On Saturday, I saw many posts commemorating the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Mostly, people noted where they were when they learned the news. Several posts from friends discussed how they thought they were watching a bad movie on tv at first before they realized they were watching the news. Others remembered specific people who were lost that day, the heroes who died trying to save others.
I didn't post anything related to that day because it's painful for me for reasons beyond the tragedy, and I didn't want to hijack the country's general grief over something not quite related. You see, for me, September 11th was a foreshadowing for me of what was to come in my personal life. My mother was working in DC during the attacks, and with phone lines being overloaded in the days before texting or Facetime, I couldn't reach her. I was down in Florida, attending my doomed first year of college. Eventually, my high school best friend was able to contact my mother and let me know she was safe. I think we finally spoke either late that night or early the next day.
For me, September 11th was the first time it really hit me that my parents were not invincible. It wasn't that I wasn't aware of our mortality in general. I'd lost plenty of friends and family, but I think sometimes as children, we think of our parents as a constant. As we get older, I think the realization that they aren't increases because we can see the impact of their aging more clearly. But as a fresh faced 17 year old (I have a late birthday) with a mother who was in her early 40's, I thought death was far off in the distant future. I expected to have many years with my mother. I was wrong.
One year, three months, and two days after September 11th, my mother died. The really heartbreaking thing for me was that I forgot all the fear and anxiety I felt, not knowing if she was alive or not, on 9/11. I remembered where I was, I remembered how dumbfounded I was watching the news, but I forgot that fear for my mother. So, when she was diagnosed with cancer, I just assumed she'd go through chemo and get better. She had surgery, and survived. She had a blood clot that went through her heart and put her in the hospital, but survived. Even when my father told me they had given her two months to live in October of 2002, I couldn't wrap my mind around the idea of her no longer being here. She was only 45.
To everyone who lost someone and to a country still healing from the tragedy, my heart is with you.
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