There are a few moments in life that stick out like tacks strewn on a carpet. Sharp little points that you never saw coming until they get stuck in your foot. Stinging - even after the offending items are removed.
...the first disappointment.
...the first time you utterly fail at something you have poured sweat and tears in to.
If you are lucky, you can pick up the pieces and move on. One day at a time.
A little worse for the wear. A little heart sick. But stronger. And perhaps a bit wiser.
Some times, the moments are more like shards of glass. Cutting deep. Single moments that change your world - forever altering the filters through which you view life.
...a wrong turn.
...a slip on the road.
...the loss of someone close to you.
...events that cut against the grain of what you hold most dear. The tragic. The unconscionable.
September 11th had always been a day of anticipation in my life.
September 11th was the day I entered the world a few decades ago.
Until ten years ago, there was little that could bring me down on that day.
Unless it coincided with the first day of school. (Which every few years it did).
Later on in life, it was a little annoying that I had to share the same day with what was then my mother-in-law. I know, that sounds really petty of me - all I can say is - if you only knew, you would understand...
Like most of us who were around on that day, I clearly remember so many details about that morning. Sitting in my office. In the back corner of the bottom floor of an old office building in Upstate NY. Plodding through my check list of "to do" items for the day. Wondering if I was going to have to cook dinner. Or how much homework I was going to have to help the kids with that evening. Was I going to have to go over to the in-laws for the evening? I can even remember what I was wearing. The mundane. Ordinary.
Then a co-worker comes barreling around the corner. And pulls me into a conference room where a group of people were silently staring at a television. I didn't understand. Until I did.
The frantic phone call from my (now-ex) husband. Who was in the Army National Guard. Who had to call into his unit - because they were headed out. Somewhere. Sometime. Couldn't say how long.
Sitting. Pacing. Trying to process the news feeds. Trying to process the phone calls. Trying to process the work issues. Understanding that pieces of this was going a mere 150 miles from where I was sitting.
Rushing. Doing. Waiting. Rushing. Doing. Waiting. The pattern continuing until it was time to go home. But I didn't want to go home. Because how do you go home and do normal things - like eat birthday cake or work on homework - when the world isn't normal any more? Knowing that when you go home, you will probably see a duffel bag sitting by the door and a camouflaged dressed person getting ready to walk out the door into the unknown.
And the call came. And the units were discharged. More than once. For periods unknown. For locations unknown. And back home, we got through it. Day by day.
I often wonder what my children remember about that day. That time. The events around them. Their father coming and going. If they knew. Or realized what it all meant.
I've never asked them what imprints are remaining in their mind. A six and a seven year old living with the uncertainty of when they would see their father again. In my mind, I couldn't help up but think about all of those children whose mothers and fathers were not coming home again - ever.
Certainly, by the time their father's Iraq deployment came up a few years later they understood.
And ten years later, here we are. Picking up. Moving on. Stronger. Warier. Wiser. Still looking forward. While holding on to the memories - clear as day. Lest we forget.
Each person has their own memories of that day. Their personal stories that attach them to those fateful hours. Their own angst or perhaps even hearbreak related to that day. Points of view - ranging from the heart-wrenching to the poignant.
To this day, there is a little part of me that sinks when the clerk at the store who is checking my license says "do you know that your birthday is September 11th?" My first instinct is to respond with my normal sarcastic humor. And to those closest to me, I might repeat the story using that first imagined response.
But at the end of the day, I bite my tongue realizing that I now share "my day" with something larger than an ex-mother-in-law and I can no longer be selfish with it. Sometimes perspective brings it all into focus.
It is a day that belongs to history.
It is a day for remembrance.
It is a day to hold on to what matters most. Because life is fragile. But the human spirit is strong.