“The amount of sleep required by the average person is five minutes more.” — Wilson Mizner
I worked the swing shift at DIA. Every year we would do a moment of silence in remembrance of 9/11. This was the 4-year mark and life as an airport employee was ever changing. After a long, emotional 10 shift, mom and I headed home for the evening. We got home around 1230 or so and settled in to settle down. Now, understand that we are a night shift family. My dad worked the swing shift for DPD for 11 years. I had worked the swing shift at United Express for several years and Mom & I both worked the swing shift for the city.
My night was interrupted by the phone ringing. Everyone who knows us knows that we are awake so it wasn’t a big deal. Until I heard the voice on the other end of the line. It was my grandma. “He’s gone!” she screamed. Both dad and I kind of shook our heads. I had talked to grandpa that afternoon. He was mad at my grandma for something silly. So I thought he had gone for a drive or something to calm his temper. “He’s gone!” she screamed again. So dad and I hopped in the car and headed to their house. My grandparents live 2 blocks away. It was great growing up and having them so close. I had access to all the food and snacks and goodies a kid could dream of. I was his baby girl. The only grandchild on my dad’s side.
As we are making our way those 2 blocks, we turned the corner from our block and there in the middle of the street was a coyote. Just trotting along down the middle of the street. We followed him to my grandparent’s block and turned off. As we turned, this wild animal turned and looked back at us. I swear he looked sad. We pulled up in front and headed in the house.
We walked in and the first sound was my grandma wailing. She can be an overly emotional woman sometimes. I figured she was just mad because grandpa had taken a drive. Mandy and her goofy boxer-self met us in the hall. Something wasn’t right. She wasn’t wiggly like normal. My grandpa’s room was the first bedroom you come to. He was laying on the bed. Like he had sat down and just fell back. Dad rushed in and started CPR, but it was too late. I stood in the hall in shock. This was the man who was always there for me. From infancy to adulthood. He crossed the Mason-Dixion line for me. Twice. Just that spring, after mentioning a cute yellow SUV I had seen at the dealership, went and bought me that SUV. I had no job!! I was again on workers comp from United Express, and was only getting part of my full salary! I was terrified of screwing up his credit. But he didn’t care. That wonderful, full of life man was gone. In the blink of an eye, my world crumbled around me like sand. A WWII veteran who saw the worst of things in the South Pacific, but who was the gentlest of men with me. Gone. Forever. I didn’t think I could go on without him. He was my backbone, my champion, and my best friend all wrapped up in this gentle giant of a man. He was a golden gloves champion. Born in the bushes his sisters would say. But to me, he was my world.
He didn’t see me turn 30 a few months later. He didn’t see me promoted at work to a supervisor, and turn around and be demoted because of someone else’s mistake. He wasn’t there to comfort me when our Rottie died in the back of the SUV he bought me for her of bloat or when I had to put his silly Mandy down after a stroke. The last thing he said, according to grandma, is how he didn’t want Mandy, but she turned out to be a good dog after all. This man was gone.
My doctor’s think that finding him dead in his bed and that being the final image of him lead to my fibro diagnosis as well as the start of a lovely case of PTSD. I dropped out of college after he passed because they told me his death shouldn’t have affected my grades. It did. Badly. I still have nightmares of seeing him. I hear him. I smell him.
My best friend.
When I was 6, he had to put their Dobie down. Mak was 16 years old. I came home from the hospital to this 120-pound dog, who from that day forward never left my side. I rode her like a horse. We caused traffic accidents and grown men to cross the street when we came around. He told me he was just taking her to the doctor, that she’d be back. I’m still waiting for her to come back. And now I want him back. I need them both, all, back.
God, I miss him.
Not six month’s later, my world cracked and crumbled again. That’s another story.
They say that after a while, the loss of a loved one gets better. You won’t feel the pain forever they say. You’ll learn to live without them. They lied! I can’t live without him. It still hurts, I’m crying writing this now. Twice a year I shut down. The day he was born and the day he died. Some years are better than others. Some years I can almost forget. Others I can barely move from the pain of it. It doesn’t get better, you just learn to live with the pain.
In Loving Memory
On this day in 2001 I, like many others, awoke to a world that was no longer the safe place it had been 24 hours earlier. My Mom woke me saying a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers in New York. She was dressed and ready to go to work, rushing because of this tragedy. I was off of work on workers comp for an injury to my knee and a scope to clean it up. I got up, made myself a cup of coffee ready to face the world. From the moment I looked at the TV, my world was turned upside down. Mom & Dad were watching ABC coverage of the Towers. It was live. I sat down and the next image I see is the second plane flying into the South Tower. I damn near choked on my coffee! Never in my life did I believe I would be witness again to history being made.
People from my parent’s generation are always asked ‘where were you when..Kennedy, Dr. King, Bobby was killed?’ My generation gets asked where were you when…the Challenger exploded, the OKC bombing, 9/11?’ I’ll always remember. I was in my 4th-grade class watching the launch live, I was home watching the news and worrying about my uncle who was there for a job interview, I watched it happen live as the second plane was deliberately crashed into the South tower of the World Trade Center.
Like most Americans’ on that fateful day, I was glued to the TV for the next several days. Watching when the towers fell, waiting with baited breath for word on survivors, shaking my fist at those responsible for this horrific act of terrorism. Calling for the blood of the mastermind of the worst terror attack on U.S soil. Worried when my Mom went to work.
And then the day came for me to return to work. I was shaking at the prospect. You see Mom & I worked at DIA. Mom for the airport. Me, I worked for United Express. Now you understand the fear. I stepped off the train on Concourse B for the first time since the attacks. For those who have never had the pleasure, Concourse B is United’s. At the time, it stretched for just over a mile. And it was empty. Silent. Dead. I looked out the massive windows to see 2 and 3 planes parked at a single gate. Massive planes. I could look from on end of the concourse to the other and not see a soul. Sure, us employees were there, but even we were few and far between.
For the next 6 months, I watched as the biggest airline at DIA damn near went belly up. I help passengers who, seeing the great hulking grey aircraft sitting outside had massive panic attacks because all they could see was the plane flying it the tower. I watched friend and colleagues work hard uncertain if they would have a job tomorrow. I walked past armed service men & women with AR’s over their shoulders.
Slowly life returns to DIA, but never to the scale it was before 9/11. Never with the same level of security as before. TSA was born out of the ashes of the Twin Towers. As an employee of an airport, you question everyone, everything. I left United Express in ’04 and began a career with the airport working for the City of Denver. Still, at the airport I loved dearly. But never the same airport I started at.
9/11 holds a different meaning for all of us. We all mourn the loss of innocence that we had before the towers fell. We moved on, caught the mastermind behind the attacks. Grew stronger and persevered. The one thing we will never do is forget.