My 9/11 Story. How September 11, 2001 has shaped my life...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I thought I would take a pause from the all of the celebrations we so proudly share on our blog to instead, get a little personal. September 11th is my least favorite day of the year. I am sure I am not alone in that. In fact, the whole week is a bit somber and emotional for me. Everyone has a 9/11 story, and mine is an unlikely one. In an effort of transparency, I thought I would share a bit about my experience with the direct impacts the events of that fateful day have had on my life.

I was fortunate, at the time (12 years ago) to not personally know anyone that perished in the Towers or the Pentagon, or in the field in Pennsylvania. I watched the news unfold on my television 1500 miles away at the University of Miami, where I was a senior studying Psychology. But the tragic events of 9/11 would come to shape the course of my career, and subsequently my life.

In the months following 9/11 my interest in the field of criminal justice peaked and I increased my last few semester course loads by adding classes in all realms of the discipline. I began to look at graduate schools that would allow me to study and investigate deviant and criminal behavior, the sociology behind criminal movements and terrorism. I earned my first graduate degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2004, while the country was ramping up detection and mitigation programs that seem so second nature today; departments like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the resurgence of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). My path into the field was not a direct one, as I did spend a few years in the field of forensic sociology where I worked in the New York Supreme Courts and on Riker's Island, assessing the amenability of mentally ill offenders to succeed in alternative to incarceration programs. I was green, it was raw and I quickly learned that I had a pretty quick shelf-life in the position. I did though, go back to graduate school for a second time, studying toward a Masters Degree in Protection Management, and I took a leap of faith by leaving my position with the courts for an internship at a counter-terrorism department within NJ state government. That internship turned into a permanent analyst position within weeks and I spent a couple years on some really amazing projects before I left to join the largest transportation agency in the country.

That agency owns the World Trade Center... and nearly every piece of critical infrastructure (transportation and otherwise) in the region, perhaps some of the most nationally significant tunnels and bridges and landmarks in the country, if not the world. It means that I joined a team, a family, of colleagues and co-workers that had been there on that day. And quickly my paradigm changed from having known no one who was personally impacted by the events of that day, to being surrounded by people that ran for their lives that day (some successfully, some not). In fact, some of my colleagues have survived not one, but two terrorist attacks (let's not forget 1993). And I have been a part of that organization ever since. These survivors, the tributes to those that did not make it that day that hang on all the walls of my office, and my professional mission in this position are constant reminders of how quickly everything can change. How fluid, and sometimes unfair, life can be, but also what it means to pick up after the disaster and rebuild (and I am not talking about buildings.)

But that's not my whole story. I also own a floral and event design company. Both my husband, Dave, and I do. But what a lot of people do not know is that we both work for the transportation agency as well. We work out of an emergency management office so we are on call even when we are not, and we have been called to respond to some sobering incidents. Dave and I run different mitigation and security programs for the agency and we do so from about 10 feet away from one another other. It is the complete opposite of the creative and artistic freedom we are afforded in the design businesses, but that's why it works. By day, we are privileged to lend ourselves to fighting the greatest fight, if only just a little bit (and by no means are we doing any comparable work to the men and women on the front lines or in the first responder roles of our nation.)  And by night, we get to create and make some of the most amazing and memorable joyous occasions, beautiful.

My career exists because so many lost so much on 9/11. I know that. But my feel good story (if that seems viable to you) is that I have seen so many people personally impacted by the loss of loved ones rise above it all, endure, and become better for it. I see it every day. This job led me to work in an office steps away from the man I would marry and whom would become the father of my precious child. It allowed me the opportunity to teach at the collegiate level in several colleges and educational institutions that has proved to be invaluable experience. I couldn't have known that day, so many years ago, watching the horror unfold with my dear friends that, that day would become so much of who I am as a professional and I would have never guessed that my eventual proximity to it on a regular basis would shape who I am as a mom, a wife and a friend. But it does every day and it will continue to, and it has become my 9/11 story.

*Writing is cathartic and a nice release from the thoughts that can consume our minds, so please feel free to share your 9/11 story. We are all ears...

No comments:

Post a Comment


© 2013 Karma Flowers. All Rights Reserved. | Blog Design By Brittany Douglas