Where were you when the world stopped turning, that September day?

You most likely remember exactly where you were, when you saw those first images on TV. Horror has a way of leaving an indelible mark on our psyche.

I remember those images. I remember those horrible sights and sounds, but while most of America was realizing the tragedy that was unfolding in front of their eyes, I was living out a personal tragedy.

September 11, 2001, I took my father in law to his doctors appointment where they looked me in the eye and without a doubt confirmed that he had Alzheimers.

The horrors of New York City seem to dim momentarily next to the awful realization of what this would mean for me, for my husband, for our family and for him.

I remember as I left the office, The secretary asked me if I had seen the telecast yet. I looked right through her and shook my head, I wanted to scream, “Lady, I just found out my father in law is literally losing his mind. I can’t handle anything else.”

In the days that followed, America seemed glued to their televisions. A sense of utter helplessness seemed to settle on all of us. Mine, for different reasons.

I saw pictures of people with blank looks in their eyes as they retold the story of their escape to new reporters.  I would look at him, in the chair with the same blank look, rolling his sleeves up and down, pausing to pick at some imaginary blemish on his arms.

While angry people questioned how a loving God could allow this, I asked Him how in the world I was going to handle a family, a job, and a father in law who could no longer remember to eat, or where he lived.

As tragedy settles, it leaves a large gaping hole in our hearts. I began to realize that the brief two years of sobriety were now to be replaced by an even deeper fog than alcohol.  Much too short of time for my girls to know their Pawpaw.

As the days turned to weeks and weeks into years, a new normal was reached. Americans grew accustomed to long detailed airport security, nightly newscasts that discussed Al Quida and Bin Laden, and talks of Middle East invasions.

I too developed a new normal.  We learned to lock the doors when he began to wander at night.  We grew used to fighting with him about driving, until finally Wayne “broke” his truck by removing some wire. 

We no longer flinched when he smiled, but didn’t know our names.  I learned to ignore the impatience that would well up in me as he asked me over and over the same simple question.

A man with Alzheimer’s is a small tragedy in comparison to the massacre of 9/11. But to me, it was a tragedy that was enormous. I cried on 9/11/2001 and probably for a different reason than you. While you may have cried for what had happened, I cried for what was to come.




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