The Day After 9/11: Where did it Lead You?
5 Part Series: The Meaning Within Tragedy
We are beginning a 5-part series today that includes a reflective story about meaningfulness. You have a purpose. You have a mission. You are called to do something. This series will prompt you to think about what that is, what is in your way, and what you are doing about it.
Angie Nuttle and unnamed Marine, Iraq (May 2004).
PART 1: The Day After 9/11: Where did it lead you?
Every year on September 11, I review my photos that were taken in Iraq. I was there for 3 years as a defense contractor. I also find myself drawn to the History Channel. I watch the 9/11 attacks, relive the moments, and share the story with my 9 year-old daughter, Mackenzie.
This year, she asks, "Why did that happen?"
My normal response is something like, "Because there are people who don't like us and want to kill us so they will feel better about themselves."
This year, I have a different response than the usual "because some people just do bad stuff". It's prompted by the fact that Mackenzie has had a rough day at her new school, is struggling to find her place there, and is bewildered at the thought of being an outsider.
This is a teachable moment.
"The important question to ask is, What do you do afterward?"
I begin telling her my story of 9/11's impact on my life, and how it woke up a meaningful mission that would forever change my trajectory. She is ready to hear the real story.
"On that day, I was sitting in a hotel room watching TV. I had a great job working with women on welfare who were trying to get back into the workforce and start a career. I had just cancelled a career workshop I was supposed to lead because I was sick with the flu.
The horrific scenes were mesmerizing. I could feel myself seething with hurt, anger, and mortification. Not only was I upset for our country, but I also felt that my value of freedom was being trampled on.
Later that evening, I was feeling a little better and wanted to be with other people. I went down to the restaurant pub, and sat near a few others who were talking about the tragedy. We all connected instantly, and agreed that we were stunned. One by one, we processed our stories and how we saw the day unfold as we sat there in helplessness.
The day was surreal. The whole world was shocked. The air was pulsating with anger, hurt, and threat. I went to bed that night looking for comfort and relief from the draining pain that was throbbing in my head and heart."
Mackenzie is listening intently now without interruption. This is pretty much a miracle because she normally loses interest after 60 seconds. I continue with the story.
"The next day, the streets are empty. It is so eery, and I feel the country's fear flooding everything. I'm out of town, away from my family, feeling vulnerable, and I wonder...
What am I supposed to do with this?
My workshop is cancelled again, and I am waiting for my CEO to give me the okay to make the 3 hour trip home. What do I do? I'm restless and need to act somehow.
I start journaling. I capture all my thoughts, ask myself what I can do to help this situation, and I pray to God for direction. I write random thoughts down throughout the day. There is a sense of urgency working in me. Something is waking up. I feel it in my soul and my spirit.
I don't realize at the time that this is a life-changing moment.
I don't know that 2 years and 7 months from the 9/11 tragedy, I will be going to Iraq to stand for my country and support our military forces as a defense contractor.
I don't know that starting May 1, 2004, I will experience the most challenging moments of my existence (particularly as a woman) as I face unfathomable circumstances in a war zone.
I don't know that in October, 2005, I will meet my future husband in Tal Afar, Iraq, and later have a beautiful daughter with him on March 13, 2008
I don't know that in 2017, I will be sitting here as a business owner, wife, and mother, encouraging my youngest superstar kid to find her purpose.
This is where 9/11 has led me. It was a terrible event and it was designed to injure us- our country and our spirit!
But, as you can see, there is meaning within tragedy. Meaning is born out of tragedy. Our job is to stand up in times like these, not sit down and hide like a victim. We push forward, take what has been given to us, and turn it into meaningfulness."
As I come back to the present with Mackenzie, I am talking to her about the experience she is having at school, and I ask:
"Where will today's events lead you tomorrow?"
She shrugs and starts processing. It's been a long day and I know she's working on something. We will see what unfolds tomorrow.
Reflection Questions For You
Where did 9/11 lead you? Think about it.