Sixteen years ago, Mike woke me to tell me about the towers. My mind jumped immediately to my best friend from high school, Rebecca, who worked on Wall Street.
But once we got past the initial shock, and knew she was OK, our minds shifted. To me. And the reason I was still in bed when Mike came home to tell me about the towers. On 9/12, we would drive into Seattle for my complete hysterectomy.
Life felt so crazy, however, that I called Virginia Mason to make sure my surgery would go ahead as planned. Because I had to start drinking a vile concoction to clear my bowels for abdominal surgery. And who wants to endure that torture if it’s not needed?
I had gotten sick on our summer motorcycle trip in Europe and spent 10 days in the hospital in southern France with peritonitis accompanied by an ovary the size of an orange. Infection returned as soon as we got back to the States. My DES-christened, malfunctioning, female organs had to go.
In retrospect, the surgery was a blessing. Not only did it give me focus outside of the horror show that was the east coast, I legally self-medicated with opiates (via a PCA pump) for several days. Not enough synapses working properly to concentrate to read. Not enough to watch TV. Unplugged, I was.
So that time, for me, is a blur. I hold a few distinct images, of course. But I didn’t have to watch the planes crash and the towers die, over-and-over-and-over.
The country changed that day, from one of optimism to fear. From one that mouthed “turn the other cheek” to one that fully embraced the vengeful “eye for an eye” God of the Old Testament.
Despite surgery that, in hindsight, was the first step in erasing the essence of my femininity, I allowed myself to be loved. I allowed myself to ask for help. I truly let Mike into my life, an act for which I will be forever grateful.
So today is a bittersweet anniversary. Just as I healed from those abdominal scars and lost hormones, and will heal from the mastectomy scars of last month and the chemo to come, we as a nation need to heal.
I don’t know what route that will take. We pick at the scab of 9–11 because it’s profitable to politicians (and lots of businesses) to keep the wound festering.
How do we honor those who died on 9–11 while acknowledging our catalytic actions that led to that day?
How do we honor those who have lost homes, pets, jobs, friends to Harvey and Irma, while acknowledging our catalytic inaction that exacerbated the events of August and September 2017?
How do we soberly reflect on our collective lives and then commit to change?
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Change we must.
We cannot afford unlimited vengeance.
We have an obiligation to those not yet born to clean up the mess we are making of the world.
We need another charismatic socialist to remind us that we are our brother’s keeper, we should venerate forgiveness, and our lives are richer when lived with kindness and compassion than with distrust and greed.