Sunday, September 10, 2006

Weekend Assignment

Scalzi's Weekend Assignment #128: Share your thoughts about 9/11. You can remember back on what you were doing on the day or give some thought to how we think about it today. Thoughts personal, political or philosophical are all up for consideration. Tell us all what you think about when you think about September 11, 2001.

I became a news junkie when JFK was assassinated. Right after he was shot I came home from college for Thanksgiving. With nothing but free time, I spent the next seven days in front of the TV. I watched Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald live. In black and white.

However, the TV wasn't on when the first plane crashed into the tower on 911. I was working, doing something on the computer. I had to call someone about an assignment and they asked if I'd been watching.  "Watching what?"  "TV. A plane just hit one of the Twin Towers in New York."  I tuned just in time to see the second hit.

The rest quite frankly is pretty much of a blur. I stayed glued to the TV for days, watching everything and anything about the terrorist attacks.

A client told me she was in Washington at a big conference in a hotel across from the Pentagon when the plane hit. She happened to be outside taking a cigarette break so she watched the crash occur almost right in front of her. When she ran inside to tell everyone, there was a speaker talking to an audience of a thousand or so delegates and no one would listen.

It took a security guard to interupt the proceedings and announce there was a problem.

A friend of mine who lives in the Chicago area by way of New Jersey lost her brother.  Christopher Allingham worked at Cantor Fitzgerald.  A big Giants' fan, he left a wife and two young sons. Aside from some people I know who work at Deutschebank which was in a damaged building close by, Chris was the only one I have a connection to -- that I know of.

After the first wave of disbelief, I began reading the New York Times obituaries about each of the victims. They were wonderful tributes to the lives of the people who died. I read hundreds of them before I noticed that sadness was becoming my state of mind.

Finally in December after weeks of feeling like I'd felt when Kennedy got shot, I thought of something I could do.  

I went through the list of those who died and looked for representative people who were on the planes, in the towers, or at the Pentagon.

I not only wanted men and women, I wanted firemen and cops, military personnel and civilians, old people and babies. Finally, I chose twenty people to represent everyone who was incinerated. And almost all who died were incinerated somehow. 

Then I went to a local jeweler and chose a silver bracelet, large enough to hold ten silver disks. I had the names of the twenty people engraved on the disks, one on the front, one on the back.

After deciding to do this because I felt I had to do something for myself, I almost decided against it when I found out how much it would cost.

Whoa, wait a minute, there's got to be something less expensive you could do to assuage your sadness.

Luckily, at that moment, I overcame my notions of fiscal responsibility and had the bracelet made.

I've told the rest of the story before, but I'll tell it again.

At the end of the year I went to a seminar about spirituality given by my friend Kristine King who owns Wings Seminars [see the link in Other Sites].  Namaste was the name ofthe session I decided to attend. It ran at an interesting time of the year, no doubt on purpose -- from a couple of days after Christmas until New Year's Eve at 6:00 PM.

I was a little leary of going at first because I was worried it would be too religious. Instead, it truly was spiritual, something most religions have lost sight of.

Before the seminar started, we were asked to bring something that belonged to us, as a gift. Something we would be willing to part with to share with someone else at the seminar. Don't bring anything you can't give away, okay?

Overcome by something I still don't understand, I decided to bring the bracelet to give to someone else. However, I decided it would come with strings. In my own control freak way I hoped the person who got it would add a disk with two more names and pass it on to someone else.

Of course, lingering in the back of my mind was how much it had cost me. The fact that I wouldn't have a chance to wear it myself also bothered me. But giving it away seemed like the right thing to do.

Those conflicting thoughts are probably why I accidentally left the bracelet at home. That meant I had to have someone go into my house, find it, and FEDex it to me.

Meanwhile, on our first day at the seminar, everyone else shared the "gifts" they brought, putting each one on a special table after talking about its meaning to them. 

Kris was facilitating the seminar and she brought a wonderful, translucent green stone that looked like a piece of green quartz. On closer inspection, it looked more like melted glass from an old Coke bottle. But I knew as soon as I saw it I wanted it to be mine, Coke bottle or not.

The bracelet arrived at the seminar with a note from my friend who retrieved it for me, "Remember, you are the gift."  He had spent years studying Aikido in LA and had dozens of zen thoughts which he would impart when the occasion called for it. That was one of his better ones I thought.

I appreciated the spiritual sentiment. But by the next day, I was still thinking about how much the damn bracelet cost and why in the heck was I giving it away. That old "It's mine, I don't want to share" tug of war.

I was able to choose the Coke glass for my talisman. The person who chose my bracelet was an American Indian woman. I didn't think much about it at the time, but there are some ironic parallels between the massacre of her people and the massacre on 911.  I also thought she had other reasons for choosing it.

Mostly I wondered if this woman would just turn around and pawn it to gamble or buy liquor.  I'm not kidding. Straight to stereotypes, that's me. Nevermind that the seminar wasn't cheap, which meant she had to have a source of income.  I immediately assumed that everything I've seen on COPS and America's Most Wanted was true. Have I mentioned I paid a lot for that bracelet? I didn't tell HER because then I KNEW she'd sell it.

I was also comparing the "gift" I brought to help someone on his or her spiritual journey with the other "gifts" I saw. By out of pocket standards, it was head and shoulders above the others, which were mostly found items. Clearly, my personal growth in the spirituality area was treading water at best.   

One couple found a two dead leaves which they brought to share. I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "Wasn't there any dog poo in the park?"  Zen and the art of keeping one's mouth shut.

My attachment to the bracelet was bringing up an interesting thought process or two.  

Mostly my thoughts were selfish, materialistic, judgmental and controlling.  

Over the next five days I got to know the American Indian woman better. She was very kind and moved by what the bracelet stood for. Maybe she didn't drink and gamble after all.

When the seminar ended I even had her phone number and address so I could be sure my investment got a good home.

But by that time I was able to let it go. No strings. To this day I have never contacted her.

Now when September 11th rolls around, I think about that bracelet. I think about the people whose names were on it and I think about the woman I gave it to.

I also realize that if I had such a hard time parting with it, she will too, so I don't expect that she added a disk and passed it on to someone else yet.  Assuming she ever will at all. If she does, she is much more enlightened than I will ever be.

This year, when I re-read the stories about the people who died that day, I will also relive my angst over relinquishing the bracelet. Despite my misgivings, letting it go helped me move out of the fog of despair that wouldn't leave me for many weeks after 911.  The experience taught me some truths about myself, too.

There's still a little voice inside that says, "What were you thinking, giving the bracelet away?  You didn't even get to wear it."  It gets quieter with the passing years. But it never quite goes away.

Of course, I could always have another one made.  


princesssaurora said...

Thank you for your entry of rememberence...

be well,

thisismary said...

I read your entry then re-read it.  Closed the window, waited a day, came back.  Creating that bracelet then giving it away was a stunning, beautiful testament honoring those that died that awful, awful day.  More - it is a testament to all left behind who are honor bound to remember. Thank you Mrs. L!

memes121 said...

Hello friends. I have a new journal called Help Wanted. Come on by if you have time. Thanks! Tammy

hillareeday said...

This is lovely. Pure and simple. At least you can admit when you were being selfish or stereotypical. Most people can't. Thanks for sharing!