Meditation Monday – Being Present with 9/11


It’s ironic that I dedicated last week’s Meditation Monday post to living in the present. That hasn’t been easy this week. In fact, it’s been a week to relive, remember and reopen old wounds. Each time I turned on the television or picked up a magazine or newspaper, I was forced to confront the horrors of 9/11 yet again. While nothing compares to the shock and devastation of 9/11/01, each documentary, story, article and interview drew me deeper down into that gaping hole of loss and pain.

This is especially true when it comes to fully understanding what was lost. As I watched the towers fall in real time, from the safety of my home, my mind focused only on the destruction of the buildings. It wasn’t until later in the day that I grasped I was watching as people died right before my eyes. Over the past ten years, I’ve learned more about them and the loved ones who mourn their loss. A few of the lost were people I knew. My husband worked with a woman who lost her daughter, my daughter’s friend, who was seven at the time, lost her aunt. Our neighbor up the street didn’t come home to his wife and children. The bank teller I chatted with once a week at our neighborhood bank lost her son.

We learned on the evening of 9/11 that we lost my husband’s friend Bob. Bob and my husband were high school friends, who ran track together, grew up together and loved each other like brothers. Just two days before, Bob joined my husband at the Jets season home opener football game. They tailgated, talked and reconnected. When the game was over, my husband called and asked if I minded if he stayed out a bit later than planned, because Bob was dealing with his recent separation from his wife and my husband wasn’t ready to leave him alone just yet.

I’ve lived through miscarriages, years of infertility, 9/11 and being diagnosed and treated for cancer. Once I had my first child, the pain of infertility and miscarriages seemed extremely distant. That is not the way it is with 9/11 and having cancer. Am I failing at “being” when I relive the loss of 9/11 or the fear of receiving another cancer diagnosis? I don’t think so. I think we are complex emotional creatures with powerful memories. When those memories create pain, the bravest thing I can do is sit with it and allow it to be. If I allow the pain to exist without judging it, I am present and eventually I will feel it leave me. And when it returns, which I know it will, I can be present to it again and that’s how I know I will survive it.

Now when I see the towers falling, the only thing I can think is that I am watching Bob die. That is the reality I didn’t understand those first few moments of this horror. But I also didn’t know, until much later, how important it would be to my husband that he spent those extra moments with Bob that last Sunday of his life. And how important it would be to me that I said I didn’t mind and understood. By being present to a friend in need, we gave ourselves the gift of avoiding life long regret.

We spent the morning of 9/11 watching the memorial ceremony, as we have for the past 10 years. We waited for the reading of Bob’s name and we cried and remembered. At that moment, it was a time to grieve and we were present to it:

For everything there is a season,

A time for every activity under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die.

A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal.

A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.

A time to grieve and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.

A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to search and a time to quit searching.

A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear and a time to mend.

A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate.

A time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-9

Survival > Existence,

Image courtesy of pickselated / Jim


Rachel Pappas's picture


I didn’t realize you lived in New York, Debbie. Wow, so you must relive it differently, more intensely than the majority of Americans, though still, too many were impacted directly. I’m in Maryland and something like 60 Marylanders died that day. Most of them were at the Pentagon, including the parent of a little girl in our neighborhood. Thanks for your fine tribute, Debbie.


Debbie's picture

It Affects Us All


We live in New Jersey, which lost 746 people that day. My husband grew up in Brooklyn, so NY is still home to him.  I do find a difference between people who live at the epicenter and those who live further out. But we all lost our sense of security and process the tragedy in our own way. It’s just that much harder when you lost someone dear to you. Thanks so much for your comment and so sorry that you too lost a neighbor that day.


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