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September 8, 2006

Reflecting on 9/11: The Books

Posted by admin

I got home and realized we were creeping up on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. A book called LOVE YOU, MEAN IT was on my stack and it felt like the right time to read it. It's about four women who were widowed on 9/11 and their Widow's Club and how they clung to each other in the years after the tragedy. I have a friend who lost her husband on 9/11 and we would chat off and on about what she was going through over these past few years. I remember her saying part way into year two that it was not getting easier. There still was a ton of paperwork to do. There still was too much swirling emotionally. I remember she stopped me in the food store and said she just wanted to have FUN again.

I thought I knew what she was talking about.

But reading this book I am am pretty sure I did not. These women talk about the small things that impacted them. The emotions. The things that ripped them up. The times that the only people they could talk to was each other, because they all knew what each other were feeling.

While the book is focused on 9/11 and these women's lives as impacted by that, it really talks about the redemptive power of friendship.

I remember when I was in 7th grade one friend lost her dad and when I was in 8th grade another's dad died as well. As the years passed, the kids grew up, but I always thought about how Vera O'Connell and Mary Ballman (those were the widows) had their lives change for what had happened. They were just as young as many of these widows, living alone in a suburban world. I am sure that they can read a book like this and relate all these years later to the same emotions.

I feel you can be a much better friend to people who have suffered loss after reading books like this. You hear how so many kind-intended words can sting. And what brought the most solace. For that reason alone books like this matter.

Reading this and finishing WAKE UP CALL: The Political Education of a 9/11 Widow by Kristen Breitweiser I feel like I have a five-year perspective on this tragedy and some added wisdom about its impact. Breitweiser's book, which I have talked about in previous newsletters, looks at our political system and how politics impacted the discussion of and finger wagging about 9/11. She also talks about how she grew up politically after the tragedy. I think we all did, but the way she articulates it shows how much we as a country need to pull ourselves together. There is one place where she talks about meeting with a senator or congressman and asking where they stand on a issue. The person turns to their staff to see how they feel.

I think this sums up a lot of what is wrong right now politically in this country. Politicians are not willing to take a stand and live with it. There is not a lot of leadership going on anywhere in government right now. And trust me, this rant is not meant to talk about any one person or any one party. It's about leading. It's been a long time where there has been a solid leader, but to be honest, I am not sure that the way things are set up there ever will be again. Been mulling that for a while and Breitweiser's book just confirms so many of those thoughts. There's just too much back story and back office politics going on for most of these politicians to get the leading done.

On that note, I thank all five of the women for telling their stories. None of them brought back the men they loved, but they did make me stop and think again about the impact of that morning. When I think back on 9/11 I remember that the sky was so blue --- I later learned this kind of blue is "severe clear"--- that when I swam in the morning that I felt it was going to a perfect day. It was just so beautiful. Quickly over the city the beautiful sky turned ugly grey and from there the world for us was never quite the same. It was a most defining day.