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Of course I had to start this off with a tasteless joke. It’s what I do best.

Sometime last week I decided that I’m going to make the most out of my time. I’m going to get up early work on personal projects, go to the gym, get energized, get to work early, and then have the night for myself. After finding it hard to wake up early, or even on time, I delayed this idea for about a week and a half. Then, after reading the wonderful words of Nevermore Collective, I decided it was time to stop making excuses and start making changes happen. So when my alarm clock rang at 6:45 AM this morning, I knew hitting the snooze wasn’t an option: hopping out of bed and getting my ass in gear was the only course of action.

Ok, so I still hit the snooze button once or twice and maybe laid in bed checking Instagram for a few minutes, but then I was up and at ’em. I reasoned that, as long as I get to the gym by 7:30 AM, I could still get up to a solid hour of gym time (though, realistically I usually cap out at 45 mins) and still have enough time to shower and get to work on time. So I finally get to my car at about 7:26 (the gym is only about a four minute drive away) and I’m ready to go… but my car isn’t. I have one of those nifty push-to-start FOB keys, and my car wasn’t detecting it. Dead battery? Weird Glitch? Who knows, but between debating whether I should forgo the gym altogether and instead walk around the neighborhood, make a stop off at my mom’s to grab my other FOB key and hope that it works, and then browsing through my driver’s manual and searching the internet until I FINALLY found an answer on a message board that informed me that apparently there’s a “charging station” for my key in the center console (thanks for the tip, KIA!) I was able to get my car up and running…10 minutes later. “Ok, so if I get to the gym at around 7:40, work out for 45 minutes, then it will be 8:25. If I take a quick 5 minute shower then it will be 8:30 which will still be enough time to get to work.” I rationalized with myself. I can do this. I’M GOING to do this.

I forgot that school bus traffic hell occurs every day at approximately 7:40 AM. Of course I forgot that, since I’ve been sleeping later every day I always miss it.

I finally got to the gym at 7:55. The parking lot was PACKED. Apparently, people get their gym time in at approximately 7:55 every day. After parking my car and getting out to get all of my stuff together, I glanced at the clock again/ 7:58. “If I get in there by 8:00 I can work out for 15-20 minutes and then…” I slammed the door and hopped back into the front seat. This morning was giving me every sign that gym wasn’t in the cards, so maybe just going to early and getting a head start on my projects would be for the best.

I got to work and got changed out of my gym clothes in the bathroom. I found a bag of earrings in my purse, with one missing a back. I managed to (miraculously) locate the back at the bottom of my bag. Then I dropped said-earring back onto the floor, where it vanished completely. ARG. I washed my hands and thought, “God, please don’t let this be one of those days.”

I got to my desk to find out we were nowhere near ready for our hard deadline that was approaching and I had more work piling up, making it difficult to finish the project I wanted to complete, nor get cracking on a personal project before the work day started. Double arg. I opened up my Facebook messenger to shoot my mom a quick “good morning” message, as per my usual morning routine, and let her know about the crap day I was having so far, when I noticed that she changed her profile picture to one of the American flag. “Oh, geez, what happened now?” I thought to myself, and then it finally hit me. It hadn’t even occurred to me what the date was since I was so in my own head. Then, I realized something else:

It was approximately 8:46 AM on September 11, and I was about to complain about what a terrible day I was having.

While I was busy pitying myself, I forgot about the fact that, for A LOT of people early in the morning of September 11th, it really was the worst— and for many, last— day of their lives.There’s nothing that snaps you back to reality more than realizing how much worse things could be. That day, for all those who lost and suffer thanks to the reminders every year, all of those who are still barely living, but suffer from health complications and PTSD from being there, for all those who have been targeted and hurt every day since because of the color of their skin— this day has a lot of different meanings to a lot of different people. But there’s one string that ties them all together: for everyone, the earth stood still the morning of September 11th. And every year when we have those moments of silence, the earth stands still again. And in that silence, we are one. And our problems— no matter what size— disappear, even for just a few moments.

I’m not going to recount where I was and what I was doing when it happened. I’ve already done that. But I want everyone instead to think about where they are now. What they’re doing. What they’re spending their time and exhausting their both physical and mental on. Think about the amount of time you spend worrying and stressing about things that, in the bigger picture, are insignificant. Budget your emotional time accordingly. Time is fleeting and can be taken from us in the blink of an eye. In a New York minute. Don’t waste it on beating yourself up over things that go wrong. Don’t waste them worrying about other people’s problems. Take a few moments of silence every now and then to focus on the good things out there. Because they are there, even if they’re hard to see.

Sure as time goes on we grow more bitter and cynical toward a lot of things: the meaning of patriotism, the actions of our government and law officials, the different questions that have arisen since, and sometimes we even channel the confusion and anger into humor, throwing around callous 9/11 jokes when we can (I’ll admit it, I’m guilty of it). But when the dust has settled but the fog is still overhead, don’t let it cloud your judgment. On this day, it’s always okay to stop and thank those who worked tirelessly and put their lives in harm’s way to help their fellow man. Not all of us can be that courageous, but there’s still things we can do. Be a little bit kinder to a stranger. Think of those around you. Get outside of your own head and just be one in the silence.

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In Remembrance: 9-11-01

September 12, 2014

I’ve been reading a lot of people’s beautiful accounts of where they were and what they were doing on this day, thirteen years ago (one of note is comix creator Dean Haspiel’s powerful and relatable depiction of his experience that morning.) I realized that I don’t think I’ve ever written down my story.

But that makes me think: why should my story matter? On that same note–why should the story of anyone who wasn’t actually there or didn’t lose anyone on that day matter? Who am I to write an account–I wasn’t in the city when it happened. But, I didn’t have to be there. I didn’t have to have that experience. Because while the nation-wide mourning on this day is a blanketed feeling we may have all experienced, everyone’s own pain, loss, suffering and memories of the day are unique. So, here is my story.

As a child, the one word I could use to describe myself was paranoid. I’m still a pretty paranoid adult, but I used to get *really* freaked out over everything back then. As I’ve mentioned before, I was obsessed with the Book of Revelation, often envisioning different ways the world could possibly end. These thoughts would cloud my mind and make it hard to focus on anything else. If I were having fun, they would interrupt my good time and force themselves into my mind so a day of fun turned into a day of fear. I remember one instance of going down to the city to attend the Ringling Brothers Circus with family. As I walked around and marveled at the big buildings, my awe turned quickly to horror, imagining a bomb going off right in the middle of everything, or the buildings toppling down and crushing everything in their wake. This happened only about a year or so before the events of 9/11 transpired.

I don’t remember much about my day on September 11, 2001. Just that it was remarkably… normal. Every school chose to handle how they told the students what happened differently. Mine opted to have the teachers not say anything at all.

So when the two planes crashed into the Twin Towers on the morning of September 11, 2001, I was completely unaware. Blissfully ignorant that the world was falling down around me—only 20 or so miles away from where I was sitting, in my 8th grade science class.

When I left school that day my grandma was nervously awaiting me. As soon as I got to her she told me the news. “A plane flew into that World Trade Center.” I really had no clue what that meant. I think I responded with something along the lines of, “Oh geez, is everyone ok?” She didn’t respond. She probably didn’t even know where to begin—but the news would tell me everything I needed to know—but never wanted to.

The news for the next few days was a constant stream of reminders of the horrific tragedy that took place. Seeing it happen for the first time—and every time after that—left a knot in my throat and an uneasy feeling in my stomach. I didn’t know what any of this meant, but it felt like a horrible nightmare—one that had plagued me for what felt like years—coming true in a way that I couldn’t control or understand.

My uncle worked on Wall Street when 9/11 happened. We didn’t hear from him for an entire day. It turned out he made it onto a ferry and into New Jersey, where he eventually reached some cousins-in-law who took him in for the night. That uncertainty of where he was or what happened to him didn’t settle until he finally made it home, two days later. When we heard he was ok it was a relief—but it was hard to be happy when so much awfulness was all around us.

It was hard to avoid the news. The only keywords being thrown around at the time were “terrorism,” and “war.” I wanted to shut off everything—including my brain—and pretend like nothing was wrong, but it was impossible. I had to finally face my fear, but it didn’t make it go away. Sleepless nights of hyperventilating and panic attacks that had ceased over the past year returned with a vengeance. I didn’t lose what others had lost. I wasn’t there to experience it firsthand. I didn’t even witness the events as they were unfolding on the news—but I still felt it. I felt everything. We all did.

The year anniversary took place a week after my first day in high school. We congregated in the gym to share our memories. I didn’t like remembering, but I had to. We also had occasional assemblies for “what to do if doomsday occurs” scenarios. I didn’t like having to think about those, but I had to.

Every year after it for a long time I dreaded September 11th, both for fear that it might happen again (my thoughts of that started to only really occur on that day) and simply because I hated remembering. I hated thinking of those images on the TV, recalling my feelings witnessing them and worrying about my uncle. I felt for all those who lost who had to remember each year.

I’ve started to hate remembering less. I still shudder when the news replays the events of that day, but I no longer live in fear of its anniversary each year. I don’t mind reading peoples’ accounts from that day. I’m now ok with sharing what I remember with others.

And that’s why we have to remember.

So now, thirteen years later, I’ve been able to recall my account of that day. Thirteen years—meaning infants who lost their mothers or fathers that morning are the age now that I was when it occurred. It’s surreal to think of. How far have we come since then? In some ways, tremendously, in others, frightfully not. But if there’s one day where we can all stop and just—remember, together—maybe we’ll someday have the ability to come together more than just once a year, and not just because of a tragedy. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, and I know that’s not thinking I often have, but if this day instills hope rather than fear, then we have come a long way.