Seven years ago, I was a sleep-deprived second-time mom of a one-and-a-half-month-old son and a very busy and active one-and-a-half-year-old daughter who had stopped taking naps when her brother was born. We were living in a two-bedroom apartment on the third floor in Lynnwood, Washington. Hubby was working a lot of overnights and the dirty laundry was piled knee-deep in the hallway waiting for me to find the energy to deal with it. There were toys sprinkled like confetti across the living room floor all day long. I was lucky to change into clean clothes before 4 pm, much less shower and have dinner ready.

2001. One of the most stressful years of my life.

My Grandma passed away in March, from Alzheimer’s. My Uncle Tom was killed, along with his climbing partner, in a fall in Yosemite in early July. My Grandpa spent a good deal of that year visiting all of the family scattered across the country.

Final Zoo Trip Prego

My son was born the same day as my uncle’s memorial service at the end of the month. For that obvious reason, we were unable to attend. There is a crazy story involving me picking up my Mom and Grandpa at the airport a couple of days later though. I was clearly not thinking straight. This picture is from the one visit from family we had after T-Man was born and before my Mom arrived to help.

Three Days Old

My brother died suddenly at the end of August and that was followed by a whirlwind trip to Salt Lake City, where we took him off life support and had a memorial service all in the span of a week. T-Man was 3-weeks old then and I was a walking zombie. Thankfully, a zombie with a smile plastered on my face.

Salt Lake - 4 Generation

Things were just returning to a somewhat-normal state for me, when on the morning of September 11th, I woke up and turned on the TV to watch while I nursed T-Man. Every channel was playing and replaying the images of a jetliner flying into a building in New York. I vividly remember casually calling out to Hubby, who was still sleeping, that a plane had flown into one of New York’s skyscrapers. I soon realized that it wasn’t an accident, when it was clear there was a second plane into the other tower, then a third reported at the Pentagon and a fourth somewhere over the quiet countryside of Pennsylvania. I didn’t even know, at the time, what “Twin Towers” or “World Trade Center” meant. I was one of the ignorant.

I sat down on the couch and proceeded to watch live coverage of the towers falling, reports from the Pentagon and reports of the heroes of the last plane. By this time, Hubby had joined me on the couch and we were glued to the TV for much of the day: as people jumped out of windows 80-plus floors up to get away from fires, as fire fighters and rescue services ran into the Towers, as the Towers started to crumble and finally fell onto themselves, seeing the people on the street duck into shops and doorways, only to turn an eerie shade of yellow-tan from the huge debris dust cloud and as thousands of people walked across freeways in their business attire to get out of the city. We were sucked in to the media coverage for the next two or three days. We had hope when the report came out of a survivor calling his wife, only to have it crushed the next morning when it was revealed as a hoax. We rode the roller coaster of the media frenzy until I was dizzy and ill from it all.

That was when we stopped watching the news. We listened to the radio reports and read the papers instead. We tried to insulate ourselves a bit to process all of the images and sounds and feelings we had in our heads now. I worried that Seattle would be next and that was just too much to process at once. Hubby went to work as usual and I tried to keep things together at home.

I worried about friends I had in the military. I talked to other friends that were sent to do clean up work at Ground Zero and realized I was wholly unequipped for dealing with something like that. I found pictures on the internet of the lives lost and tried to remember every face and every story, as if I could personally correct things. I watched the families stand at the boards set up for missing people and could very easily put myself in their shoes, having recently lost a close family member.

I knew the day our country declared war, that my kids were going to grow up never knowing a world unaffected by terrorists and fear, that they would not have a knowledge of our country and society apart from war. I was angry, scared and ready for some sort of action. I also knew that people I loved would be put in front of bombs and bullets in order to protect those of us still here at home. I knew that some, if not all of them would have it no other way.

The best way I could find to repay that debt, was to teach my kids to honor and respect all of the men and women who serve our country by my example. The military members and veterans of our family and dear friends are heroes to us. The men and women who serve the community as fire fighters, paramedics and police officers are heroes to us. The families that stand beside and behind them are heroes to us. We are honored to have them in our lives.

So on this day, I realize again that my hot running water and indoor plumbing, my refrigerator and all the food in it, my washing machine and dryer, the health of my family, my computer and assorted abundant technology are all things I take for granted. We have much to be thankful for in this country. I am inspired anew to be grateful for those everyday things, to tell people I love them because it might be the last time I see them, to look for and act on opportunities to serve others in need, to be less selfish with my time, resources, praise and encouragement.

And I remember…