After the attacks, everybody wanted to share their stories. Where were you? What were you doing? Did we really care where anybody else was? Not really, I think everybody just wanted to share their own story…and ten years later, we’re doing it again. With a bit more perspective, but only a bit.
September 11 means something different to anyone who lost a loved one. I can’t imagine that pain. The senseless loss. The collective mourning, but yet…your loss being so personal. I cannot imagine. The rest of us, the lucky ones, we all experience September 11 in a completely different way.
I am having a tough time with the ten year anniversary. Not because of the reminder of the attacks, because, well, frankly, who has forgotten? Nobody has forgotten. It’s not a reminder of that. It’s a reminder of ten years passing by and feeling like a blink. For me it’s a reminder of who I was then and who I am now…so much the same and yet so different.
Ten years ago I had just finished up school. I attended the Cleveland Institute of Music for college and then stayed on to do my graduate work as well. I won a position with the Charlotte Symphony on May 21, 2001, (read my orchestra auditions post for more information on that process!) and spent the summer in Cleveland working part time and hanging out with my friends, including Sarah, who will be one of my bridesmaids and has been my best friend since the summer of 1998. Chris and I had been dating for just over two years and we were having trouble deciding whether or not to make a go of it long-distance. I wanted to, he was apprehensive. We did agree to continue dating.
I moved to Charlotte in chunks. I didn’t own any real furniture to speak of other than a small wooden futon, but I had music, books, clothing, and naturally (it was 2001) CD’s and videos. My father had been up during the summer and I had loaded down his car with some boxes of stuff. I went down to visit at some point in the summer and found a place to live in Charlotte.
I could dig out my calendar and find the real timetable, but a few days before September 11 I left Cleveland and went to Charlotte to sign my lease and drop some stuff off at my apartment. I then drove two hours to my parents’ house and planned to load up some more things, including some furniture they were giving me, and was going to drive up again on September 11. The following day I had a meeting with the personnel manager of the orchestra, then a few more days to get organized and perhaps visit my parents again, before work started the following week. Like I said, I don’t remember the exact timetable.
I was 23 years old. I was young, fresh-faced, idealistic, and was just at the beginning of my career. I planned to do some teaching, but hadn’t done much yet. I couldn’t WAIT to use my violin skills in an awesome professional orchestra. I felt incredibly lucky to have won a job, and yet thought really highly of myself as well for having done so. I still called adults by Mr. and Mrs. insert last name, and I had never really lived on my own before. (dramatic statement ahead) I felt as if I had my whole life in front of me, and the possibilities were endless, limitless, and amazing. I really couldn’t wait to start my job. I was…king of the world! (Okay, I”m sorry I said that. But I’m not taking it back. I really felt like that!)
The morning of September 11 my parents went to work. I was in my old bedroom (it later became Carrie’s, I think, but not yet) and was woken up repeatedly by the phone ringing. I remember being annoyed because I wanted to sleep in. I got up around 10:30 am, checked my email (AOL dial up), even sent a few emails to friends (I didn’t have my own computer, so this was my last chance for awhile), and got into my car.
I drove a bit and then turned on NPR after a few miles. You can imagine my shock. I didn’t understand what was going on. I drove for two hours to Charlotte in fear and confusion. By the time I hit the road both towers had already fallen. I couldn’t get through to anyone on my cell phone, so I just decided to continue on through to Charlotte, get there, hook up the television and antenna, and figure out my next move. I finally left a message for Chris but didn’t get to talk to him for hours.
I didn’t really understand the scope of it until I unloaded my car in Charlotte. I plugged in the television and antenna, and it was then I saw my first footage of the planes going into the buildings, the buildings on fire, and ultimately, the buildings collapsing.
I did finally get in touch with Chris and some other friends as well. My mom had been calling the house all morning, to tell me to get up, turn on the TV, and maybe to not go to Charlotte. I can’t remember if I stayed the night in Charlotte or if I drove back that night, but I remember spending at least two days at home on the couch with my mother watching Peter Jennings on ABC. Peter Jennings brought us through the disaster. (When he died a few years ago I felt true pain because I felt so connected to him during this time.)
We all know the rest of the story of 9/11. For weeks we all were afraid something else would happen. We as a people considered giving up so many liberties and privileges (and did give up many things) in exchange for “safety.” But that’s not the subject of this post.
What is the rest of my story? Obviously I’m not in Charlotte anymore. I learned quickly that my concept of what a professional orchestra career would be like was very different from my reality. I was SO excited. I remember how disappointed I was FROM DAY ONE in my job. Nobody cared. Nobody tried to play well. I kept taking auditions. I wanted to get out, to move one. One member of the orchestra told me I needed to just settle down and realize that this was as far as I was going to get. I was 24 years old at that time! Give up???? I haven’t given up ten years later—I am not ever going to give up and settle in my life, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to do at 24.
After two years, I left. One of the things I am most proud of with myself is my ability to LEAVE things and people that make me unhappy. I’m a quitter, in a way, but I quit things for myself, for my own happiness, to start something new and better. I’ve never regretted leaving the Charlotte Symphony. I’m sure it’s a different place now—I know some people play there now and really enjoy it, and that’s great for them. It wasn’t for me.
I went back to Cleveland, where I started freelancing and teaching like a madman. I learned how to make opportunities for myself, how to teach children, how to deal with people (well, still working on that) and how to work 70 hour weeks. Was Cleveland awesome? No. But I put together a basically full-time orchestra and teaching career and made enough money to do what I wanted to do, more than enough money.
But then we moved to St Louis. My career here is VERY slow. And that hurts, so much of the time. But I feel like things are starting to turn around. I love this blog. I am really liking my new teaching job, which could become full-time, if I want a full-time job. I LOVE playing with Chamber Project St Louis, and I have so many more interests and varied friendships than I ever have.
I miss orchestra playing most of the time though—it leaves a void that I keep trying to fill and fail to do so—but I need to remember that I am only 33 and who KNOWS where I (we) will be in ten years. On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I plan to look back and see how much farther I have come, and I hope I am more proud of myself. I would make some goals for myself, but I prefer to take things as they come. You never know what life is going to throw at you or what opportunities will present themselves, but you can be ready to go with the flow and do what needs to be done.
The other day a friend of mine told me I would always do well in life because I was the most resourceful person she knew. It meant so much to me to hear that. I think that’s a strength I often forget I have, that I will come up with solutions to problems, and that I am not afraid of hard work and trying new things to get to where I need to be.
Let us go forward from today with hope and love for our fellow humans. I saw this quote on a friend’s twitter this morning:
Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered…just 1 kind word to another person. -Mr. Rogers