Monday, September 12, 2011

It's Never too late to Remember

Ten years ago yesterday, I was late to work.  I was at home, getting ready to go to my dental appointment to have my teeth cleaned.  Back then, I liked to schedule my appointments first thing in the morning and then go to work afterward. I reasoned it cost me less time from work.  Since then, I’ve undergone a shift in feelings. I now prefer to schedule my appointments at the end of the day so I can have both my work day and my appointment over and done with. 

On September 11, 2001, I was finishing up a glass of tea and preparing to leave when my husband called to tell me a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Being that I live in California, and I had an appointment to make, I didn’t allow myself to fully grasp what he was telling me. Instead, I recall giving some muted response about that being terrible and I’d talk to him later.  The news still didn’t seem particularly grave when I arrived at the dentist’s office. The tiny office was pretty empty at eight thirty in the morning. I do remember Kelly, my hygienist, asking me if I’d heard about the attack on the World Trade Center to which I could only give a garbled affirmative reply owing to the fact that her hands were crammed into my mouth.

It wasn’t until I got to work an hour later that I began to understand what was happening and just how serious it was. All of my coworkers were gathered around the radio atop one person’s desk. Work was forgotten and the mood was somber as we listened to the reports pouring in about not only the World Trade Center but the Pentagon and the high jacked United flights. It all seemed unreal, and I had no idea the influence it would have on my life as well as my writing career.

Like many Americans, my sense of Patriotism heightened after the nine eleven terrorist attacks. I watched the news reports closely and became more emotionally invested in the United States military. It was that investment that prompted me to join an organization that participates in outreach to deployed service members. I made donations to my local veteran’s hospital as well as the United Service Organization and still wished I could do more. I can only attribute this feeling to the fact that it was the first war of my adult life. The first Gulf war took place when I was a naïve teen with no real grasp on its far reaching consequences. With a little more maturity and experience under my belt, I suppose came more empathy and perhaps even a little fear.

Doing more came just a few short years later. The attack of one of our convoys carrying non combat service members and the kidnapping of Jessica Lynch had a profound effect on me as did the kidnapping and beheading of American civilian workers. Overwhelmed with a myriad of emotions, I did what most writers do best when they need a way to express themselves. I wrote. Not only did I write, but I wrote a contemporary chick lit novel entitled Letters from Linc. The crux of the story explores the relationship between twenty-two year old Marine private Todd Lincoln and his new wife, Erica. I wrote the story for me, as a way to purge my soul, and I had no idea just how much it would resonate. So many people felt a connection to Linc and Erica and their story.

Not long after the novel was released, revelations about the conditions of our nation’s military hospitals began to surface. I was appalled to hear our beleaguered hospitals were nothing short of squalid. Overcome with a combination of rage and sadness, I made the decision to donate 100% of the royalties from the sales of Letters from Linc to our nation’s military hospitals, a decision still in practice today.

As a result of this decision, I’ve had the privilege of meeting people I might not have otherwise met and doing things I likely wouldn’t have done. I’ve appeared on radio and television in the name of this cause. I’ve shared it with veteran’s publications who’ve shared with their readers. I’ve participated in events designed to bring awareness to issues our troops are facing and even had the honor of meeting local veterans with amazing accomplishments. I’ve spoken on the telephone with an aspiring congressman keen to improve things for our vets, and I’ve made friends with people involved in veteran’s organizations designed to provide the best opportunities for vets coming home from the war.

Ten years ago yesterday, when I stood in my kitchen, I didn’t know what I’d be inspired to do or what I’d accomplish. Though I’d rather have the ability to rewrite history and undo this tragedy, I can take comfort in the creation of something good from something so senseless. 

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