Another excerpt from Chapter 2 – Friday No Surprises: navigating tragedy with faith, family & the FDNY

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Chapter 2

Joy Comes in the Morning (first draft)

Friday would be the first time I ventured out. I commented to friends I had spent more time at home in the last few days than in months. Christine drove Emily and Meghan to school on Thursday (it was their choice to go) but I decided to drive them on Friday. I needed to do something normal and to get out of the house.

On the way home, I went  to CVS.  That was a weird experience. My ability to remember what I needed and where items were located in the store was definitely impaired. There was the sense of being in a bubble – separate from my surroundings, almost invisible but completely exposed at the same time. How can these people be being going about their lives like everything is normal?  I felt there was a big flashing sign on my head. Can they tell I am barely holding it together?

I also stopped by my local library. The librarian had a confused look on her face as she looked up from the desk.

“What are you doing here?”

“My library book is due!”

“Oh, how are you doing?”

“I’m doing!”

“I’m doing” became my pat response to “how are you doing?” I was doing something like returning my book to the library but as far as how are YOU doing that question I couldn’t answer.  How are you coping was another question asked time and again that question was easier to answer because I wasn’t coping I was hoping in God’s promises. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness on Christ the solid rock I stand.” My hope wasn’t built on Bruce coming home which was my heart’s desire but it was build on God is in control. At first I said I was hiding behind God and peeking out every now and then to see if it was safe. I envisioned God as this big rock and we (Emily, Meghan and I) were placed securely behind him. After a while, God became the arms I rested in as He carried me and my girls down a path we never expected to be on.

I was reminded of something that happened at family camp just weeks earlier. Justin, Bruce’s godson, was a preschooler at the time. Justin was warned if he kept misbehaving he was going back to his campsite. Well he misbehaved again and his Dad scooped him into his arms to carry him back. Justin was crying and fighting against his Dad but all his fussing made little difference. His Dad was following through on his promise of what the consequences of not listening were. Justin was going back to their campsite. As I remembered that I was struck by the thought Justin could have rested in his father’s arms. Because either way fussing or resting he was going back to their campsite. I had the same choice (not because there was disobedience) but because this was happening and I could rest in my Heavenly Father’s arms or go kicking and screaming either way it was happening. God eventually put us down to walk but He was ever ready to scoop us up when we needed the extra support.

In the first days after the attacks I was stunned by the outpouring of encouragement from friends, family and strangers – the telephone was constantly ringing, people were arriving with food and offers of support. A friend from church showed up early on the first morning to tell me he was going to the site to look for Bruce. Day after day people stopped by. Many times, I greeted them at my fence to ward off any problems with my 130-lb. dog and to keep those conversations out of ear shot from my daughters. My dog was 130-lb. lap dog in a Rottweiler body. Buster Brown was his name and he was protective of his girls. When someone stopped by he would position himself between me and the person. If the girls were outside he would switch to standing between them and the visitor. He rarely barked at visitors. He just stared at you that was enough to get his point across – don’t mess with my girls. A rumor spread that “Ann wasn’t doing well! She won’t let anyone in her house!” Actually, if you were coming for a visit of course you were invited in but if you were just dropping off something for the forementioned reasons you probably didn’t get in but that was strictly to protect you from my dog and guard my kids’ privacy.

The Sphere

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Underneath that white sheeting is the Sphere. The Sphere that was sculpted by Fritz Koenig and sat in Tobin Plaza at the World Trade Center from 1971 to 2001. The Sphere that is one of the few remaining pieces of the original World Trade Center that still exist. Personally I don’t have a connection to the Sphere. I didn’t see it everyday as I went to work but I have friends who did. Last week the Sphere was moved from Battery Park where it set since 2002 to its new home in Liberty Park. I have friends who are upset by the media saying it came home because to them it didn’t come home. It doesn’t sit on the National September 11 Memorial as many believe it should.

Last Wednesday as I supported a 9/11 Tribute Museum walking tour and saw the Sphere in its new spot for the first time, I was struck by a few thoughts I wanted to share. I was glad for my friends. Many fought long and hard to preserve it. Well done. I wondered if sitting where it does it isn’t a statement to the fact that we can’t really ever go home? And then again sitting as it does overlooking the Memorial is it watching over or guarding its original home?  Finally once it is uncovered the damage it displays will speak volumes to what happened on September 11, 2001 in a way that the beautiful plaza doesn’t.

So to the Sphere I say “Welcome home to the neighborhood! Glad you could join us.”

According to a fellow docent, it will be unveiled in the near future. I look forward to seeing it.



little stones

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Many times as I share my personal story while leading walking tours of the National September 11 Memorial, I make the following statement:

“Before I started volunteering with the Tribute Center, I only had my story and that was quite enough. But now I know the stories of downtown residents, survivors, other family members, volunteers and first responders. To me the story of September 11 is like a mosaic, it is hundreds if not thousands of stories that lay next to each other they don’t necessarily interlock like a puzzle to tell the story of that day and years since. We need all of those stories to understand what happened. We need your stories as well.”

Yesterday I read the May 3 entry in Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey. It really spoke to me and I wanted to share it with you.

“A mosaic consists of thousands of little stones. Some are blue, some are green, some are yellow, some are gold. When we bring our faces close to the mosaic, we can admire the beauty of each stone. But as we step back from it, we can see that all these stones reveal to us a beautiful picture, telling a story none of these stones can tell by itself. That is what our life in community is about. Each of us is a little stone, but together we reveal the face of God to the world. Nobody can say, “I make God visible.” But others who see us together can say, “They make God visible.” Community is where humility and glory touch.”

The italics are mine. I want to admire the beauty of each stone but I also want to step back and see the whole beautiful picture. How about you?