9/11, eight years later

I feel like -- especially after the election season last year -- the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 are always top of mind.

I see a movie set in New York City and look for the empty space where the towers should be. I see pre-9/11 movies and my breath catches in my throat when the towers appear where I no longer expect them to be.

Eight years. So much has changed, and yet so much is the same.

On that day eight years ago, I was tired from having stayed up late with a guy I was dating. He was originally from Brooklyn. I liked to tease him about having a half-Brooklyn, half-Southern accent. He was studying to be a massage therapist and had plans to study accupuncture after that. We stayed up late talking. I was late for work and heard about the attacks in my car radio as I wound my way to the government office where I worked.

My immediate thought was to call him. But he didn't answer. I tried to call him all day. Still no answer. Finally, around 7 pm, when I was glued to the tv and watching the tragedy unfold and wishing I could tuck Javi with someone safe and get in my car to go help, to go do something to help, I called him one last time. He answered.

The call was short. I immediately launched into if he'd heard from his family. Did he have any updates. Did he know anyone who was there. He silenced me. My brother is missing. I can't talk to you because I'm waiting for my family to call. I asked him to call me when he knew something.

I never heard from him again.

I knew how to find him online so I quietly kept tabs on him. I was chastened by his reaction to my frenetic and insensitive barrage of questions, so I did not try to call him again. I learned from his online reports that his brother was never found. Two weeks later, he posted that he was moving back to NYC to be close to family, to help with his brother's family, to heal.

Since then, I've often thought of that relationship as a metaphor for the world in days, months, and years after September 11. We all changed -- drastically. Many of us walked away from the paths we were on, and many of us became more determined to blaze new ones. Some of us hunkered down with family to ride out the emotional riptides the terror attacks brought while others of decided that time was short and now's the time to act.

Eight years later and we're still learning those lessons. We were all shaken down to our foundations and many of us are still trying to recover. There's a blessing here. We remembered how to love, how to open our arms up to those who need us, how to live inside a space where trauma exists.

I know we'll never forget what happened to our country and our people. My hope is that we continue learning how to be better as a result of it.

My thoughts and prayers are with those mourning the family and friends they lost eight years ago. May you find solace in knowing that so many of us grieve with you.


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