9/11 – A Duel Meaning for Me

11 09 2010

9_11_signAs I sit here nestled in my little community’s Bread Company Cafe sipping on an iced coffee, I can’t help but reflect on the dual meaning September 11th has for me.  Certainly September 11, 2001 was history changing and life altering for many Americans, but September 11, 2007 was just about the same, only on a much smaller scale.

Reflecting back to the date in 2001, the shock and surprise factor that something of this magnitude could be pulled off right under our noses was alarming.  Our nation couldn’t conceive of such acts taking place.  The ultimate air missiles carrying our friends, family members, colleagues and fellow Americans being used as weapons of destruction was unfathomable.  We were unprepared and lacked imagination that things like this could happen to us.

Fast forward to 2007.  On a gorgeous Sunday the 10th of 2007, I pulled into the parking lot of the health club I belong to.  A friend of mine was actually getting into her car as I was getting out of mine.  She saw me, hopped out and rushed over with concern written all over her face.  She proceeded to ask me “Kim, what’s wrong with Jackie, is she ill?”    I said “What?  Why would you think that?” she replied, “She’s getting extremely skinny and the other girls and I are very concerned.”  All I could say was she was going through a tough time, her health was good and that I would call her tomorrow on my way to work to check in.  Connie then asked me, “Things seem so bad with her,you don’t think she would kill herself do you?”  And I said very authoritatively, “NO, she would never leave Emilie (her 8 year old daughter).”

Well, my good intentions didn’t get the job done.  I totally let it slip my mind to check in with Jackie that morning.  Normally, I would see her on the beltline each morning around 6 when I was heading to work and she was heading to workout….We would always wave to one another.  But not that morning.

On Tuesday the 12th a around 9am, my cell phone rang.  The caller ID said Jack-O.  Fantastic, it was Jackie calling me!  I immediately picked up and said “What’s up girlfriend?”  But it wasn’t her, it was her husband Tom.  He told me Jackie passed away yesterday (9/11).  My mouth dropped and I couldn’t find the words to say or the ability to comprehend what was just told to me.

Because I need to be discreet, I will forgo telling you the details of that conversation and the many others we had as we tried to come to grips with the incredulous reality of her death.  What I can tell you is about the irony of the dual meaning of 9/11 for me.  All the people on 9/11/01 didn’t get to choose between life and death – that choice was made for them.  I think about all the lives lost and collectively how much living these individuals still had to do.  Then I think about Jackie, the total package.  She had everything going for her – A loving husband, a beautiful child, an established career in nursing where she excelled and was in the top of the most regarded professionals at Barnes Hospital, and she had just turned 40 years old.  So young, with so much living yet to do.  She was blonde, beautiful and in great shape.   Probably one of the most positive and happy individuals I knew.  Definitely someone I wanted to be around because of her infectious attitude.  Until, something went desperately wrong.

I don’t know what it was that happened, but I can tell you the tipping point with which it happened.  Her mood and demeanor changed, her positivity turned to negativity and depression, the smile on her face replaced with a stone wall that you couldn’t break through.  I remember our talks, I remember how I tried to pump her up, but what I dismissed were the warning signs.  I had validated in my own mind that she would NEVER hurt herself because of her little girl.  The sun set and shined on Emilie.  What I didn’t count on was Jackie validating in her own mind that Emilie would be better off without her and if she checked out now, the little girl would have a chance at a normal life and not the dysfunctional life Jackie lived growing up.

As they say, hindsight is 20/20.  Reflection isn’t going to change the outcome of this situation however, but it has certainly made me more aware and sensitive to the words and phrases that come out of the mouths of those close to me..  Jackie basically wrestled with going through doing herself in.  She actually chickened out the first time she put the plan in place months earlier.  You see, somewhere along the line she stopped asking herself “Are my goals worthy of me?” and deeply planted the question, “Am I worthy of my goals?”  She no longer felt she was worthy of anything.  She stopped going to church, listening to friends and family and ultimately made up her mind.

My mistake in all of this was just like our government’s mistake years earlier.  I couldn’t, nor could they, comprehend such an action taking place.  No rehearsal had ever gone on in our minds of how we would have or could have responded prior to in order to prevent.  We turned our heads while others plotted and carried out deeds that could have been avoided.  I’m very apologetic for turning the other cheek on a friend in need.  I basically found myself working out at different hours than her so I wouldn’t have to deal with the negativity.  I distanced myself  because I didn’t want it affecting my own positivity.  That is the guilt I will deal with everyday for the rest of my life.

But, all is not lost.  It is not what happens to you in this life, but how you respond to it.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Jackie.  A 5×8 photo of her and Emilie sit neatly in a magnetic frame on my fridge.  I won’t let myself forget that day, all the prior warning signs and the fact that I could have been more engaged in keeping the outcome from happening.  Her death will not be in vain, nor will the others who lost their lives on that tragic 9/11 day in 2001.

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