Twenty Years

Why do they hate us?

On September 11th, 2001 my son had barely begun the 8th grade. He was looking forward to seeing his friends, playing basketball on the middle school team and getting to know his teachers. He had no inkling that 8th grade would also coincide with the beginning of a new reality in his world and the world around him. Neither did anyone else. The weather was perfect here in our small corner of the northeastern United States. A day I will never forget.

He returned to school on September 12th, 2001 and when I asked him what happened, he told me a teacher tried to answer this question…

Why do they hate us?

Did his class of 13 year olds get an answer? I don’t remember, but I doubt they got more than a cursory history lesson of Middle East conflicts and American involvement and years of political back and forth. The images of smoke and fire and exploding buildings crashing to the ground were imprinted in memory. Connections to some vague far away decades old horribleness…impossible for most adults to comprehend…never mind children. Imagining hate coalescing into such evil and devastation…even harder.

Why do they hate us?

I spent the better part of this morning – 20 years later – watching the televised ceremonies held in New York City, Arlington, VA and Shanksville, PA. The heartbreak and tears and emotions still so raw. The memories of how we all came together as a country reminded me of how I miss that sense of connection now.

Last week I returned from a trip to Washington DC to see my children and grandchildren. As I moved through Logan Airport in Boston I looked around and remembered…this was where two 9/11 flights began their paths to destruction. I try not to think about it, but it’s everywhere. I guess after 20 years we are all used to the changes to keep us safer. But I’m old enough to vividly remember the “before.”

I can’t begin to make much sense of any of it, but I do wonder if we will ever be able to fully answer the question…why do they hate us? And, if we could, then what?

Below is my post from September 11, 2018…remembering…

The Day Everything Changed

September 11, 2001

In my lifetime, this is the day everything changed.

We are being attacked!
I heard my coworker yelling as she ran down the hall past my office. I worked in a hospital at the time and yelling in the halls was unusual. And disturbing.
Planes are hitting buildings in New York City!

It has become one of those awful “where were you?” moments. The horrific alteration of reality that gets seared in memory.

Must call family. Must connect. My daughter – a college sophomore on the east coast. My son in the 8th grade. My husband at home. My parents called him. My siblings. My friend in DC. My friend in NYC. The need to wrap oneself around loved ones as we watched the horror, the fires, the smoke, the pain unfold on television – over and over and over and over.  Hope draining away as the hours dragged on.

Emails flew through cyberspace.  Are you okay? Are you okay? My good friend who lived close to NYC frantic to help in some way. A doctor, she made ready to go to Ground Zero. But there was nobody to save. Was on call for helping at hospitals but no living to care for…she wrote to me.

Such profound loss.
Since then life has been divided: Before 9/11 and After 9/11.
A whole generation of children are now growing up under the cloud of what happened that bright sunny day in 2001. Its aftermath. Its fallout.

My heart breaks, still, for those thousands of innocents who died that day. And for their families. And for the first responders. And their families.

Soon after that day in 2001, the nation was called upon to light candles together in remembrance and solidarity. It was a time of unspeakable tragedy and for a brief time…there was unity. We stood on our small deck with a candle. A moment of silence.

I drove to work a few days later and saw a big American flag newly attached to the top of a huge crane – at the construction site for the hospital’s addition project. Similar to the ones at the WTC.


As a child, I hid under my school desk. Practice drills. Crouched low with head down. In case we were attacked. Then we weren’t. And life went on much as before.

That won’t work anymore.

This morning, the news networks held a moment of silence at 8:46 am to mark when the first plane hit.

Today is a Tuesday, as it was in 2001.

We must never forget.

Split in Two

It was a month ago yesterday. A day split in two…spent jumping across a great divide between a mountain of horror and one of profound joy. And then back again. The beginning of a surreal progression of hours and days trying to make sense of the first part. While rejoicing in the second part. I had no head space for much of anything else.

Part One:

Are you sitting down? My youngest sister’s first words hit me like a tidal wave when I answered the phone. I could barely understand anything else she was trying to say. Through the tears. And the terror…as her voice rose in pitch.
What is it? Please slow down! I can’t understand you.
Are You Sitting Down?
I had just finished lunch. I sat back down.
In bits and pieces she told me…our other sister’s only son had killed himself. He was found the next day, alone in his apartment. No No No The despair filled my heart and it broke. It broke for my other sister and her daughter and the unimaginable loss of a son and brother. It broke for the rest of the family – aunts, uncles, cousins, grandfather, a niece & nephew. My son and daughter had visited their cousins last fall. The last time they would ever see him.
Why? Do you know why?
No, there wasn’t a note. We asked each other…But how can this be? He was such a kind and gentle soul. We went back and forth in disbelief for a few minutes, both of us crying & shouting and trying to understand the enormity of it.
No No No this can’t be real. He was only 34 years old. My mind flew back 20+ years to family reunions and to when he came along on several family vacations with us. He and my son became close and were sweet playmates during those times…separated in age by only a year. That’s how I will always remember him…the smart, funny, kind of goofy kid who told me when he was 11 that he wanted to be a businessman when he grew up. And that’s what he did.

My son (on the right) & his cousin, 1996

As it often happens, family gatherings and reunions became fewer and farther between as the years went by. Eventually just limited to weddings…and funerals. I hadn’t seen my nephew in person since his older sister got married in 2013, when he walked her down the aisle…their father long since passed.

You figure there’s always time. Until there isn’t. You think someone is okay because they act like they are. But sometimes they aren’t. Do we see what we want to see or do we need to look deeper…ask more questions? Are we afraid to do just that? Afraid of the dark places ourselves? I really don’t know. I also don’t know how his mom…my sister…will ever survive her grief…as strong as she is.

Part Two:

One hour after my sister’s call…a text message from my son-in-law…we are in the hospital. My daughter was 9 months pregnant and this surely meant good news. Two hours later…my cell phone dings with another text message. Up pops a photo of my daughter, son-in-law and their brand new baby girl…snuggled on her mother’s chest cozy as can be. My little granddaughter was born right on her due date – healthy, safe and perfect in every way. The photos kept coming and filled me with a soft ray of hope and calm as I fell in love with her on the spot…even though I live 500 miles away. That night we met on FaceTime and I gratefully lept over the divide to the mountain of profound joy…on the day split in two.

One month – and one week long visit later – and I am still rejoicing.
Thank you sweet girl.

Newborn Granddaughter ❤️

Song Lyric Sunday – Hurt/Pain/Agony/Suffer

My contribution to this week’s Song Lyric Sunday (Prompt: Hurt/Pain/Agony/Suffer


Cidney Bullens (formerly known as Cindy Bullens) wrote “I Gotta Believe In Something” after the death of her 11 year old daughter Jessie, from cancer, in 1996.

“I Gotta Believe In Something” is part of the critically acclaimed album “Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth” released in 1999. Backing vocals: Bonnie Raitt and Beth Neilsen Chapman.

Grief is palpable, as is the unimaginable pain behind the lyrics in this haunting song.

Cidney Bullens, an American singer/songwriter/guitarist, grew up in Massachusetts. As Cindy, she began her singing career as a backup vocalist for Rod Stewart and Elton John. She released her first well received album “Desire Wire” in 1978 – the first of 8 albums – and was nominated for 2 Grammy awards. He is currently working on a new solo album.





By Cindy Bullens

I can’t figure it out
As if I ever could
Everything I planned
Didn’t work out like I thought it would

I’ve had my share of tragedy
I’ve felt the darkness cover me
Till I can’t see

But I gotta believe in something
I gotta believe in something
That there’s just plain nothing
Don’t sit right with me

I gotta hold on to something
I gotta hold on to something
Even if it’s nothing
But a little dream

Some days just breathing
Is all that I can do
And I curse the disappearance
Of everything I knew

But there’s only so many tears I can cry
I need to point my soul to the light
So I can see

And I gotta believe in something
I gotta believe in something
That’s there’s just plain nothing
Don’t seem right to me

I gotta hold onto something
I gotta hold onto something
I can’t live with nothing
To believe

I can’t figure it out
As if I ever could
Everything I planned
Didn’t work out like I thought it would

So I gotta believe in something
I gotta believe in something
That’s there’s just plain nothing
Don’t seem right to me

I gotta hold on to something
I gotta hold on to something
Even if it’s nothing
But a little dream

I gotta believe in something
I gotta believe in something
I can’t live with nothing
To believe

© 1997 Mommy’s Geetar Music/BMI


This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #33: Upside-Down



upside down: in or into total
disorder or confusion


right side up…
in its place.
comforting clarity…

safety wrapped around
blind trust.
knowing what’s to come

until sucker punched…
lights dimming
without a map…

losing balance…

tumbling alone.
blank slate…
the new reality.

learning to focus
all over again.