How I found home after 9/11

Photograph I look of a poster that hung in my dorm room over the TV. Thirteen years ago I was a senior at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York (a suburb of the big city). In the evening I crawled into bed, set my alarm and shut off the lights. “Oh!” I thought, “I almost forgot! It’s September 10th. Ten days until my birthday!” – a funny date that I’d celebrated in my head since I was five-years-old. As I lay in bed I thought about what a great day it was, the sunny weather and how much I loved being back in New York for school.

Just before 9 a.m. my radio alarm went off but it sounded so odd because there wasn’t music or the morning DJ. An evening news voice repeated that we were under terrorist attack. An airplane had been hijacked and flown into one of the Twin Towers. Within seconds I jumped out of bed, turned on the TV, yelled at my housemates, and saw the second plane hit the South Tower.

I had never been to the World Trade Center.

Seeing the view from the top of the Towers was on my list of touristy things to do before I graduated. As I watched the TV and saw smoke pour from the buildings I flashed back to the first time I visited “the city” with my mom when I was in high school. We chatted it up with a NYPD officer and he asked where we were from and how many people lived in our suburb of Portland. He then pointed with this thick finger to a tall building behind him and said, “Your town could fit in that building. There are 40,000 people in that building alone.” I could still hear his voice echo in my head as I watched the first tower collapse. Emotionally, I fell to my knees.

During the days and weeks following the attacks there were frequent bomb threats at subways and Grand Central Station, photos of missing people on every corner, and rumors of substantially larger attacks. Most people I spoke with were so sure it wasn't a matter of if another attack would happen but only a matter of when

On another beautiful fall day I sat at my desk in my cozy dorm room looking out the window in a trance. Thoughts spun in my head about what another attack could look like, where it would be and whether I would be there. I imagined what it was like for those on the airplanes calling their wives or parents to say they loved them one last time.

Then I noticed something out my window. A small, single flower sat under the tree. I stood up and stared out the window stunned by the appearance of this flower blooming in the fall.

Then a voice inside me said:

Flowers are still blooming.

Babies are still being born.

The earth is still going on.

I stopped. Completely. Stopped. It was as if no other thought could enter my mind but to witness that joy and beauty carried on. The earth still bloomed. And it was all happening now. It was happening while I was in my trance. I just couldn’t see it. 

Once I could see it, I began looking for it everywhere… and there it was: the ripples of a small stream, a leaf turning orange, the laughter of friends, or a smile from a stranger.

What I know now is that joy and beauty carried on inside me too. In fact, we all have an anchor of peace that never leaves us even in the darkest times.

That place is our true home.

Sometimes we need some help accessing it, but it is there. How else would you recognize joy, peace or beauty in the world if it wasn't right there inside you? 

Do you notice your anchor of peace? Where have you recognized it in your life? Do you sense it right now?

I have gone through other heartbreaks over the last 13-years and have felt lost on my path more than once, but I never forgot about the experience of seeing the flower and hearing the voice inside me.

Nature has this amazing way of bringing me home, to remind me that the wellness I see in her is in me, as it is in you.