United in Grief
September 11, 2001. I’m sure you can visualize where you were that tragic morning as our country was being attacked. I was changing Henry, who was only nine months old, when I heard Larry screaming from the living room for me to come and see what was happening. We watched in horror as the twin towers collapsed.
Disbelief, shock, anger, overwhelming sadness, were just a few of the emotions many people felt that day and for many days, weeks, months and years to come, as we learned how the events unfolded and heard from families who lost a loved one that fateful day.
Even if you personally didn’t know someone who died, you grieved. The magnitude of lives lost was unfathomable.
How in the world will we recover? Can we recover?
As a nation we were all grieving. And grief has a way of uniting people. Grief is humbling. Grief can bring out our humanity that allows us to transcend beyond nationalities, religions and economic status.
As a nation we had a choice. Do we live in fear or do we rise up, celebrate every day we have and move forward? I like to believe we chose the latter. Babies continued to be born, weddings were held, and other life celebrations went on as planned.
We had to move forward.
After the attacks, I watched every interview of surviving family members and cried as they shared their story. How horrible, how will they go on? I wondered many times. How does one survive such a tragic and unexpected event?
I prayed for the families and hoped they would find a way to heal. As a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend, I related to the surviving members as best I could. At the time I couldn’t, didn’t, want to even think about how I would cope if I lost someone so close to me.
Unfortunately, losing my husband, Larry, in 2010, I started to understand the grief of such a devastating loss.
Fast forward to 2015. I chaperoned a school trip to New York City with George and Charlie. They were participants in the Montessori Model United Nations conference. Before the scheduled events took place, we decided to visit the 9/11 memorial site and museum.
I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with emotion as I walked by the bronze parapets surrounding the memorial pool. Tears welled up in my eyes as I read the names of all the innocent victims of 9/11. Once more, I thought about the families as well and prayed they found a way to live again.
While exiting through the museum store I started to watch the video on display interviewing surviving family members. I felt a tremendous amount of empathy as I listened. Hearing one woman speak in particular made me catch my breath and fight back tears because every word she said is exactly how I felt after Larry died.
The woman was talking about her husband and the shock she experienced afterward, how surreal it all was, and she couldn’t believe he was gone. She described how she would look in the closet and see all his clothes and think, this can’t be real.
While the circumstances of our grief were different, the sorrow she expressed looking at her husband’s clothes was exactly how I felt looking at Larry’s clothes in our closet.
I stood many days outside of my closet that I shared with Larry just staring at his clothes. For a while, I didn’t want to wash them, because I didn’t want to lose any odor that reminded me of him. So, I would straighten anything out of line, refold if necessary and some days grab a T-shirt and hug it tight while I cried.
Respectfully I am not comparing my loss to the woman who lost her husband to the tragic circumstances of 9/11, but I am relating to her loss.
The same way I could relate to her loss, I remembered all the stories that gave hope. I have watched over the years as news coverage aired stories about the families and the wonderful ways the they’ve been able to honor the loved one they lost. Positive, uplifting updates on where families are today, sharing the struggles they faced and finding joy in their lives. All these stories have been inspirational and reminds me everyday that no matter how bleak the future appears, hang in there, somewhere on this path of grief you will find hope.
Needless to say, I found hope at one of the last places I could’ve ever imagined, at the 9/11 memorial.
After spending some time at the waterfall, I walked around the grounds surrounding the pools of water. I came across a Callery pear tree (pictured above) and was shocked to learn that it was found amongst all the rubble at ground zero, its roots and limbs snapped but there was one branch budding to alert someone that there was still a little life left in it.
The tree was taken, replanted and carefully nurtured. When the 9/11 memorial site was built, the Callery pear tree was brought back and remains at the site today.
The tree continues to flourish and is known as the Survivor tree. But has provided a much greater significance, it’s become a symbol of endurance, resilience, and hope.
For me, it’s a reminder, if you are broken, you must find time to nurture yourself, allow yourself to just be, allow yourself to heal. We don’t know what the future holds, but I do believe whatever we nurture today, will bloom in the future.
It’s hard to believe something so beautiful came out of something so horrible. Goes to show what a little TLC can do!
I pray you find endurance, resilience and hope on your path to creating a life you WANT to live.
P.S. Photo of the Survivor Tree is courtesy of Forbes.com