September 11th, 2001 I woke up and got ready for work. I kissed my boyfriend goodbye, got in my car and drove off. I hadn’t made it out of the neighborhood and I was already annoyed by the morning show I was listening to. Kiss FM, Krazy Kid and Ruben S were normally upbeat, laughing and played the best hip hop. But that morning they were in serious discussion, no music, just talking. I pulled up to the stop light that turns out of my neighborhood, was checking my make up in the rearview mirror when I heard Krazy Kid say “If you’re just tuning in, early this morning America was attacked by terrorists”
Panicked I hurried to work. At the time I was working as a contractor at Honeywell. I was 23 and minus a pretty crappy childhood I had never witnessed anything like I was hearing on the radio. Planes flying into buildings?! What in the hell… I got to work and called Fernando and broke the news to him. He and I sat on the phone as we both watched TV, simultaneously taking in the horrific views. Different channels, same nightmare.
I had heard that a Honeywell employee was somehow involved in the 1993 bombing of the WTC, not caring to get that piece of “history” confirmed I told my boss I was going home. I wanted no part of work that day. No one was really working anyway, we were all in the break room watching the TV. I wanted to be home with my boyfriend because at that time in my life, he was my world. I drove home and sat with him until he went to work (he worked the night shift) and I stayed up until he got home. We stayed up late, watching the news, horrified by images that would be forever burned into my memory.
I remember a lot of random things after 9/11. I remember Fernando and I sitting on our driveway and lighting a candle for the deceased, being sad and discussing what a tragedy it all was. I remember a year or so later we took a trip to Vegas. The New York, New York casino has a wrought iron fence around the outside. The fence was covered with letters, tv shirts, flowers, balloons, candles – you name it and it was there. People wanted to send their love to New York and did it in the best way they could, leave some love at a New York themed casino. The Bellagio fountains were set to the song “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood. I watched it countless times, tears streaming down my cheeks. I remember the day after Fernando and I got married we were getting ready to board our red-eye flight to Antigua. The man checking in next to me looked like a terrorist. Yes, I was profiling but at the time I didn’t care. I was more concerned about his “luggage”, a cardboard box that looked like it had been thrown down a flight of stairs and ducked taped together. I was even more concerned when the guy had a seat right next to me on the plane. Certain he was going to bomb the plane, I watched his every move, ready to pounce on him if he so much as looked like he was up to no good. Luckily the flight had no issues, we landed safely and enjoyed a week in the Caribbean. I remember in 2007 Fernando’s company flew me to New York. They were thinking about relocating Fernando out there and wanted me to check it out. It was love at first sight for me and the Big Apple. I loved the hustle and bustle, loved the people, the food and the energy. I remember walking out of Grand Central Station and how you could still see remnants of the explosion. The black on the walls and cracks in corners. I remember walking outside and seeing ground zero. The gaping hole where two mighty buildings had once stood. On one side there was a timeline that listed everything that happened the day of 9/11. I was disgusted by the people standing there smiling, taking selfies and pictures with these big grins on their faces. I wanted to scream at them “DON’T YOU REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED HERE?” I remember the downfall of the economy, the layoffs and the turmoil. I remember my boss at Prudential, Ted, was from New York. I didn’t like him, he annoyed me and we never really got a long. But one day he told the story of where he was on 9/11. He was in the tower when it was hit and he described the chaos, confusion and fear. It was gripping. He was in tears and so was I. I remember so much about that time. But during all that time I never felt anxious about it happening again. I trusted that our troops would keep us safe and the government was on top of everything. I remember being at my friend Gingers house the day of Shock and Awe, we watched as the bombs started flying. I remember feeling like it was going to be ok.
Then I became a mom.
January 24th, 2008 my son was born. Along with his birth came an onset of anxiety that has only gotten worse. And I’d like to say that it is a “normal” anxiety like being socially awkward or being afraid of crowded elevators, but it isn’t. At least to me it isn’t normal and I don’t think it seemed normal to Jason, my second husband, when I told him about the things I struggled with after Adan was born. Like my fear of asteroids hitting the earth before I could get to him. Yes, that was a legit fear I had. I would drive home with watchful eyes on the sky. Jason’s exact words were “That’s really messed up”; confirming my fear that my anxiety isn’t on a “normal” level. I fear post apocalyptic situations, terrorist attacks, public shootings and anything I have NO control over. I have woken up in the middle of the night, scared that someone will come in and take my daughter. I can barely watch the news anymore…between the Ebola outbreak concern, murders, kidnappings and school shootings I feel sick to my stomach.
We live in a world where our children have to practice “lock downs”. My son started kindergarten last year and had his first practice lock down. That night he broke down in the shower, crying and terrified because he was scared and he didn’t want to experience one in real life. I soothed my son, my sweet, sensitive child, and told him it would be ok and what they are doing was good practice. Better safe than sorry. Once he calmed down I went into my closet and cried because I am frightened about the same thing.
The older I get the more I realize how ugly this world is becoming. I almost feel like I owe my children an apology for bringing them into this scary, selfish place. I know the best thing I can do is raise them to know God but it’s hard to do that with everything they’re surrounded by. Nothing in this world hit me, I mean really hit me, until I became a mom. Now I am constantly terrified. I envy my husband and his über laid back attitude. His insane ability to fall asleep before his head hits the pillow, to not care about the things that play in my mind, over and over again. This anxiety is exhausting and it’s robbing me of enjoying everything I should be enjoying.
There are the people who laugh if off and tell me to “just not worry about it”. It’s concerning, really, the lack of knowledge people have about anxiety. Rest assured, if someone with anxiety could just “not worry about it”, we would. But I’ve seen the nightmare in real life, the people jumping from buildings, planes flying into buildings… The ugliness goes on and on. Because I know what’s happened in the past, I fear what can happen in the future. And what scares me the most is not being able to protect my children in those situations.
I read a post this morning from one of my friends, he said something to the effect of “don’t forget the bad things that happened that day but also don’t forget the good that happened afterwards”. I needed to read that because it’s true. There was a lot of good that happened after 9/11 and there still is a lot of good left in this world. There is a silver lining to every cloud, I know this, but sometimes you have to look really hard to find it. And sometimes my fears won’t let me find it.
If you struggle with anxiety you know what I’m talking about. You know the tightness in your chest, the racing heart, the wave of heat that flows through your body. The stomach that turns upside down and the dizziness you experience. For those of you who know what I’m talking about, let’s make a vow to think more positively. Let’s promise each other that we are going to fight the evil thoughts with good thoughts and get the help when we need it (yes, I take medicine now and then – there’s zero shame in that). For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about but have a friend who suffers from anxiety, give them a hug and let them know you love them. Please don’t try to give advice on how to “make it better”, just be a loving, caring friend.
To the terrorists, and all the other evil people out there, I’m doing everything in my power to not let you steal my sanity. You will NOT win.