Where were you on 9/11?

     Hello, readers. I have had writer’s block since I lost my ‘person.’  I wrote this years ago; but realized today that I haven’t shared this on here. Where was I on 9/11?  I was home alone, in my apartment in Kalamazoo, Michigan; and had just turned the TV on to watch while eating breakfast, at about  8:50 a.m. I normally watch a funny DVD to start my day, so for me to watch the news was very rare, since the news makes me physically ill, due to my Fibromyalgia. The first plane had just hit the first tower. I started shaking uncontrollably, scared that this was no accident. I tried to call my mom, and then I called my (former)best friend in San Francisco. Nicole was a travel agent at the time, and I KNEW her day would be totally messed up with air travel schedules. She was asleep, since it was before 6 a.m. She mumbled into the phone, and I said, “Nic, WAKE UP. Go turn on the TV. NOW. Go. You need to see this.” She kept mumbling, then asked, “What channel?” I said, “It doesn’t matter, it is on all the channels.” We agreed on the same channel, then we watched in horror and disbelief as the second plane hit. We both screamed and cried together, I was clutching my hair, scratching at my skin, wanting to escape. We sat together, each alone in our own apartments, a country away, but forever united in grief and shock. We watched the Pentagon get attacked, and had heard about another plane crash/fire near the Pentagon. Fear enveloped my whole body.     

     By the time we got off the phone, I had called my work. I was a manager at Bath & Body Works, and was scheduled to go in after noon. When I went in, I asked if they had heard. They said that they had the news on a radio in the break room. The Limited Corp. sent out an all store bulletin to close. They had five stores in the Pentagon and World Trade Centers, and none of us knew where the terrorists would strike next, so they closed all of our stores. We were putting the gate down, and a woman ducked under it as it went off track and got stuck 3/4 of the way down. She was insistent that we sell her a bottle of lotion. We explained that corporate had closed us, that our registers were already closed, and she would not let up. She was indignant, and aggressive. She insisted that she needed this lotion and that we sell it to her immediately. I said to her, “Do you realize that our country is under attack?” She basically said, ” So what? I still need this lotion, and this purchase doesn’t affect the state of the world!” (Next time you are in a retail establishment, remember that you have NO IDEA what we deal with on a daily basis!) We told her that our registers were closed. She said she would leave cash or a check. We told her that was against store policy, that she had to have a receipt, and that it was illegal. She wouldn’t leave! FINALLY, she left. The mall decided to close about a half an hour later, even though we had suggested it, and were shocked that they waited to make that call. (Our store was fined $500 for closing early, by the way, even though corporate made that decision; and the mall decided to close right after that…)

     I was supposed to work until closing; but my mom had had emergency dental work, and was having an adverse reaction to the anesthesia. The manager, Nicole (different Nicole), kindly offered to stay and wait for the maintenance person to fix the broken gate. I went home, and my mom was in bed. She was groggy and looked horrible. She was barely conscious, but she knew what was happening.

     I went outside, and lied down on the grass, not even a blanket. I wanted to feel the earth beneath my body, so I could know I was on solid ground. I remember looking up at the sky and crying. It was so still, so quiet. I live near an airport, so I am accustomed to hearing planes overhead. For three days, nothing. Our house is near a very busy street, and our yard backs up into many small businesses. There was very little noise. Not a car exhaust, a door shutting, nothing. The silence, especially in the middle of a workday, was so deafening, it rang in my ears.

     A few hours later, I was at my apartment and got more terrible news. My boyfriend called me at about 4 p.m. on 9/11, and said that he had been in the Special Forces, and in Vietnam (he was 18 years older than I) and that the military had called him back up for active service, and that he had to leave within two or three days. He then disappeared for weeks. He would only call every few weeks, and show up at my apartment late at night. He talked about being in all the ‘hot spots,’ the ‘sleeper cells’ in nearby Dearborn, and getting my family gas masks, etc. He made me swear on my life to never tell a soul, because it could put all of us in mortal danger. We got engaged, and this went on for over a year and a half, until I discovered it was all a lie. I broke up with him, and he stalked me for months. How could anyone use 9/11 to cheat and lie to someone, I will never know. 

     Now, I am painfully aware that I didn’t experience a tenth of a percent of what others experienced.  I know I didn’t lose someone close to me, but I ended up getting so stressed out that I lost my job and my health, and I became a hermit for over a year. I am an extremely sensitive person with a huge heart, an ‘Empath,’ and that year was the worst year of my life, up until a few years ago. I know others have horror stories I cannot fathom; but, for an extremely sensitive and emotional girl, at 31 years of age, to have almost everything taken away or lost was very painful for me. I appreciate the friends and family that have stood by me; and I still cry every time I see even a few seconds of footage, or a picture or words about that terrible day.

     I will never forget. Our country united as one. We flew flags, cried together, went to candlelit vigils, and bonded. For a time, we forgot our differences and focused on our common grief. I had a flag in my window with lights around it, that could be seen for half a mile. My apartment complex asked me to remove my country’s flag after someone from another country was asked to remove theirs. Even though I was offended, I removed it, so that the apartment complex would not go through with a lawsuit; and because I was a renter under a contract. Instead, I displayed a ribbon of red, white, and blue; and I put those same colors around the window as a light border. I was not going to let anyone stop me from displaying my country’s colors and show my pride in the United States of America. I wish we were still united….one good thing that came from this was my first cat, Lexie Kay. She wandered into my parents’ shop during a storm, and I ended up adopting her the week of 9/11. The first night, she slept in the crook of my neck with her tail wrapped around my throat, softly purring, safe at last. She would be a constant source of love and comfort during a time that I will never forget. The first photo ever taken of Lexie is above. I had to put Lexie Kay down, when she developed dementia. I still miss her every day. Thank God for Callie Christmas! She came during a snowstorm to my parents’ shop; same way as Lexie. She is on my lap as I edit this.

Just over one month later, my dear cousin, Maria, was brutally murdered. Senseless. Needless. Horrible. Nicole came to visit the weekend of Maria’s funeral. What a comfort she was to me. I wish Nicole and I were still friends. I still miss her every day. Maria-I miss her every day, as well. I just found a video of her, and was able to make a ringtone of her voice, which is a comfort.

Although the perpetrators of 9/11 were eventually caught and brought to their fates, America has not been the same since. It reminds me of the Titanic tragedy in so many ways. I am a member of the Titanic Historical Society, and others have commented that they, too, feel that way.  Public opinion, the confidence of a world sure of itself; and all the accomplishments and advances in technology and transportation. Travel has changed since both tragedies. The way people view those less fortunate, of ‘foreigners;’ and of the loss still mourned. The conspiracies, the hoaxes, the charlatans exploiting tragedy for their own gain, and the superstitions and ‘signs of evil’ before and after. The utter shock is what hits me. Both tragedies changing the world, bringing it to its knees in sorrow and despair.

I pray others will remember, will keep our country safe, remember what happened, teach our next generations, and will it never happen again. We all know we will remember what happened forevermore. Anyone that was old enough to remember, will remember. I pray for our country’s safety, our spirit, and our unity. God Bless America, and all that were affected that horrific day.

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