In journaling/writing/ life is good/ random/ the force

every story matters – tell yours

I woke up this morning with the intention of writing something totally different than this.

But then I checked in on social media and people were sharing stories and recollections from September 11, 2001.

I noticed how the stories that are being shared now – so many years later – seem to be the ones from people who were most “directly impacted” by the events of that day: people who lost a family member or close friend; those who didn’t get to work on time or missed a plane; people who were first responders, or who were near the World Trade Center or the Pentagon that morning.

These stories are still being shared, but others, less so.

I wonder if, in the face of the huge losses and emotional toll of others, we think we don’t have a story to tell. Are we comparing our experiences to those who had it worse, and thinking our stories don’t matter when weighed against the others?

Stop that.

Seriously. Stop.

When something happens to you (whether we’re talking about the events of september 11, 2001, or some other tragedy, challenge or devastation) – when your world is rocked, it is rocked. There will ALWAYS be someone who has it harder than you, and there will always be someone who is impacted less. That’s how life goes. But this does not make your story any less worthy of telling.

ALL the stories matter. All. The. Stories.
  • The story of the college student who just started his semester abroad; who – at 20, was multiple time-zones away from his family and friends – really alone for the first time. He saw how the European and international response came down, and it changed him, and his perspective.
  • The story of the commuter from Westchester; how she was stranded for over 24 hours, walking around with other commuters – unable to get home; unable to find a place to sleep, but eventually, how she was invited into a coffee shop by an incredibly generous man for sandwiches and coffee. How she and a band of strangers gathered around a little television in the shop hoping for news, and hoping the phone circuits would open so they could get through to their families in Westchester, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
  • The 30something man with a wife and young baby girl who – just a few months before – had interviewed with Cantor Fitzgerald, but now sat across the river in Jersey City – in an office with a company he’d once considered a second-choice – watching as the smoke poured from the towers where his office would have been. 

All of these stories matter. Together they weave a greater story of what happened that clear, blue day so many years ago.

These stories remind us that on that day, the things that connected us were stronger than the things that separated us. And how that is something we don’t want to forget.

That kid in Spain could have been you, your kid, your nephew, your neighbor’s kid.

You could have known that commuter, or it could have been you.

The 30something man could have been a friend, your old college roommate, or your brother. (Well, not your brother. Because he is mine.)

These stories connect us, they heal us, and they remind us of our commonalities and humanity.

Now – and always – when there is so much darkness in the word, stories remind us that we are connected; that us vs. them thinking destroys, while compassion and understanding bridges and heals.

Tell your story. Please. Tell it now. Keep telling it. Tell the story about that day, and the days that followed. Tell your stories about yesterday and today; tell the story of your challenges and celebrations.

Tell your story and help us remember that what connects us is greater and more powerful than the things that separate us.

Where were you? What was your experience that day?

Tell your story.

 

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  • sunny days are a comin'!
    September 11, 2014 at 11:04 am

    Beautiful, just beautiful. Thank you.

    • Deb Cooperman
      September 11, 2014 at 11:32 am

      Thank you “sunny” …

      (and where were you? really. tell it.) xo

      • sunny days are a comin'!
        September 11, 2014 at 11:56 am

        Thanks for the invitation… this isn’t a story about 9/11; instead it’s about something that happened a few weeks ago, which left me feeling both grateful and humbled…

        We left the festival as a late summer storm was about to break through the incredibly hot, muggy afternoon. We were happy that we had made it out of the grassy field, which served as an improvised parking lot, as the first few raindrops hit the windshield.

        Earlier that day, I had been giving my husband a hard time about “driving like an old man.” I’d been snarky and on edge from the time we had left the house. Upset with my 20-something son, I was feeling anxious and uptight.

        I dislike being a passenger. I’m arrogant enough to believe that I drive the way I play tennis, anticipating where traffic is likely to go, as I do when I see a pattern setting up on the court. I accelerate to make the lane change when I see my opening; move forward to cut off a passing shot. I’m impatient when I see the pattern and he doesn’t. And sometimes, in my arrogance, I just plain drive too fast.

        The rain was still fairly light as we decided to make a right turn instead of a left, which would have taken us back along our original route. We figured out fairly quickly that we were going the wrong way, because we were going up the mountain, instead of down. I opened up the GPS app on my cell phone, saw that while our route was a bit more roundabout, we could get back to the main road that way, too, so we kept going.

        Within minutes, light rain had turned into a heavy downpour—and visibility was growing increasingly more limited. As we started descending a very steep, winding road, surrounded by forest, I remember thinking to myself that I was glad I wasn’t driving. I knew that my husband would likely handle the conditions better than I could—or really wanted to. He was wearing his prescription sunglasses, though, so when I offered to take over driving at the bottom of the hill, he agreed since it was so very, very dark.

        As he wound our car slowly down and around the curves in the road, we both saw the car below us turned at the wrong angle in the road. He also saw the girl/woman standing by the side of her car, head in her hands. He braked to a stop, and I jumped out of the car to see if I could help. She was young–no older than my own daughter.

        She had lost control of her car, hitting a brick wall that jutted out from the driveway of a house on the bend of a sharp, narrow turn. She was sobbing and terrified–but she was ok. I led her out of the road, reassured her, and got her to sit down out of the way.

        We realized almost simultaneously that our vehicles were sitting ducks for anyone coming down the road, especially in those conditions. My husband pulled our car into the driveway of the house on the curve, but her car was too damaged to move.

        While he moved the young woman into our car and called the police, I ran up the road, far enough away that I hoped I could flag down cars that might be coming around the sharp bend at the top of the hill. I waited anxiously, while my husband did the best he could to light up the scene by opening the back of the car to turn on the interior lights, and by putting on the emergency flashers.

        A few minutes later, I saw a jeep come around the top of the rise, going too fast. I started waving frantically, because the vehicle wasn’t slowing down. In the semi-darkness of the pouring rain, the driver didn’t see me until the last moment, and then he hit his brakes hard to stop. I ran over to the car, the driver rolled down his window, and I saw the concerned face of a young man–another kid–who could have been one of my own.

        The young man was sweet; he asked me if I was ok, and if he could help. If I’d had more presence of mind I would have told him to wait at the top of the hill with his flashers on.

        A few minutes later, another car came around the rise, also going too fast, and the same scenario played itself out, but this time it was a woman–another young kid, driving a car she didn’t have under control.

        She was too frightened to figure out how to back up her car, so I got in, apologizing for soaking the seats of her car with my wet clothes, then backed her car up the hill and turned it around for her.

        By this time my husband had found an orange safety vest and we exchanged places. The cops arrived; I took three of their flares and ran them back up the hill to my husband who was directing traffic to turn around. He lit one flare, and I started running up the hill further with the remaining two. One of the vehicles on its way back up the hill stopped, the driver rolled down the window, and offered to take the flares up to the top of the hill. I gratefully relinquished them.

        As I was walking back down, more cars were coming, slower now as they could see the flares and the flashing lights of the police cars in the roadway below. Each driver or passenger rolled down the window to ask if were were alright, and whether they could help. One young woman looked at my face, and said, “Are you sure you’re ok? You look upset; do you want to come in and sit down in my car for a minute?” I was drenched, mascara long gone, and I knew my face telegraphed how wiped out I was after running up and down the hill three times.

        She asked, “It’s really bad down there?” I said, “No, everyone is ok, but those could have been my kids…” She said, “I know,” and I kind of crumpled up for a moment, leaning on her car for support. But I got control of myself again, and I said, “Thanks so much for your kindness; I’m ok.” She waved and we smiled at each other as she passed me after turning her car around and going back up the road.

        The police asked us if we had seen what had happened and we told them we had just come upon the accident within minutes of it happening: the air bags were still smoking after having deployed in the car.

        We told the police how bad the weather conditions were at the time around the accident. My husband said that he had slowed down after seeing signs for 5 MPH steep curves ahead. I looked at him, startled: I hadn’t seen those signs in the driving rain. He had, even with his sunglasses on.

        As we were driving home, he looked at me and said, “I think we were supposed to have taken that wrong turn today.”

        I replied, “Yep. I think so. And I think I just got a little wake-up call about my own driving.”

        • Deb Cooperman
          September 11, 2014 at 12:20 pm

          Oh, beautiful. Thank you SO much for sharing this story. (glad everyone was/is OK.)

          • ANewMeme
            September 12, 2014 at 11:27 am

            Thanks Deb–I am still kind of shaken up about this incident, and I really have a new appreciation for my husband’s cautious approach to things. Perhaps even more important than that, is that I realized how well we work as a team, and how we’ve able to do that over the years when we actively work to communicate with each other. This has been so crucial to us getting through this time in our lives with the kids/divorce/grandkids situation, and keeping our sanity, too.

  • Gina
    September 11, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    God it was a beautiful day wasn’t it? I remember when I first heard about the first plane hitting the first tower I looked up at the sky in New Jersey and thought it’s so beautiful, how could this be happening so close by? Then I wondered about the school children, if they had arrived yet to take that elevator ride to the top like I had in school.
    My husband was safe, not going into the city that day even though he often did for work. He was coming home early so we could go to my ultrasound for my second pregnancy.
    All day the news came in and the reality hit, our country was under attack. Could we even still go to the hospital for an ultrasound?? We called first, they said yes, to come in.
    That evening we went to my parents and his, telling them about the new baby that would be born. That day news of my son got at least some of to smile at least once.

    • Deb Cooperman
      September 11, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      LOVE. THIS. Thank you so much for sharing this Gina. Smiles among the rubble. Yup. All possible. xo

      • Gina
        September 11, 2014 at 12:49 pm

        This kid still makes me smile pretty much every day. 🙂

        • Deb Cooperman
          September 11, 2014 at 1:40 pm

          🙂

    • ANewMeme
      September 12, 2014 at 11:21 am

      Thanks Gina!!

  • Heather
    September 11, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    God, this is timely for me, even though 9/11 wasn’t on my radar until I saw Facebook posts this morning. I remember very clearly hearing about it and watching it before work, but most of the day at CTI is a blur. I mostly remember listening to the radio (I think?) by your and Giles’ desks.

    On the other hand, I sat in therapy yesterday and recounted all of September 2005 in chronological order: 2 hurricane evacuations – one from New Orleans for Katrina and the other from our safehaven of Houston, losing most of my worldly possessions and much of my community, one car wreck, the death of the man who raised me, hitching a ride with a Good Samaritan (who turned out to be a fellow Katrina refugee) to the funeral in another state after breaking down at the fifth car rental kiosk, because nobody would rent me a car to drive into the path of Hurricane Rita, and then living in distant relatives’ spare rooms for two weeks while we tried to retrieve Papa’s body from my hometown, which had been torn up by Rita and was cordoned off by the National Guard. To this day, I’m not sure we actually buried him or just an empty casket.

    I don’t like to talk about it, because hey, I’m a middle-class white person. I flew out on an airplane ticket provided by my employer. I had a hotel room to live in. I had means. None of my friends died in the storm, and those who stayed were able to get out to safety. Friends and family from all over the country (and taxpayers!) gave me support to restart my life. How dare I feel sorry for myself. You’re right. I have been comparing my experience to those who had it so much worse.

    I’m no writer, but my therapist says I really need to get this out. Because there was loss. A lot of it.

    So maybe I’ll write a book and call it “Fuck September.” I can recount my 9/11 memories and those of seeing my dogs bitten by rattlesnakes in 2009 in the introduction, as further evidence that September is awful and traumatic.

    No? 😉

    • Deb Cooperman
      September 11, 2014 at 11:03 pm

      Ohmygod, I just adore you Heather. Thank you SO much for sharing this. I am SO fucking glad you wrote it. Keep writing, please. Keep sharing the stories. Please. (and, by the way: you are a writer; you wrote something. case/point.) xoxo

      • ANewMeme
        September 12, 2014 at 11:20 am

        wow, Heather. What Deb said. It really IS about telling your story.

  • Janet StraightArrow
    September 15, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    I remember a week before that day hearing a voice in my head telling me to change all of my healing session clients in NYC from 9/11 to 9/10 and I did.
    I remember my two daughters in Chelsea area of NYC saying stay the night Mom and I had a 9AM session at home 40 miles west so I went home.
    I remember having a client on the healing table with her man friend coming in to tell us what was happening at the Twin Towers.
    I remember that my daughter was always at the world trade center at 9:15 getting her coffee and bagel before getting on the train for Newark to go to Law school.
    I remember calling her and she said she decided to go in later that day-thank everyone.
    I remember talking to both my daughters all day as they reported their fear and what was going on in the streets of people running up 8th Ave.
    I remember them buying gas masks and bottled water and wondering if they were going to survive.
    I remember tuning in and telling them they will be okay-just take a train home to us in NJ the next day.
    I remember hugging them both in the Morristown Train Station crying with happiness.
    I remember My daughters oldest cat taking over my house for 5 days while the others walked around her.
    I remember thinking this does not make sense for this to occur and nothing will ever be the same for anyone.
    Thanks deb.