Sunday, September 11, 2011

Anniversaries

Gold foil-wrapped Jordan almonds. Red silk jewelry boxes. 

For the days preceding September 11, 2001, these were the things that occupied my mind. With less than two weeks away from the most important day of my life, I was busy dealing with head counts, meal preferences and questions from vendors.

Then, early on the morning of September 11, my sister Linda called with the news that two airplanes had crashed into the World Trade Center. Vic and I were living together in California then and both of us had been asleep. He turned on the television, which stayed on the rest of the day. Shocked, sad and angry, suddenly, I couldn't think about our upcoming wedding any more, and in fact, the idea of assembling 180 wedding favors seemed downright frivolous. 

Even though 10 years have passed since that awful day, I still remember the dramatic emotional shift I underwent, from pre-wedding giddiness to post-9/11 anguish. Even though I hadn't lost any friends or family in the attacks, like so many Americans, I was distraught. 

I dug up a few email messages from that time to recall the exact words I used in corresponding with friends that week:

"I'm not in the mood to talk -- about my wedding, that is. It seems so inconsequential in light of everything else going on right now."

 "I am still so sad about all of this. On Saturday, I'm supposed to fly to Cleveland to iron out last-minute details about my wedding. But I can't even think about the wedding right now…"

Back then, Vic had been working for an Internet start-up whose office overlooked the San Francisco airport. He stayed home on September 11, but returned to work the next day. It was eerily quiet, he said, as the usual whoosh and roar of airplanes taking off and landing was missing. "There is zero apparent activity taking place over there," he said. 

We were in California and our wedding was in Ohio. We were scheduled to fly from San Francisco to Cleveland in four days, but weren't even sure if our flight would happen. For the next few days, we fielded phone calls and email messages asking if the wedding was still on. Someone suggested we postpone it, but we dismissed that idea immediately. A few people canceled their plans to attend. Too risky to fly, they said. 

One of my friends, Wendy, emailed me some wonderful advice then: "First and foremost, you need to thank God that you and your loved ones are safe and celebrate the time you have with them at your wedding.  I think you are actually lucky to have an event to celebrate with your closest family and friends this weekend during this tragedy.  Celebrate even more and tell everyone how lucky they are to have everyone together for this very important event in your life."

She was right. The wedding took place on a beautiful day in Cleveland and was a wonderful celebration of family and friends. The nation's official period of mourning had just ended, as President Bush ordered the American flag to be raised to full mast that day

In the time that has passed since September 11, 2001, I came to meet other women who shared their 9/11 stories with me - a friend who was pregnant then, a woman who even went into labor that day. In the 10 years that have passed, Vic and I became parents too. Our older son, a fourth-grader now, was upset this week that they didn't talk about September 11 at school. He was incredulous that they didn't discuss it in class, but said he did talk about it with his friend Lance during recess. I asked what they said. He shrugged. "We were just sad," my nine-year-old said. 

When I think back to the fateful day 10 years ago, I remember that after getting over the shock, I felt exceptionally proud to be an American and uncommonly united with all fellow Americans. September 11 marked a turning point for this country, and it seems that since then, we have blurred the difference between nationalism and patriotism. We have found more ways to divide ourselves. I hope today we will reflect on the losses we suffered together as a country 10 years ago and unite again.

News media love anniversaries and no doubt, the day will be filled with profiles, special reports and other commemoration features about the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. I hope we will use this opportunity to remember, reflect and return to the values that bring us together. 

4 comments:

Marcia Camino, B.A., M.F.A., E-R.Y.T., R.C.Y.P. said...

Oh, Lisa. Thank you for posting this. What a story. It is beautiful and brings tears to my eyes on this early, quiet Sunday morning of remembrance. If I'm off to this big of an emotional start today, I might have to shut down my media connections today!

May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering... -Marcia

Brenna said...

One thing I remember was a week or two later, the London Symphony had its season-opening concert. I heard news coverage of it, and they began their concert with the American National Anthem, and it actually made me cry. Everyone was with us...for a little while.

rly said...

Well said Lisa.

~Rosa

Lisa said...

Marcia, Brenna and Rosa: Thanks for reading my blog. I was expecting a flood of "where i was on 9/11" stories from friends, but was surprised that not too many people shared their experiences. Maybe everyone is over it?