September 11, 2016

Phone Calls and Extra Batteries



Today marks the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and I find myself consciously shutting off news stories, avoiding dreaded images, or actively re-directing conversations about it. Previous anniversaries of this date have never really had much of an impact on me, but for some reason today felt different. And this evening it hit me. It has to do with my dad.

My dad was no where near the twin towers, on a plane, or any where near the Pentagon. On that September day, my dad was in south Louisiana and I was in Washington state. And yet he will always be apart of my memories on that tragic day. It was early on the West Coast and my dad called to make sure we were awake and aware of what was happening. He wasn't the first person to alert us, but he was the one I spoke with the longest that morning. We were on the phone together as the second tower fell. My dad seemed to quickly grasp that our country was about to go into an intense tail spin. In between trying to calm me down, he began to switch into survivalist mode. Trying to figure out ways we could stay in touch if the phones shut down or who we could each contact if we were in trouble. He wanted me to make sure we had batteries and extra water. His response sent me into a bit of my own internal tailspin with dueling emotions...comfort that someone seemed to have some ideas for a plan and fear that things were about to get much worse. 

I think today's anniversary hit me because it was a harsh reminder that I can no longer pick up the phone to call my dad when bad things happen. I feel a bit of guilt to think that my reaction today is about grief that isn't even directly related to today's anniversary. And yet, isn't that at the core of today? Reminders of loss, reminders of life continuing to happen, reminders of fear and uncertainty, and a reminder that we were all a bit changed on that day fifteen years ago. And perhaps most importantly our universal human need to be connected, comforted, and protected. 

1 comment:

The Jiu Jiu said...

You've got nothing to feel guilty about; the events of that day (and many since) are so overwhelming that they each of us must deal them on a very individualized, personal basis. We're all different, we'll all have something different that links us to the feelings. The knowledge that your father, despite being physically distant from you, was doing his best to protect you in a time of fear & danger just makes that particular memory all the stronger and more important (a highly appropriate emotional response).

If it makes you feel any better, my clearest memories are of screaming "TURN AROUND!" at the reporter on my TV screen while, unnoticed for the moment, the first tower began to fall behind him... and then the almost comically calm conversation I had later that day with a bank teller about how much damage we could expect in the area from further aircraft while I took out a bunch of cash in fear of extended bank shutdowns. It was only days later (and many times since) that the human toll everyone seemed to assume was my primary thought/memory of the day truly made its mark on my mind... and yet (obviously) those two odd snippets of time are my strongest memories of the actual date. We all react differently, and there aren't many "wrong" ways to react to an event with the enormity of the 9/11 attacks.

Just remember to let the people you love know that you love them. :-)