Note: I wrote the original post Sept 11, 2015. With some revisions, I’m sharing a message that still resonates today. Thank you for taking the time to read. xo
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!
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
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.
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?
Sixteen 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.
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.
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.
Helloooo to all of my new friends and readers. Your kindness and support in reading my last post on Wishes left me speechless and grateful. Thank you so much for taking the time to be here.