I will never forget where I was when the towers fell on September 11th: I was on my living room sofa, glued to every second of the coverage. I remember the feeling of wanting to rub my eyes to ensure what I was seeing was real. My heart pounded out of my chest: I was safe in my home on the other side of the country, yet felt so panicked, vulnerable, assaulted.
I was holding Spencer, who was just 4 months old, wondering if he could feel the tension, the emotion, the air that felt like it had been sucked out of the room. We were a new family, still in the throes of how to be parents, still trying to orient ourselves around this new person that had come to into our lives. Our little world had just forever changed, and on September it was clear that the world outside our little home would also never be the same.
My husband had proposed to me just a few years before, on an airplane (that’s where we met). Unbeknownst to me, he had shown the gate agents the ring and they were so excited they gave us a free upgrade. When he proposed the captain came out of the cockpit to do a champagne toast with us. I didn’t know then that airplanes would never again be a happy place, and captains would be locked into their cockpits to ensure our safety. I travel a ton for work and to see family back east, and while I love those trips, air travel has become a somber experience. I think about those people who collided with a skyscraper every time I board a flight— to pay respect to their memories, to acknowledge the cruel randomness of their selection to be taken from us that day as they went about their lives, on a work trip or a family visit that should have been like any other.
Today, as I’m thinking of lives lost and all those families who were ripped apart on this day 16 years ago during the 9/11 tragedy. I want to share with you the work of a dear friend and author Allison Gilbert. Allison wrote an intense book about her experience, and that of many other broadcast journalists, covering the 9/11 attack at CNN. Covering Catastrophe is an intense patchwork of quotes, capturing the intensity of news reporters in a crisis, both from a vocational standpoint, and a human one.
Allison has written heartbreakingly about the loved ones she’s lost in her own life: In Parentless Parents, she explores how the loss of ones parents informs your own ability to parent. Her children never met her mother, and her father died when her oldest was just 18 months old. As time marches on in my own family, I am so grateful I can share my children with my parents, and that my children have such a strong bond with my parents. I don’t take for granted that every day is a gift, which is why we’ve oriented our summers around being in Canada each and every year since they were born. They’ll have those memories of being by the lake with my parents for a lifetime— crafting puns and matching wits with my father, Scrabble and cuddling with my mom.
Allison’s latest book, Passed and Present is a clever collection of ways to keep memories of lost loved ones alive. Her ability to channel grief into a celebration of life was such a revelation for me to read, and it has inspired me to take some of the artifacts and keepsakes I have of my grandparents, who my children never met (my last surviving grandparent passed away when my eldest was one year old). and turn them into mementos that my family can enjoy for generations to come. It’s a small book, great for gift-giving, and full of levity, in as much as a book about death and loss can be. I’ve always believed that the key to healing from any trauma is to find something tangible and directed to do about it. This book is full of so many ideas that can take grief and sadness and direct it into projects that can help you process loss.
Lastly, Allison Gilbert serves as Executive Family & Memories Editor for Legacy Republic, the fastest growing memory-preservation company in the world. Their Memory Makeover Kits make easy work of getting old photos and videos out of dusty attic boxes and onto CDs or thumb drives, so you can post them to social media, add them to smartphone photo albums or otherwise enjoy them in the digital age. I am going to be ordering some boxes soon, so a full review will be in the works, but wanted to share it with you today, as we’re all remembering those who lost their lives 16 years ago, or remembering our own loved ones that are no longer here.
If any good can come of tragic loss, it’s that it becomes a bellwether for others: To slow down, to recognize that life is fleeting, to hug your family tighter and let them know how much you love them.
I’d love for you to share any memories you have of 9/11, or memories of loved ones you’ve lost in the comments today. Hugs.