written as a letter to myself on that day, from today, five years later.
Tonight you sit alone in Woodstock, in stunned shock along with the rest of the world at the events of this morning. You remember that the day started as an ordinary day; you got to GPC about 8:40 for your 2D Design class at 9 a.m. You sat there with Heather and Birgit, laughing and chatting as you worked, until Inna Dereshinsky came in late with the horrifying news that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. Cathryn Miles found a boombox from somewhere, and you three tried to keep working while you listened to the static-y broadcast. But by 10:30 you had all given up any pretense of work, and at 11 Cathryn took pity on you and dismissed the class. The TV room in the student center was jammed, but you found space on the floor and watched the news footage with Connie and Tina, seeing again and again the plane hit the second tower and then the collapse, one after the other, of both towers. When you could stand no more, you left for your office, just before things turned ugly as Muslim and non-Muslim students got into an altercation. Dr. McCurdy rightly shut the campus down and sent the students home, then the staff and faculty, but you could only wait until you could leave. As more and more news and reaction came over the Internet, you fretted and worried more and more. Randy was at Woodward — would he get home safely? Nick was in Phoenix, due to come back the next day — what would happen there? So you sit there now, trying to make sense of the senseless and failing.
As I write to you, it is five years to the day after that seminal event. Although you didn’t lose anyone you knew in the attacks, September 11, 2001 becomes the first day of a period that will completely change the life you know now. I won’t sugar-coat it. The next two years will be hell, the worst two years of your life so far. That well-known stress measurement scale? You’ll be completely off the chart — divorce, illness, death of a beloved family member, Randy leaving for college, moving not once but twice, and that’s just the really big stuff. Those two years will be cold, lonely, uncomfortable physically and mentally, and make you question everything you have ever known, believed, or dreamed. You will have to draw on all the strength you have developed over the decades to survive it.
You will survive, and in the end make the life you always wanted for yourself. Don’t be surprised at the changes that occur in you. Don’t be surprised at the unexpected opportunities that show up, the unexpected friends that you find. In the end, you will be happier than you have ever been before, and you will find the love that you’ve long yearned for.
And five years from now, you will sit at the computer in your own home, and write this letter, and you will know how fortunate you are. For you, the life you will have will be worth the hell you will go through.
But you will never forget, and you will remember those who died, and those whose lives were irrevocably changed by today.
The Julia of September 11, 2006