Six weeks after 9/11, Ted sent me three people: a therapist, our Mrs. Doubtfire, and a business partner. It is these three people who escorted me through that incredible first year.
Instantly, it was clear to me that the world as we knew it was gone forever. Every rule had been shattered. Every norm was broken. All bets were off. And while this was very unsettling, it also presented a new opportunity to do things differently. People were trapped in the shock and sadness of such horrific and unfair losses. There was no logic to it. It was simply wrong. But I was determined not to let Ted (and the others) die in vain. I would push through and fight. I would make something good come from this nightmare. Both of our families came apart — the dysfunction exploded on both sides. I could see that wherever people had been emotionally ‘broken’ before 9/11, that that behavior was now intensified and they broke even further. The attacks of 9/11 set off an emotional centrifugal force that we are still spinning from today.
It was a time of being incredibly open. Shock and pain will do that. But nature took care of me. It gave me a necessary numbness. When I slept it was blank. I would go through my days well. Although there was always a great sense of worry I wasn’t often consumed by it. My children filled me with joy and kept me in the moment. Baby Timmy saved me. When I was sad, all I had to do was look at his beautiful, happy face and I would smile through my tears.
Things around me were pronounced, highlighted, and surreal. Three weeks after 9/11, I read a passage on the back of a non-descript grief pamphlet that said it all. I told Jen and Billy that night as I tucked them in. It said, “Although we have lost so much, we still have so much left.” Their little faces lit up with the brightest smiles. They just wanted to know that it would all be okay; that this sadness and confusion would end one day. As children cocooned in their little ego centric worlds, they just needed to know that they would be okay. This is one of the strange ‘benefits’ of young children who experience loss or trauma. They are given a little delay by nature.
So I opened the door and we walked through it with trust and faith that we would not only be fine but also better for having lived it. There were many signs from Ted that gave me the strength to persevere. I trusted them with blind faith. I knew he would want me to take the kids forward in a positive direction and I know he’s been helping me ever since.
The summer before Ted died, I looked at him one night and saw defeat. He was exhausted. Spent. It was a difficult time in our marriage. I was 41 and lactating, raising a third, unplanned child. His job and our finances were unstable because he was promoting a new electronic trading platform and the company couldn’t figure out the compensation. His family was being annoying, demanding and unreasonable (an understatement). Looking back on it now, it was as though he sacrificed himself so that we could break free of the generational chains of this (not uncommon American) family dysfunction.