It’s 9/11. I’m certain I don’t need to tell you that – even if you don’t have strong memories of your own on this day, social media is plastered with reminders and #neverforget hashtags of the fifteenth anniversary of this grim day in our history. The attacks may have been only on U.S. soil, but this was without question a tragedy that reverberated worldwide.
I was living in Toronto at the time, and was on my way to work when the subway I was riding shut down. (Coincidentally – or not – I would later learn it stopped at the same time the first plane struck the first tower.) I was immediately annoyed because I knew the delay was going to make me late for work and my bosses were a little inflexible about that sort of thing. I finally made it to my stop and rushed in, Starbucks-less thanks to the delay (more annoyance), expecting to catch some heat for being late. Instead, my coworkers were all huddled around a computer saying crazy things to me like, “A plane just flew into the Twin Towers.” What? No. That’s crazy. Gotta be some sick internet hoax or freak accident, how could a plane just fly into a tower like that? It made no sense.
Well then we all know what happened next.
I had been living there at that point for almost two years and I knew it to be sort of an unforgiving city at times; a me against them kind of place. Which is why I will never forget the change I felt that day. There were no honking horns, no yelling, and little to no laughter. Conversations were hushed. Apologies were more profuse. Heads were down, faces were sombre, hearts were heavy. SWAT teams flew down the street with their sirens screaming and we all wondered to ourselves if there was a threat at our doorstep. The aggressive, energetic city I knew was subdued; in shock. I was in shock. I had never wanted to pick up and leave for the safety of my parent’s home more in my life than that day. My anxiety hit an all-time high, and this was before I even knew I was dealing with an anxiety disorder so it went off the rails unchecked with no methods of coping at my disposal. I was a distraught mess for many days. I had never been so affected by something that didn’t *actually* affect me personally at all. I lost no friends that day, but I grieved nonetheless. It was surreal.
A few days after the attacks, a couple guys in the apartment across from me were out on their balcony, blasting music, laughing and dancing. I remember thinking how inappropriate that was; the world just suffered a massive loss and they’re out there acting like it never happened? How could they? Jerks. They should be glued to their TV like I was, desperately trying to make sense of what happened, right?
Yeah maybe. Or maybe not.
Grief is personal. There is no right way to react to tragedy. What seems wrong to me might feel right to you, and vice versa. It’s not for me or anyone else to tell you how to process it, or when it’s ok to laugh again. The important thing isn’t when you allow yourself to laugh again – it’s that you allow yourself to laugh again. Life is going to give you a thousand reasons to harden you. It’s going to break your heart and make you feel the only way to survive this world is to close it off forever.
No matter how much your world changes, or how long it takes you, please share your love and laughter again.
The world needs that more than anything.
Peace and love to you all, on this day and every day.