Sunday, September 14, 2008

A moment in time...

We remember moments in our lives that had profound affects on us…and there is probably not a person in America that can not tell you where they were on Sept. 11, 2001, the day our world changed forever. Not only can I tell you where I was, but how in my own way, my involvement in that day will stay with me always.

My book had been out for about 5 months at the time, and I was doing some book tours around the U.S. I enjoyed speaking to groups at bookstores and to bereavement groups on surviving grief in addition to meeting all the parents I was to eventually see again many years later when speaking at national bereavement conferences. This specific book tour took me to New Jersey bookstores and support groups in the area. I was to be there 3-4 days. As it turned out I was there 10 days before I could get a plane to return home. I met many people who had lost love ones or friends at the World Trade Center while I was doing my book tour.

Because of a mechanical problem with the aircraft I was on to Newark, instead of landing at 9 p.m. on September 10, 2001, I landed on September 11 at 3 a.m. and went directly to the Days Inn at the airport for the night. The next morning I was to appear on a daily TV news show and talk about my book. Well, needless to say, that didn’t happen for another 6 months, when I returned to New Jersey for another tour with my book.

I woke up to the total destruction of the World Trade Center and for days from across the river, could see the smoke-filled air for 50 miles wide, causing coughing and breathing problem for many. My book signings went on as scheduled, with few people showing up. Most were glued to their TV sets or mourning those who lost their lives. I kept thinking…how could my book be more timely then at this moment. I had just written about surviving grief and the families of these thousands of people were just starting their grief journey. If I could help just one person with my book, it would be comforting to me personally.

Of those who did come to the book signings or bereavement group meetings, one woman had a friend whose son had still not been heard from 5 days later. The mother still hoped. Another had just spoken to her cousin whose son had been pulled out of the building alive. Still another lost her husband when his fire unit went into the building to help survivors. Many from his unit had also perished. Being at a bereavement group meeting was comforting for these people. There were so many stories, so many people, so much sadness.

Even though my daughter had been dead for seven years by then, I knew what these people were feeling. I understood their tears, their heartache, their overwhelming sense of loss. It would be a long time before they could get on with their lives, but I knew they eventually would. What choice did they have? That week was a moment in time that to this day, I still remember and think about as the start of my own personal journey with my book that opened up a whole new world to me.

As a side note: a few months after returning home I was called and questioned by the FBI. Coincidence can play a large part in our lives. I was asked if I had seen anything out of the ordinary in the hotel late that night or early morning of September 11. “No, I hadn’t,” I said. As it turned out, I was told that some of the hijackers who flew the planes that fateful morning were in that same hotel and sleeping on the 5th floor right next door to me.

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