Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Anniversary of 9/11 and Coping With Fear, Loss and Anxiety

Last night, I was driving home from work around 8:30pm.  My job is located just miles away from the Newark Airport, one of the biggest airports in the country.

As I was leaving work and merging onto the highway to head home toward a more embracing giant of lushness and green, I noticed a solace moon enlarged in the sky.  It was hovering just above a mountain range darkened by the sleeping empyrean above.  The moon, however, was wide awake.  There were lonely clouds lingering around his presence but his spirit seemed sadly and utterly alone.

It was almost as if he had lost his best friend or soul mate... as if he had suddenly become a widow to the sky.  His glow was so bright, though, like he was reaching out toward the paradise above to claim an earthly love once again... an admiration for mankind and all of the grace and sentiments we bear throughout our duration here.

As my mind drifted in and out of past and present meanderings a car window can only provide, I noticed the commercial planes flying closely overhead.  They were massively making their way to and from the Newark Airport and their sounds echoed throughout the musings of a somber heart and mournful moon. 

I was in good company last night while driving down an endless highway of inconceivable thoughts.  If only I could have reached up and hugged my desolate friend hanging from an ancient sky soaked in sadness.

As more planes drifted by, I couldn't help but to fear where each plane was destined to go and more importantly, if that plane would safely fulfill the destination of its passengers.  Each time I looked up from the road and saw those distant blinking lights in the sky, my eyes felt gravitated toward the path of the planes.  For the first time in 13 years, I was waiting... watching... hoping that those planes would not crash. 

Several months ago, I blogged about how much joy and comfort the sounds of planes provided for me in "Stories Told by Mack Trucks and Planes Sooth the Recesses of My Heart."  In was in this post where I went into detail about how I could fall asleep to the soothing sounds of Mack trucks and airplanes throughout the night. 

After hearing the president's address to the United States and watching CNN over the last few weeks, the sound of planes now afford me with sleepless nights and grieving thoughts.  I grieve for those we have lost and sadly, for those who we are in jeopardy of losing because of the rising terror threats in and outside of our beloved homeland. 

Last night, each time I heard a plane go by our home, I waited and listened until it completed its journey overhead.  I waited until I heard nothing.  And then, as another one soared by, I waited again... until that one completed its path above my head.  I also couldn't help but to think about the people aboard those planes.  Who were they?  Where were they going?  What were they doing as they flew by my cognizant mind.

Today is the anniversary of 9/11.  Never has it brought about so much pain and fear as it currently does now.  Chaos and heartache has flooded my thoughts taking me back to relive some of my bleakest memories. 

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was 20 years old and attending Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.  At the time, I was staying over a friend’s house several blocks away from where I actually lived.

I remember receiving a phone call from my sister that morning several minutes before 9am.  I was still sleeping because my morning was free of classes.  When I tiredly answered my sister’s call, I remember her telling me a plane had just crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.

At first, I thought she was joking.  I told the other housemates but to be honest, we didn’t really think much of it.  We initially thought it was an accident.  However, by the time we turned on the television, we realized not one only one plane was flown into the World Trader Center, but within several minutes after the first catastrophe, a second once crashed into the South Tower.    
There was a sudden urgency ringing throughout the streets of our campus that day.  All classes were canceled and we were told to stay indoors wherever we lived.  I remember HUGE military planes flying overhead as we sat on my friend’s porch.  Some of my friends had family members working in the city so there was an immense blanket of worry, frustration, sadness, and anger suffocating all of our hearts.

My roommate called me and told me they could see the smoke of the twin towers falling from the window of the student lounge of our apartment building.  We lived on the highest floor.  I still remember our room number… 1202.

The center of our building had these large, rectangular windows with views of Manhattan.

Even though we were told to stay indoors, no one listened.  Everyone was outside, except for most of the residents in Easton Ave Apartments, where I lived.  They were rounded up in each of their student lounges staring outside of the large rectangular windows.  Those who weren’t gazing out of those windows were either on the phone with their loved ones or heading to the local liquor store to stock up on alcohol since school was canceled.
When I arrived at my apartment building, I quickly rushed up to the 12th floor student lounge and met my roommates.  All three of them were glued to the window, like breakable statues ready to burst out into thousands of tears.  As I approached them and the window, I saw the sky filling with a colossal amount of unwelcomed smoke.

I can't even begin to describe how much smoke was in the sky.  Our building was located about 45 miles from New York City and the sky was filled with an unforgivable coating of gray floating up toward the Heavens.  We would see, smell and remember the aftermath of this tragic attack on our country and affections forever. 

We sat there for most of the afternoon, at times, silent, and at others, conversing about what was to come.  Military planes continued to fly overhead and we had no idea what was going on.  The moment we found out this inconceivable tragedy was done on purpose, we were all united in a way none of us had ever been before.  We stayed close, watched the news all day, bought some cheap wine and beer, and got lost in the events we knew were sure to follow.


And then, after days followed by months followed by years of finally learning to let go of those fears, I find myself here agsain, living just moments from New York City, reliving all of the events which occurred 13 years ago. 

A few months ago, I blogged about Boko Haram, a militant Islamist militant group based in Northeast Nigeria, in "Remembering Their Voices."  Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve watched a tremendous amount of news regarding ISIS, another Islamic militant group who are categorized as terrorists.  The aim of ISIS is to create an Islamic state across Sunni areas of Iraq and in Syria.

With the seizure of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, and advances on others, that aim appears within reach.  ISIS controls hundreds of square miles where state authority has evaporated. It ignores international borders and has a presence all the way from Syria's Mediterranean coast to south of Baghdad.

My sister has a colossal amount of anxiety over all of this because she works in a major city.  I spoke to her the other day and she, too, fears the worst is yet to come… another terrorist attack or even another World War.  Today, my love will be traveling to a major city.  He won’t be here with me when I need him the most.  I am so afraid of what might happen so I have looked to my writing and God for answers and comfort. 

I’ve been praying and listening to a lot of Christian music to get me through these last few weeks.  Whenever the words of an artist or melody of a song dance around my heart, I’m brought to my knees with a flood of a thousand emotions pouring from the depths of my soul and out of my weary eyes.  "I Surrender" by Hillsong and "Your Grace Finds Me" by Matt Redman have been helping me cope through these darker days. 

Songs like this have such a strong impact on my entire being because I know God is watching over us.  It might not feel like He is there at times, especially after watching and hearing about all of the ugliness and devastation millions of people are suffering through.  But I need something more powerful to lean upon so I look to my Creator and the music of his followers to get my through the dog days.  I also escape in my writing and poetry so I can hide in a world where I am the creator and no one can hurt me.


How do you feel about everything going on in the world today?  Where were you when 9/11 occurred?  How do you cope with fear, frustration and anxiety?  Does your sadness and anger affect your writing?



  1. The rest of us have 9/11 stories but nothing compares to being there. I once read a blog by a woman who had a job interview scheduled for 9:00 that morning in one of the top floors of one of the towers. She blew it off. The woman she was supposed to interview with, whom she'd been speaking with a lot, and the other interviewees (it was a group interview) all died. I don't know if she ever fully recovered from that.

    1. Oh my gosh! That is horrible! I wouldn't be able to recover from that...

    2. Wow, Stephanie. That must have been awful to live with. I don't even know what to say. My friend's father was working in one of the towers and we later discovered he passed away. I don't think I could ever recover if I was that woman or my friend. But I would look to other outlets for reasoning and some kind of understanding why we must suffer like this. It's inconcievable and barbaric what these terrorists are capable of doing.

    3. If you haven't yet, read Meg Cabot's 9/11 blog post. She reposts it every year. Her husband was in the middle of all of it.

    4. Thank you so much for sharing this, Stephanie. I'm going to read her post tonight.

  2. I was just starting my second year of teaching when 9/11 occurred. I knew people who were working in the city and I broke down in front of my students. I couldn't hold it in. I was scared. It was a truly awful day, and one I will never forget.

    1. I'm sure your students felt the same way, Kelly. We all did that day. I don't think none of us will be able to forget where we were and what we were doing that day.
      On a side note, I never realized you were a teacher. Teaching is one if the greatest jobs out there. Your students were lucky to have you with them on 9/11.

  3. Your post was beautifully written. While reading your words I experienced chills, tears, and fear. I also have a feeling that something is yet to happen, but I can't fathom what. I don't live in a major city, but the fear is still there...breathing and beating. I was younger than you on 9/11 and I had no idea what was going on until I came home from school and saw the tragedy on TV. By then the Towers had fallen, but I watched them go down again and again. The teachers did a great job keeping the scariness of that day from us, but the next day when we all went to school, we were all so scared, thinking a plane was going to crash into our school. Every plane that flew by put fear into all of us. My sadness and anger does affect my writing...I once wrote about a terrorist type event in the last book of my supernatural-thriller series and I put my sadness from 9/11 and from the Sandy Hook shootings into that scene. It was hard...

  4. Thank you for your thoughtful words regarding this post, Chrys. It was hard for me to go back but for some reason, I am more susceptible to reliving those days of fear now more than ever. With everything currently going on in the world, I can't help but to have my heart drop with the sound of every plane cruising by. It's such an awful feeling of uneasiness and tension for what could happen.
    Sandy Hook was another event I will never forget... As well as all of the other school shootings. In a chaotic world, we must learn to escape and seek comfort in the people we love and the things we enjoy doing the most. Expressing ourselves through our art and talent can not only help us cope, but it can also inspire others.
    Thank you for sharing you experience at your school. Even though you were young, you were still affected as much as the rest of the world. And probably even more scared. So sad.

  5. P.S. I figured out why the moon was so big last night. It was a "harvest moon." It was such a beautiful sight to see. A man told me today he looked it up in the Almanac last night.

  6. Hugs, Gina. I trust it never happens again.

  7. Hugs, Sandra. I really hope and pray something like this never happens again.

  8. Gina, such lovely thoughts, and such a lovely tribute. I don't think any of us will forget that day, and in some ways I think it was good--bringing a nation together that had been so focused on self and industry. I think every anniversary is a similar opportunity to remember and be grateful for the blessings we enjoy as Americans, and recognize the importance of protecting those freedoms.

  9. Thank you, Crystal.
    And you are absolutely right, the freedom we have here is such an incredible gift. We should feel blessed every beautiful morning we wake up to witness. We must also be grateful for being able to follow our dreams. There are so many people in this world who don't have the opportunities we do here. Each day is a blessing and opportunity for us to grow closer toward our goals. Freedom is and will always be something I cherish and hold close to my heart.

  10. I take solace in the moon. I'm confident while traveling today, although for weeks and months in 2001 I was afraid of what might happen after seeing the nation during a vulnerable time after such a tragedy. My university closed down that day and I was devastated while watching the news.

  11. I find a great beauty and mysteriousness lingering around the moon. I adore it so much that I made it a main character in one of my children's books.
    I was afraid to travel for a long time after 9/11, although I did feel much safer as time let on. However, with everything going on right now, I will probably choose my destinations very wisely and be more aware of my surroundings.

  12. This is a beautiful, moving, heartbreaking tribute, Gina. It's astounding to me how fresh and clear the memories of that day are, for all of us. It's as if the grief, shock, and trauma emblazoned those memories into our neural pathways, so that we'll never forget them. I, too, remember listening to planes for weeks after 9/11, with anxiety and breathlessness. I also remember the stunned silence of the skies over Boston that day - no planes flying to and from Logan. The skies were empty as we all sat in front of the television and grieved.

    I hope that the passing of the anniversary takes with it some of your pain and fear, and that the glorious moon (lovely pictures!) helps you heal.

  13. I was on my way to a lit class when I heard the news. My professor came outside and asked us if we'd heard. We said no. She said, "Well, go home and watch the news" and walked away. Just like everyone else, I was heartbroken and shocked. The events of that day are still so fresh for many of us, and what you've written here epitomizes that fact. Also, I can't get Stephanie's comment out of my mind about the woman who blew off that interview. I'm sure the guilt still eats at her till this very day.