By Beth Keil
This September 11 was the tenth anniversary of 9/11. There are times in our lives when we remember where we were and what we were doing and 9/11 is one of those times. I was a visiting nurse at a patient’s home who was quite irate her morning TV program, Jerry Springer, was preempted. There on her large screen TV was a scene being played out I couldn’t comprehend. I knew it was the World Trade Towers as they were a sight I used to see every day from my bedroom when I lived in NJ. Needless to say I couldn’t focus on the news while my patient was ranting.
As the day unfolded I tried to make sense of what was happening. My children were dismissed early from school as many other children were. My immediate reaction was to protect them. I was able to keep them occupied while I watched the news trying to process what was going on so I could explain to them what had happened. How I wanted them to feel safe. The safety I felt growing up was something they would no longer have. I can’t convey how sad that made me feel.
I had a personal connection to these events as a close friend from high school worked blocks away from the towers and was there as they plunged to the ground. I wasn’t able to contact him by cell phone until a day later and up till then I didn’t know if he and his family were safe.
Those were long days, weeks, and months that followed those day’s events.
Fast forward a few months later. I had just finished working a 12 hour day. I hadn’t eaten all day and was grumpy; now I was driving home knowing I’d be working 12 hours the next day. As I was merging onto the highway I noticed this large, bright full moon set in the dark sky. It was if I hadn’t seen it for years. As I looked at the moon it was then I realized something I hadn’t felt for some time—JOY. The events of 9/11 had taken joy out of my life. I had had happy moments but that was different. Joy to me is more like the foundation of a home while happy is the contents of the room. Rooms can be redecorated but a foundation is what everything else rests on.
I briefly gazed at the moon while keeping my eye on the road realizing if I hadn’t worked as long as I had I would have missed this wondrous site! The day then melted into the background. I recalled the words of my friend, Leslie, had shared a few weeks earlier: “I won’t let a terrorist take joy out of my life. If I do then they’ve won.” I hadn’t fully appreciated these words when she spoke them but I did now.
It doesn’t have to be a person who takes joy away, it could be the events in one’s life, too. It can be easy to be joyful when life is going well but it’s another thing when life is hard, sad, and difficult, when you have to create joy for yourself. Perhaps it’s this quality of creating from within that leads to resiliency, to be able to move through even the most horrific of events and do more than survive but thrive. We all need skills, tools and resources so when we are the ones creating our foundation we are up to the task of creating our JOY.