Sunday Sept 16, 2001 would prove to be the “tipping point”. Family, friends, neighbors, total strangers were stopping by my home with meals and encouraging words which was so very kind but I couldn’t be “all things to all people”. It was time to “circle the wagons”. Steve, my pastor, would take the lead and announce that “Ann doesn’t answer the phone or the door.” He would have the church organize updates and meals. The church would add daily updates on their website. My sister would be responsible for answering the phone and door and there would be a list of people I would speak to and/or see. There was actually a physical list of people. I would also make a list of people who I needed to speak to – people who I needed to talk to so I could stay strong. Months later people would joke “that they made the list.” Pastor Steve also stated that I would take a nap every day. Each day, my sister and I made a list of things we wanted to accomplish – simple things like take a shower, do laundry. There was a sense of being in limbo, a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop, a sense of not knowing what you should do next. Squad 41 would call each day with their updates “nothing to report. We are still looking. There are voids.”
I think we sometimes feel that it is wrong to “circle the wagons” but there are times that you have to take care of yourself and those closest to you. There are times that it can only be about you. I hope you have friends who are so close to you that they will “circle the wagons” for you. I remember before September 11 being concerned how would I tell Bruce’s mom, or my parents or my kids that something had happened to him. Firefighter, police officer and military families live with the possibility that they won’t be coming home. So you think about “what if such and such happens.” On September 11, Bruce’s sister was visiting their mom in southern NJ which may not seem like a big deal but Bruce’s sister lives in KS. She would be there that day and for weeks to come. In August, my brother and his wife had moved back to NJ from CA so they were there for my parents. So that left me only my daughters to take care of and that was a gift. It was another blink from God that he had it all under control. On September 11,2001 I went into mother lion mode and my goal was to protect my girls no matter what. And I was fortunate to have my sister and other friends would helped me protect my girls and helped to take care of me.
Today I read a very sad article on the 9-11 server that I subscribe to. The widow of the pilot of United flight 93 died of an accidental drug overdose caused by mixing alcohol, anti depression drugs and anti-anxiety drugs. I feel so bad for her family. It is just so sad. I always try to remember when I hear, read or see a story in the news that “everyone has a family” or at least I hope they do.
As always it is a great lesson for me to read your words from the heart. You seem to always pin point something in particular that reflects in my own life. I too thought for many years, what would happen if….. After a while I vowed I could not live like that any more because it truly was robbing me of precious hours when Joe would be at work. I did very well for years. I knew from speaking with Joe that he wanted a military funeral at the Long Island National Cemetery. I remembered thinking to myself that his choice was a good choice since both my father and brother are buried there. That’s all I allowed myself to think about. Each time I heard on the news, “cop shot,” I would do all I could to not focus on those words but it didn’t always help as the list of family and friends would begin to call just to chat but I knew that they were calling to either find out if I knew anything and if I did know anything, they were calling to keep me calm.
For the first time in years, on 9/11, I didn’t think that his first phone call of the day might have been my last. And when I spoke to him again at 5 that evening, I exhaled a little bit more and then my world became the world I vowed I’d never allow myself to be in: I worried, I panicked and this time the phone calls were not comforting at all. I was blessed the next day when he finally walked in the door. People say I was lucky but luck is winning at the slot machines or a raffle. I was blessed. I truly felt that God was looking out for us. I remembered during one of my tours that I never did ask God that day to please bring him home alive. I kind of felt if he didn’t come home it was because God wanted him. I remembered thinking instead, “Please God, don’t let families feel this pain.”
Anyway, you know the rest of the story. I am constantly amazed when you write or talk about Bruce, his work, your life together, etc. You are a true example of strong faith, courage and strength. When I grow up, I want to be just like you.
Thanks for sharing your story. I so agree with you about luck – it isn’t luck, it’s blessing. When I grow up I want to cook like you 🙂 See you soon. Hugs and much love, Ann