On the morning of September 11, my partner and I were at the emergency room waiting for a doctor to render his diagnosis concerning one of our best friends. She was in a lot of pain, and was very frightened ˆ and we both shared her anxiety.
It was too tense for me to stay in one place for long, so I took frequent breaks to get a drink of water and just walk around. During one such break, I saw a large group of people clustered around a television set. From the looks on their faces, I could tell that something terrible had happened, and I stood with them, watching in horror as the WTC burned. I quickly learned that two commercial jetliners had crashed into the buildings, and it was obvious by that time that this was a planned attack.
After just a few minutes, I went back into the examining room, where the doctor had just arrived. The news was bad - very bad - and soon the news about the terrorist attack filtered in as well. We spent the next hour checking our friend into the hospital, then got back into our car and sat in the parking lot for a long time - shaking and crying with pent-up emotion and grief.
Over the next few days, we all experienced life through a filter of personal worry and anxiety - and a deep feeling of dread and loss for the illusion of safety that we‚d all been able to maintain for all of these years.
It was a very strange experience to be so consumed by our concern for just one person - when thousands were dead, and all of us felt that we were in imminent danger of more attacks. It was far too much to process - and none of us did very well with it. I was completely numb - able to do little more than worry and cry.
After a few days of hopeful improvement, our friend died suddenly, early on the morning of September 25th. Our grief for her was so inextricably entwined with the terrorist attacks that it has been very difficult to separate our feelings about the events.
In retrospect, we‚ve both been able to gain a little perspective. Our friend will always be close to our hearts - and we've gotten over our guilt feelings for focusing so much on our sorrow for her when so many others lost much more than we did.
But whether the trauma is wide-ranging or very localized grief is grief. Every life is precious and every person deserves to be mourned by the people who love him or her. The lesson for all of us is that life is fleeting and we're not guaranteed anything more than the moment that we're in.
Love recklessly and freely. It's later than you think.