I was 24 years old on the day the Twin Towers fell. Prior to 8:45 a.m. on September 11, 2001, I was all bliss, vigor, and confidence . . . a girl standing on the precipice of her whole story and assuming it would play out like an episode of Friends.
The One Where Life Is Perfect
I chartered private jets out of New York City. Living in a shoe box on the Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge, I worked tirelessly to make a name for myself in a male dominated field. If someone wanted to go to Milan at 2:00 a.m., I was the one waking up pilots, ordering aircraft out of hangars, and looking for the correct color M&Ms for clients with clearly reasonable expectations. I was a young, misplaced Texan going after some big dreams. It was a heady, magical time. In all my years, I’ve never stumbled on a place that lived up to the dream quite like NYC. Every song you’ve heard, each book you’ve read. It’s all absolutely true. Part of my soul will always live there, likely getting honked at as we speak.
I was based out of Teterboro, which is New York City’s private airport. I had just been hired with a new company, coming straight from Los Angeles for the position. I remember how thrilled I was to see that my desk faced the city with the infamous skyline now a living, breathing thing outside my window. The view from my office was the best perk of the job. Until it wasn’t.
On 9/11 — especially in my industry — everything was upended. First came the immediate changes. ATC ordered all aircraft to land immediately (unheard of), and we had to scramble through our own terror to account for our pilots who appeared to be flying in a sky that was dropping airplanes.
Other repercussions lingered for endless months and continued to rain on us. Armed Marines protected our lobby around the clock. Those Marines also checked our trunks and searched our vehicles every single time we came on or off the property. Meeting a client in the city for lunch? Check the vehicle. Running over to the FAA? Check the vehicle. Those poor men got to know me quite well because my trunk had half of Texas in it. Bless them.
Suddenly, we had a “No Fly List” to check and recheck constantly. Gone were the days of clients walking onto the ramp without a care in the world. Our new badges were issued by the FAA after background checks and we were the only ones allowed to pass the huge sliding doors. Police and military stood by always.
We All Changed that Day
In a handful of minutes on a random September morning, my existence morphed into something entirely different. My life was a snow globe that had been shaken and then shattered, each and every piece landing in the wrong place with no hope of going back to the way it was before. I would eventually put it all together again but was forced to make something new out of the mess that was left.
My youth was officially over on that fateful day, though I wouldn’t fully grasp that until much later. I began to see life through the filter of tragedy, which made me much wiser and far less naive. My heart became heavier to carry. When you sit at your desk and watch smoke billow up from Ground Zero for months on end, you change. Realizing the depths of evil that lurked in humanity was humbling. I’ve always been a dreamer and an optimist. I still retain those qualities but not in the unbridled way of before. My feet are firmly on the ground now.
A New Day
September 11 changed my trajectory.
In 2003, my pilot boyfriend became my pilot husband. September 11 made me realize that wasting time when you know is ridiculous.
In 2005, it helped me realize I wanted to move back home to Texas because life is too short to live so far from my family. And TACOS.
In 2006, it helped me get through miscarrying my first pregnancy, because I’ve been through hell and back before, and I’m strong.
In 2007, it made me look at my brand new baby boy with more love and a greater respect for my time on this earth with him. Life throws punches, and I know to cherish every day now.
In 2010, it gave me the strength to handle the severe anxiety disorder diagnosis handed to my oldest child. I’ve seen worse and know to be thankful for what we have, even if it’s not what I imagined.
From 2009 – 2012, it helped me get through infertility. That was the hardest pill to swallow, but I’d already learned that the only option was to let go and let God. Watching skyscrapers falling down will do that to a person.
In 2012, it helped me appreciate the incredible miracle that is my second son. I don’t take my blessings lightly anymore.
This summer, it helped me through my darkest days. The ones when my little boy had to be hospitalized for his anxiety and OCD. I never thought I would know that much pain and grief. However, I am brave and strong. I can handle big, scary things. I’m a warrior. I am small, but I can fight back. I am this woman because of my life experiences, and 9/11 is a very big part of my puzzle. For that, I choose to be thankful.