Finding Hope in Tragedy

Image used with permission (as given on site) from
Image used with permission (as given on site) from

Normally I try to avoid 9/11 coverage like the plague because I simply don’t want to be reminded of that dark day in our country’s history. But this year, an incredible book called A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner has made me finally face my feelings about what happened 13 years ago. I’m not finished reading it yet, but this tale of two women – separated by a century, yet bound together by loss (one on 9/11) and a mysterious marigold scarf – is teaching me that hope can come even from the bleakest of tragedies, that new beginnings can spring from death.

I was fortunate to not be directly or in any way closely affected by the events of that day. I don’t know anyone who was there or who lost someone. I can’t begin to imagine what the victims, their families, the first responders and the citizens of New York City went through. I am in no way comparing my minor experience to theirs. But the truth is, we were all affected in some way – even on a micro scale – on that bright September morning.

I was 22 and only three months away from college graduation in September 2001. My memory of finding out about the attacks is as vivid today as it was then. I was driving to school on Natural Bridge Road when the Kill Hannah CD I was listening to ended and the radio popped on as I changed CDs. It was tuned to some obnoxious morning show, so when I first heard about the planes hitting the Twin Towers moments before, I thought it was some kind of sick joke. But as I merged on to highway 170, it became clear this was chillingly real.

I drove to school in a daze, listening in horror as the news unfolded that it was a terrorist attack and that many people were trapped. Once at school, I parked and ran for the cafeteria, the only place on campus with a TV. Sitting with my friend and fellow international business major, Shawn, I watched the towers collapse. We both looked at each other in shock. Part of the reason we were friends was a shared dream of working at the World Trade Center, a dream that had just died before our very eyes in the most terrible way.

Like a lot of Americans, I developed a fear of flying for several years after 9/11. Me, the girl who took her first trip to Europe at 11 and was only recently returned from England, my first trip without my parents. The girl whose sole focus during college (other than local bands) was on gaining the skills to travel the world doing whatever job I ended up with when I graduated. Not only did the economy collapse that day, making getting a job very hard after I graduated, the terrorist attacks destroyed my dream job and killed my desire to be a globe trotting jet-setter. Suddenly I was about to graduate with no clue what to do with my life.

fallofmarigoldsA Fall of Marigolds is very much about the limbo time between tragedy and beginning a new life. That’s what the next seven years would be for me. Maybe they would have been like that had 9/11 not happened – I don’t know. But because of the terrible job market, I ended up having to take a job at a tiny non-profit that paid next to nothing and where I was miserable. I stayed for a year before getting a job at my current employer. Little did I know then that I was destined to become a writer.

I was already writing my first Guinevere novel, but it was just a hobby, something I did when I got bored. I only had three chapters written and I never even dreamed of publishing it. (It wouldn’t be until 2008 that started taking my writing seriously.) At that moment, it had been years since I’d touched the book and I had no intention of continuing. But as I grew increasingly frustrated with my day job, I realized I had to do something on the side that made me happy. I thought back to college and my second major, English (which had started out as a minor), and realized that something was writing. If I wasn’t going to travel the world in my day job (thanks, terrorists), why not write and at least hopefully affect readers around the world?

So, in a roundabout way, the events of 9/11 led me to becoming a writer. I lost one career that day, but was unconsciously set on the path that would lead me to where I am today. I know this is nothing compared to what many experienced as a result of 9/11 and I am in no way attempting to upstage or take away from them. This is simply my story, my ray of hope from an unthinkably terrible day.

What do you remember about 9/11? What is your story? Have you found a ray of hope from the events? Have you read A Fall of Marigolds? What do you think of it?

(Before I realized what day it is, I was going to post about something that likely will ruffle some feathers, but you’ll have to wait until October for that one…I’m such a tease.)


4 thoughts on “Finding Hope in Tragedy

  1. Shauna Granger

    It’s so strange, you had almost an identical experience that I did. I had just started my sophomore year at college and was commuting to school. It was very early here (in CA), but I actually didn’t know what the WTC was and that morning I hadn’t turned on the news while I got ready (which I normally did). So, when I turned off my CD to listen to my favorite morning show, they were talking about it and, because of where I came in, I thought it was a remembrance day or something – I had no idea what I was walking into at school. But I quickly realized my mistake when I got to school. It was eerily deserted because everyone was inside, plastered to TVs. I ran to the Student Union Building and watched in horror with others. And I cried. I too didn’t know anyone immediately affected, but I cried with my friends. I remember how callous I felt wearing a tank top with a skull and crossbones on it. I remember my friend, who’d joined the military after we graduated HS, calling me on my cell to make sure he had a chance to say goodbye before he was activated, because that was definitely happening. You’re right; we were all affected that day, in some way.

    1. I can’t imagine what it must have been like talking to your friend. You must have been so scared for him. But yeah, it is strange that we had such similar experiences – but I bet there are more people out there like us, a lot of college students.

  2. Gordon Levine

    My wife and I live in California, but our son went to NYU (and lived in NYC) to continue his studies. I’m originally from Brooklyn but left in 1947 to come out West. We received a very early morning phone call from our son. First words were” I’m alright, but turn on the TV.” We turned it on and just watched in shock the rest of the day. He and his friends were on their building roof watching. Horrible. We still have nightmares about it,

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