I was in the hospital on 9-11. I went in with what I thought was appendicitis at about two in the morning. This not to say that my being in the hospital was more important than the terrible events that would follow, but that it so differently shapes my view of what happened that day. At two in the morning, the towers hadn’t been attacked. By the time they were, I was on IV pain medications and completely unaware of anything real. I remember asking the nurses to turn off the televisions because I didn’t like terrorist movies. I didn’t know that day, or for several days afterward, that they weren’t movies at all.
For me, 9-11 was a day of tests, ultrasounds,and pain medications. It was a day of nurses and doctors and clergy who came to check in on me. It was a day of fear and worry ,as one cause of pain was ruled out and another suggested, and no one could figure out what was wrong with me.
It wasn’t a day of terror. It wasn’t a day of national sorrow. I was blessed with nurses and family who didn’t allow it to be that.
I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for my nurses to act like it was any other day. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for them to wade through their work like nothing had happened. But they did. My nurses laughed and joked with me. They teased me for wanting my stuffed bear, and were honest and open with my family about what was going on. The doctors who saw me treated me as if there was nothing thing in the world as important as finding out what was wrong with me.
I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been.
I know that on 9-11 we are supposed to talkabout healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, and repair. I know in my head that that is what I am supposed to write about. But my heart wants to say something else.
Thank you. Thank you so much more than I can ever put into words. Thank you for sheltering me. Thank you for being strong enough to do what needed to be done. Thank you for not adding to the terror of being sick and in pain. Thank you for making 9-11 any other day when you had a job to do. Thank you for waiting until you were out of my room to fall apart. Thank you for all of the pain and fear and worry that you never let me see, because you knew I already had as much as I could handle.
If I had to guess, there are a bunch of us – thousands of us who were in hospitals that day, trying to live our normal lives, trying to survive what we had to survive. I wonder if any of us ever got the chance to say thank you to the people who made that possible, to the nurses, doctors, and medical staff who acted like each of us was the only thing that mattered. I’m not sure we can ever adequately say thank you.
I’m not sure what the image of God means, but I know that I saw it that day, in those people. If anyone has ever channeled the kindness, compassion, and strength of will that I believe is God, it was those men and women.
For many thousands of people, 9-11 is a day to struggle with forgiveness, with anger, and with the desire for strength and revenge. It’s about gratitude – the kind that comes from the survival of loved ones, and from watching incredible people step up to the plate at Ground Zero and do incredible things.
For me, 9-11 will always be about gratitude of a different sort – a deep overwhelming gratitude, woven into my heart, for all of the people who allowed me to live my life apart from that day; who, with a deep kindness and compassion, put aside their fear and pain so that we could focus on mine. They will be the image of God for me for the rest of my living days.