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The Day That Changed Us

11 Sep

It’s been ten years and I still don’t have the right words.  I think we seldom do have the words for the things that change us.I see people online talking today about where they were then, and I find it both touching and somehow almost inappropriate at the same time.  As if it’s too sacred, too personal a memory to just throw out for the world to see.  Yet, they’ve all seen it already haven’t they? Haven’t they lived through the same thing as me?  Maybe it just feels like someone else’s pain that day might cheapen mine.  Make it less meaningful. And mine might feel like a slap in the face to someone who lived through it close up.  Someone who lost people they knew and adored.It’s odd, because it sort of profoundly broke us all.  All of us that were there to remember it…. it broke our hearts, it united us in this shared moment in time.  We all experienced essentially the same thing. It’s our generation’s JFK.  I wonder what other shared tragedies lie in our collective future?So, even though I’m posting this here because in the end I felt I had something to say, however in-eloquently… I wrote this just for me, so I would always remember where I was and what it felt like on that day.

September 11, 2001

I am getting ready for work in the morning when the power goes out.  Not an uncommon occurrence for me.  Most days my hairdryer is more than the breaker can handle and I have to go flip the switch.  I  am living in The Polo Club apartments off of University then, with Jeni I think.  This time however, the switch doesn’t work, the power is off everywhere and I walk out on the patio and start talking to some of the neighbors, trying to figure out what is happening, if anyone has called it in. No one outside says anything about New York or DC.  I don’t think any of them know yet.  It is still quite early in the morning in Arizona.It is my mother who calls just then. From work.  (She must have called, because I’m certain she didn’t know how to send a text message 10 years ago.  That much has changed.)She says something about a plane hitting the pentagon. And the towers. And more attacks, DC and New York, but all she has is her radio at work.  To turn on the news. That is the news at this point.  I immediately feel the numbness of panic. This is bad.  I know nothing except the power is out and the pentagon had just been attacked and my mind makes crazy leaps.  Is the government still there?  Has the white house been hit? What about Phoenix?  I think certainly the whole country must be under attack.  You forget how big the whole country is at moments like that.  I can’t turn on the TV because the power is out, so I get in the car to listen to the news and without really planning to, start driving to my parents house.  I assume the power is out there too, it just feels like the safer place to be I suppose.The radio on the way there is the news of course.  By this time a plane has hit the 2nd tower and the first one has just gone down.  So I try to picture that in my mind.  But I can’t.  I just can’t.

It’s less than a three-minute drive to my mother’s house.

The power is on.

But the house is eerily empty.

Everyone is at work or school.

At some point I must call and say I’m not coming to work or they call and say not to come.  I honestly don’t remember doing any of that.  But I know I never make it to work that day.

Instead, I sit there alone at my mother’s house glued to that television all day long.  I think the majority of the country does the same.

The first tower has gone down by the time I get to a television and the little footage they have to replay at this point is far off and scratchy. There is so much dust on the ground it is already hard for camera’s to get close, and so you just have the faraway shots.  You have the shots from across the river of the skyline with one tower smoking and the other one gone, and you have reporters reporting what people are saying on their blogs, because that is the most reliable news source at the moment.  You have people emerging from blackness covered in blood or thick gray soot, screaming or simply too stunned to speak.

And then in front of my eyes, almost in slow motion….the second tower goes down.  I know there are still people inside that tower and I am bawling and even screaming at this point, clasping my hand around my mouth to keep the noises inside, but no-one is there to hear me.  I realize I’ve probably been crying for a while now but I was too distraught to notice. The reporters, for once are at a loss for words. It goes like this throughout the day, but that moment, watching that second tower fall is etched so deeply into my consciousness that even now, ten years later – writing this, that image cuts at me. My fingers shake and I can hardly breathe.

I try to imagine some of the things they are describing.  People jumping or falling from open windows before that 2nd tower goes down, but I can’t.  I’ve never seen the towers in person, so the scale of it doesn’t quite make sense.There are updates from the pentagon.  I finally hear from someone that my uncle wasn’t there when it happened. He is safe. And I let out that breath I didn’t know I was holding.No-one knows if this is over yet.  There are threats of an attack on The White House.  Another plane down in Pennsylvania.  The world is falling apart and I don’t know if it will ever stop.  If things will ever go back to “normal” again.

People speculate about tall buildings being forever abandoned.  They put alerts out for other targets. Nuclear power plants….. there’s one an hour or so away.  Water treatment facilities…. there’s one literally yards from where I’m sitting.

The nation is successfully terrified that day.  We go to sleep uneasy, uncertain, scarred.

But we wake up and most of us live.

A few years later I move to New York City.  Ground zero remains a huge hole ripped out of the heart of downtown.  I still can’t imagine the towers there.  I still can’t get that scale right in my mind.  I walk by it a hundred times. Each time it is impossible to do without thinking about that day.  And I wonder now how many millions of people have walked that same walk.

On the 3rd anniversary of the attacks, I am there.  It is beautiful.  Not just the names and the stories of the individuals and their families, but the spirit of those of us watching, just a fraction of those who will never forget.  There is a palpable solemness all over the city that day.  People smile more, but there is a sadness behind their eyes.  I wonder how many of them saw this first hand.  Trying to get home that day, I am stopped for nearly an hour as a procession of motorcycles ride down the street.  Thousands and thousands of them.  They are fireman and policeman from all over the country who have come to honor their fallen brethren.  Big tough men, in black leather who remind me of my Dad.  They wear flags around their biceps or foreheads and solemn looks across their faces.  They ride together, but they don’t speak.  Each of them caught up in their own profound experience.  Just like we all felt on that day.

Yesterday, a man on the radio said that 9/11 hadn’t actually changed anything in the US.  It hadn’t really changed the way we live our lives.  Yes, it takes a little longer at the airport, he relented and to get into some buildings, but it hadn’t really changed anything about the experience of being American.

If that’s true, its only because we didn’t let it.  And if we didn’t let it, it’s only because the experience taught us all, individually that we were not willing to live in fear.  We would not relive that day, every day for the rest of our lives.  It made us each stronger, more vigilant, more connected, more determined, more brave.  In short, it changed everything.

At least, I know it did for me.  9/11 forced me to grow up in many ways.  It marked the beginning of me standing up for my own opinions.  It changed the way I felt about my fears.  It made me determined to obliterate them…  a life-long process.  It ultimately made me more aware of the world in general, and feel a need to understand differing points of view. It taught me that people still believed in sacrifice and compassion and doing the right thing.  It helped me to move to New York, despite my fears… and to trust in the spark of goodness in the people around me.

There are still no words for the lives that were lost that day.  Tragically.  Heroically.  Pointlessly.  And I know nothing I say can ever come close to honoring that fact.  But I can remember that their loss changed me.  That I am a better person than I was before that day.  And take comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one.


Check this out!

9 Jun

Harlem’s Painted Lady

A realy fascinating look at the constantly changing landscapes of Harlem.  This was a short walk from where I lived and the pictures are a good example of the diverse buildings in various states of being forgotten in the area.

Missing it!

On Sisterz in Zion

1 Oct

“(Many church members) literally speak the same language, right down to the cultural nuances and accents of brand names and sports teams, so there are ways in which they have never had to learn to listen beyond those limitations. I believe that the Church stands on the brink of an enormous leap forward as a universal church from a foundation of great strength, but I think it must do so as a result of biculturalism.”

–Chieko Okazaki, ‘Borders, Boundaries and Bridges’, BYUH Cross-Cultural Leadership Conference

From the ‘Sisterz in Zion’ website 

I’m not sure if anyone else caught the premiere of the documentary film ‘Sisterz in Zion’ that aired between conference sessions today, but it brought up so much emotion for me.  It felt like a flashback through so many different parts of my life, everything from living in New York, the MTC, my mission, being the only active member of my family, or a minority member at school, feeling left out around the Utah or Cali girls, teaching Sunday School, even attending summer camp at Carroll College, when I was 12.   

I literally felt as if I was watching a part of my soul on the screen.  I realized how much I treasure my time spent among culturally diverse people and how much of who I am today came from those experiences both in Hawaii and New York.  For those who didn’t catch it, it’s basically follows a group of minority girls from Manhattan who travel to Utah for the first time to attend EFY.  It’s really a simple concept, but very effective.  I highly reccommend it.

For more info:

No More Nights in Harlem

11 Oct

Last night before going to bed my mom came in and told me I should close my window because the noise on the street would probably be too loud for me to sleep. I had to laugh to myself because even the fairly nearby 202 freeway can’t come close to the fights, sirens, car alarms and partying outside my open window in Harlem every night of the 6 months I was there. Do I miss it? Well yes, in some strange, sad way I do.

Yesterday I was flipping through the channels and stopped on a new show set in Manhattan and out of nowhere was almost in tears at how much I missed it.

Why then, every wants to speculate am I back in Arizona?? Did something happen there? Did something happen here?? There must have been something major thant I’m not talking about to make me come home. Well in a way there is. An epiphany of sorts….yes there were other factors but the main one was this: no matter how much I love New York, a city will never love me back.

It didn’t quite take me the six months I was there to realize that the cities treasures fell a little shallow when I didn’t have the people I cared about there to share them with. Yes, I was living out a life long dream, but that’s the funny thing about dreams, they rarely turn out exactly as we had expected. In my case I realized that the expense and even more the distance between my family and friends was just not worth it when I could just as easily spend my time writing at home without missing out on what really matters. People. Experiences. Even pain, and all of that is what makes up life and whether we can see it through the fog of the moment or not, it is what makes everything worth while.

A city, no matter how much it may offer, can never offer anything more than a background for the dramas of life, and I was tired of missing out on them.

So…call me weak, call me flaky, call me a quitter if want. But don’t forget to call me brave for giving up one dream when reality taught me what was more important: Life.


31 Aug

Allright, I’ve been more than remiss in my writing here….My apologies to the 2 of you who read this, and I will try and be better. So…I made it back home to The City safe and sound. Back to the humidity and heat. Yummy.

By the time I had lugged my 200 lbs worth of luggage up the 10 flights of stairs to my apartment I decided to sell my suitcases so I would never, ever, ever be tempted to do something so stupid again.

I’ve never actually had the experience of sweating so profusely that I could not see. My eyes were burning and I must have lost a gallon of water at least. That was fun. I also swore I wasn’t leaving the building again until Friday when Bree gets here, but I don’t think I’m gonna be able to convince my doctor to make a house call. Oh well. I’m glad to be back to my push your way through, work to get around life.

Moments Like This

22 Jul

Nights like tonight I can’t understand why anyone would want to live anywhere else in the world. Why you ask? My feet are sore and blistered, I’m dripping sweat and my head is killling me, but even that was worth the lovely two hour stroll I just had through Central Park with my roomate Jill and friend Britta. We wandered through all the playgrounds trying to find the best sprinklers to cool ourselves off with and then veered off on 91st street for the best pizza I’ve had so far in New York. It was even thin crust, which I hate….but brocolli and carmelized onions. Divine! It was as we were sitting on a bench outside, watching the hot rich guys walking by on the way to their Park Place estates that I decided there wasn’t any place else I would rather be…sore feet from breaking in new shoes and what felt like 200% humidity could be born for moments like this.


28 Jun

It’s summer. Which means, the humidity is here, the windows are open and the shades are pulled back. The usual overwhelming quest for privacy is finally done in by the need for a cool breeze and for the first time since my arrival, I get to catch a glimpse of my neighbors backlit and unconcerned.

The combined effect is my spending an hour watching a couple on the eighteenth floor of a building across the street dancing in their living room in perfect aesthetic sillouhette for any who take the odd moment to look up from their lives below. I imagine them an aged couple, content with their roles and unashamed to provide an example for the rest.

In the building beside us a young boy likes to wave across the way and a man sometimes forgets to close the bathroom window before showering. He never fails to remember a few minutes in and drops to the floor in fear and embarassment. A woman below cooks curry nearly every night and the smell wafts up and fills our apartment with the spicy scent.

But, at midnight, most of the lit windows provide only lifeless and empty snapshots: a lamp here, an empty kitchen there.
I can’t help but wonder if my window must not furnish the more interesting portrait. A desk, with the computer always on. Books littering the room. A bed cutting sharply through the upper casement, half drawn sheer, and a wide-eyed girl…staring out the window, looking, looking for something.

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