Thursday, September 11, 2008

Today I cried (and it has nothing to do with PMS)

I find myself having these emotional swings that sometimes come out of nowhere. I guess part of it is the frustration of having MS and part can be attributed to the difficulties of just teaching.

Today I was saddened when I thought of the anniversary of 9/11 and we observed a moment of silence at work. I explained why we were silent because my students are so young that they were babies in 2001 and don't have those ugly, vivid, raw images embedded into their brains.

So we talked about the towers, and the Pentagon, and the airplane in Pennsylvania. And then I had a little boy raise his hand and tell me that they had recently found remains of his aunt who had worked in one of the towers.

None of the other students really understood what this meant but I did.

I was home sick from school September 11th, 2001, with the TV off. I heard about what was happening in an IM from a cyber friend. I turned on the TV and didn't turn it off for days, it seemed like. This was probably the most profound moment of our nation's history that I really experienced. I recall the Challenger explosion and I was a fifth-grader myself when President Reagan was shot.

But September 11th is different. I guess it was the first time when I felt that as a country we were truly vulnerable. We didn't know what would or could happen next. It was beyond inconceivable.

I had a friend at that time who lived in Manhattan; he was a freelance writer who traveled the world writing articles. His name was Chris. Immediately, I tried to get him on his cell phone but the lines were either down or overloaded.

I tried calling him several times over the next few days and I was finally able to leave him a message a few days later. When he called me back, I will never forget the haunted quality in his voice. He had been spending his time with his best friend, going from hospital to hospital searching for his best friend's wife who had worked in one of the towers.

Eventually they discovered that she was nowhere to be found. She was not a survivor, she wasn't wounded, she was just gone. Ashes somewhere floating around in the haze of chemicals. She had two children, daughters, and I remember Chris telling me that they didn't know how to tell the girls about their mother.

I cannot imagine the sheer terror of people living and working in that area.

That was the last time Chris and I ever talked. I think that his life outside of Manhattan ceased to exist because he was in the midst of hell on earth, an organized chaos of people trying to help and people searching for loved ones.

I cried today because we were also talking about issues in the upcoming Presidential election. One of the topics we discussed was the Iraq war. The US did not enter into the Iraq war because of 9/11 but many people forget that. I digress, the discussion turned to people in our families serving in the military.

I have two siblings serving in Iraq now, a brother and a sister, both younger than me. My sister has been there since last October and my brother since April. I have not heard either one's voice since they have been gone. I rarely get emails from my sister. I never hear anything from my brother.

Until today.

It may not have been an email with all capital letters at the beginning of every sentence and there may be a few grammatical mistakes. But this email was very special, not even because of the things that he said.

It was just the mere fact that he sent it.

I've emailed him a few lengthy emails, sent a card or two, and a package and I never heard anything. And I will admit that the silence hurt me; maybe part of me was and is selfish for wanting some sort of response when he is in the midst of a war. Even my sister will drop me a line every few weeks or so.

But as I type this I begin to cry again, the big, wet, ugly tears. The ones where your nose runs and your cheeks get all blotchy. The kind that need lots of Kleenex.

In his email he talks of being busy and having more responsibility and going out on more and more missions. He says he feels overwhelmed at times with all the responsibility, even though he's glad they think so highly of him. He asks how I am feeling and mentions that he knows I have not been doing well. He talks of school and asks about my class.

He writes, "I hope that no matter how bad you feel that you can keep teaching because i (sic) know that you love being with those kids, most of the time."

Most of you don't know my brother and those of you that do know him, know that we haven't always been the most loving of siblings. I would never wish harm on him or my sister. But (and I am using that word way too much, I know; I'm sorry) for him to type that means he has listened when I have talked about school and he has read what I have written to him in the past.

Sometimes it's just nice to know that someone you love does actually love you back. I know he does by what he emailed me today and the very fact that he even said so, he used the word love in this message to me.

So tonight I cry for those who were lost in 9/11 in both body and spirit.

I pray for all of our volunteer military, whatever branch and wherever they are located. And I cry because even though I am the oldest, you are never too old to hear that your younger brother loves you.


Denver Refashionista said...

From one writer to another, you write a captivating narrative.

I am so glad that you got a letter from your brother. It is important to remember that we are loved.

Merelyme said...

Well first of all I am so sorry you lost your friend. That kind of will never forget. It is a sad many lives lost.

And then you get the letter from your wonder you are feeling emotional.

You write from your heart and soul. I really like that. And it is okay to cry. I can bring tissues and chocolate ice-cream. You do like chocolate ice-cream don't you?

Hang in there...

bjm said...

I can't tell you how happy I am for you that you have heard from your brother, and it sounds like his time in Iraq has really changed him. Thanks for sharing your news with us! (I was in tears when I read it!)