Scribblings and Musings

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9/11 and Me …. 10 years later …

on 09/11/2011

“A man walks into a bar and asks the bartender for a glass of water. The bartender pulls out a shot gun ad shoots at the man, missing him. The man tips the bartender and thanks him, then leaves …”

On 2/8/2011, as always, I watched NCIS. The episode “A Man Walks Into a Bar” more or less dealt with Kate Todd’s older sister trying to get to know the team and people who were closest to her when she was killed; trying to find closure.

And, what does that have to do with me and 9/11? A lot.

The episode also dealt with how we react in certain situations. Some of us defy others expectations of us, and others rise to meet them.

It took me a long time to do both, but I did. Sometimes we just act, there is no time to think. That isn’t always a good thing, it isn’t always a bad thing …

That day, I was unable to act or re-act. I was in stunned silence. I couldn’t believe what I had seen or what I was seeing …

I watched the second plane hit the towers that morning. I was just getting to bed here in Nevada. I was up all night playing a video game with my mom, who had worked 12 hours on Monday. Usually she didn’t stay up for 24 straight hours, but we were playing the game and having fun. It was a perfect night–great dinner, wine, video game marathon. I will never forget the game we were playing that night. It was Super Mario Bros 3 on the Super Nintendo. We didn’t skip levels, we played right through.

We finished a little after 6am. While I was in my bedroom getting ready to lay down, I turned on the TV. My mother was doing something, then she was going to come in and say good night to me, or rather “sleep well”. It is a routine we had up to that point, and after it’s been part of the healing process.

I watched in horror as the buildings collapsed. First one, then the others. I was in a daze and couldn’t believe what was happening. I thought that maybe part of the towers were gone and could be repaired. But, they were gone. My heart fell and for the first time, I felt powerless. There was nothing I could do to help, and no way to help

Before she could do that, I had seen the fire at the World Trade Center. With all the businesses there I thought perhaps it was a bad office fire. Not a few minutes after turning the TV on I was screaming … NO!!! repeatedly.

My mom asked what was wrong, and I was in shock I couldn’t tell her what I had seen. How could I tell her? What could I tell her?

The second plane hit the other building. I couldn’t believe what was happening and refused to. That couldn’t have been intentional, it had to be some kind of a bad aviation accident. I lived in the United States of America, not a country that sees terrorist attacks such as this.

Later in the day I learned that there were a total of 4 hijacked planes. Two hit the World Trade Center buildings, 1 struck the Pentagon and the fourth went down in a field in Pennsylvania when a group of brave men stormed the cockpit after learning about the other planes

Within the first 48 hours I was in shock and heard something I would never forget.One of the passengers on the plane (American Airlines Flight 77) that hit the Pentagon on 9/11 was Barbara Edwards of Las Vegas, NV.

I held my mother’s American Airlines miles card in my hand and cried. Of all the people, why?

There had to be some kind of mistake. But it wasn’t. It was real. These devastating, senseless attacks were personal for me. It was as if that 4th plane had struck my heart

Then, I looked over at my mom who was silent and stunned. She didn’t know how to react, I didn’t know what she was feeling. Despite her own feelings, she put her arm around me and held me close to her as I cried. Even at age 25, I loved my mom and didn’t want to lose her. At that point in my life, she was the only family I had. She was my only true friend, the person who was always there for me.

For a moment I had hoped the media was wrong about the name, but they weren’t.

For the next few days following the attacks, my patriotism came out. I loved my country more than I thought possible, I wanted to help. I called to donate blood and because of the response I had to wait almost a month. I chose 10/11/2001 as the date. Sadly, though it wasn’t enough to help save any more lives.

In the months that followed, I became withdrawn and didn’t want my mom to work. There were days I would ask her to stay home. I didn’t know if there would be any more attacks. If the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked, what about a hospital? Suicide bombers? After all, in countries that have terrorist attacks, aren’t suicide bombers a part of that life?

Because we didn’t have a car, I’d get up every morning she worked, at 4am to ride the two-buses with her to her work, then ride home. It didn’t cost us any additional money as I had my own monthly bus pass. I would then ride to her work place, so I could ride home with her from work. I lived in fear for a while, I spent a lot of days hiding under a blanket, not wanting to come out. I didn’t want to leave my home, even if I did need groceries. I lost interest in my writing for a while; I was just lost.

Eventually, the feelings passed, but never my devout patriotism or my love for my family.

One year later, in hopes of putting the past behind us, my mom and I moved into a new apartment. on 9/11/2002 I donated blood in honor of the victims, and in honor of the one.  I still doubted if my life would ever get back to normal. But I kept going. Somehow I felt that if I didn’t, the terrorists would win.

I was volunteering at the hospital where my mom worked. It wasn’t what I wanted to do.

April 2003 would be the turning point in my life. I got my first computer, I connected to the internet and NCIS would begin as the result of a 2-part JAG story line–Ice Queen (4/22) and Meltdown (4/29–my birthday).

Between April and September 2003, I immersed myself back into my writing and was finding the peace and solace I was lacking.  On 9/11/2003 I again donated blood. Later in September I met a friend, who herself had been through a very rough life. We connected and talked. I would stay up for hours on end, night after night…night into morning talking to her.  I still didn’t go out much, I did reduce the amount of days I went with my mom to work and met her after work. But, we were still close, closer even as a result.

In 2004, I met one of my favorite NASCAR drivers.

In 2005, I went to not only 1 NASCAR race, but returned to my home state of Texas for the first time in 25 years to attend a race.

Throughout 2006-2008 I had my share of drama and personal lows. But, it was in June 2008 that things looked up for us. Mom and I were able to get a 2nd car, paid off the one we bought in 2005 and I was back to giving blood on 9/11.

In 2009 I was also beginning to watch an interesting series most of my family and friends liked–NCIS. I got another job, but by the end of 2009 I no longer had that job. I know all things happen for a reason.

In 2010 I was now a full-fledged NCIS fan, I had no direction in my life though. I already knew how blessed I was. I had come to learn with God all things are possible and he has a purpose for us.

In January 2011 I got to do one of the things I had been wanting to do my entire life–I got to drive my own car on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway track for charity. While it was only 3 laps, it was the greatest feeling in the world. This was one of those cases where we defy others expectations of us and rise to meet them. While others never thought I would ever complete that challenge, there were those who did.

On 2/9/2011 (the morning after NCIS–“A Man Walks Into A Bar” ) I got a call that changed my life–I got a call from an admissions representative at an online college. Was this another example of that expectations thing that psychologist mentioned in that NCIS episode?

As it turned out, it was.

On March 3, 2011; nearly 9 1/2 years after the attacks on our country; I was getting the chance to do what I wanted. I was beginning college and studying Criminal Justice concentrating in Forensic Psychology and Homeland Security.

Now, 10 years to the date of the terrorist attacks that changed my life…

I am 2 classes away from completing my first year of college. Those classes are Composition I and Introduction to Criminal Justice; since college takes up my time, I currently don’t have  job, but we make ends meet. My mother and I still live together, but I do want to have my own family pretty soon. We’ve gone from no car to having two cars (though one isn’t running right now, we’re in the process of fixing that).  I’ve gone from not having a computer or internet, to interacting with people on Twitter and Facebook. I also have a tumblr, Flickr, Word Press, and Blogger (BlogSpot) account. I go to the NASCAR event every year. I blog about my experiences, my opinions and I write more now than I ever used to. Currently I have close to 50 ideas. That is quite a bit to keep me busy.

And, I still donate blood.

My life has never returned to the pre-9/11 life it was. In some ways, my life to that point ended. I started a new life on 9/12, and from a bad situation, I have taken an effort to make this life, a better life. Aspects from my pre-9/11 personality are back, but I am different. I wasn’t that connected to my family before 9/11 … now I have reconnected with my uncle and cousins, and a lot of great friends as well … nationwide. I am still committed to leaving Las Vegas, and heading back to California.

Prior to 9/11 it had been 4 years since I went back to one of my hometowns. On 8/27/2011, I returned home from a 4-day visit. Though my aunt had died, it was as if it was a sign that I needed to go back to California.

I have grown closer to God and found strength.

At the time of the attacks I couldn’t image watching any NY-based shows after 9/11, now I don’t watch anything filmed in New York prior to 9/11.

These past 10 years I have cried, mourned, grown, adapted and moved on. Just because I have doesn’t mean I have left all those people behind…or her. Or the Barbara Edwards we lost. I have continued on, so they can. As long as we keep their memory alive, they are in some small way still with us.

I am looking forward to the next 10 years–where we will go, what we will do, what will we see…who will be in our lives.

“It’s clear to me that we all react to life’s challenges in different ways. Some fight death. And some embrace its solace. Some recognize their fate, and others do whatever is necessary to alter it. Sometimes we defy other’s expectations and occasionally we rise to meet them. But the constant is being true to ourselves. We do what we have to when we have to. We react for better or worse.” – Dr. Rachel Cranston, NCIS—“A Man Walks Into A Bar”


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