo


  15. Wow. Knocked me over, and I was already near tears just from being tired. Sigh. Pause. This hits home in deep ways.

    Bless you.
    Bless us all, everyone – everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Julie,
      I cry when I’m exhausted, too. Sometimes, it feels good and sometimes it’s overwhelming. This post struck a personal chord with many folks and I know it wasn’t because of my writing. It’s because of a deep hurt we share with each other. In some ways, that’s comforting. In other ways, it makes us yearn for happier moments.
      So – I’ll write something happy very soon. Thank you so much for taking the time to stop and read (and follow). Best wishes in your book adventure – I look forward to living vicariously through you! Michelle

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, don’t live vicariously! If nothing else, I have learned the hard way the only person who can make my dreams come true is me. Dream, but also working towards making those dreams come true. Just one little thing every day adds up!

        Liked by 1 person

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