Sunday, September 19, 2010

9/11 2001

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I woke up this morning thinking of this song (Alan Jackson's "Where Were You"). I have to admit that I have issues with "Patriot Day". It reminds me of free-er times, especially of flying without being searched every 30 yards in the airport. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but it is how I feel.

On the original 9/11, I was living at the Ronald McDonald House in Louisville when the Twin Towers were destroyed. I was in the upstairs living room attending a house meeting, the tv was on, and I watched with incredulity.

After the meeting I called Steve, or he called me, I don't remember which. He gave me a crash course of street smarts during times of terrorism. He told me that if I saw a package lying on the sidewalk or anywhere out of the ordinary to not pick it up because it might be a bomb. He was worried about me crossing the bridge to Indiana from Louisville for fear it might be blown up. He had learned all about the ugliness of war and the things to watch out for while he was in the Marines.

I finally did get up the courage to cross the bridge into Indiana to go to the closest Walmart. When I got there, I found people standing in a circle, holding hands, and praying at the front of the store. When that group left, another group would fill their place and another prayer was offered. I never participated. Maybe I should have, but all of this felt so surreal; I felt very detached from it all.

Back at the Ronald McDonald House I heard parents and grandparents talk about relatives they knew who were going out and enlisting.

For me, however, I was seeing life tottering on the brink of death every day at the children's hospital. Little babies hooked up to machines that hummed, whirred, and beaped, creating an orchestra of sound all day and all night while nurses stood guard like soldiers warding off death and despair.

I saw my premature baby, Michael, struggling every day to breath on his own, to eat on his own, to keep up his own body heat. I felt fear every day that his shunt for his hydrocephalus would malfunction or get infected, or that he would get RSV and we would start from square one, trying again to get him off of the same ventilator that had kept him alive for 7 1/2 weeks while he couldn't breathe on his own back in the beginning. I felt like my son was being held hostage, and I was far from home hoping for his release.

In other words, I was part of another war. One that wasn't on the tv being covered in great detail by the media. In my war, many families were hoping that their children would recover, but knowing that many would not: an 8 year old on a ventilator and not being able to come off of it after a routine surgery, an 11 year old who had had an unknown heart problem and when he dove into the water at the swimming pool he had a heart attack and now had brain damage causing CP and mental retardation, and endless baskets of babies with myriads of problems including one with a rash on his skin that caused him pain at every touch and needed an ointment which played havoc with trying to keep lead wires for monitors stuck to his injured skin, others undergoing heart surgeries, while still others had neurological problems. These were the casualties of another war, and the battles kept on day after day.

My view was skewed that year. While many cried for their relatives, so did we. Sitting by bedsides. Hoping for life. Hoping for normalcy.

We each fight our battles every single day. May God bless us all who are struggling with events that happened and were created that 9/11 of 2001.

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