That morning, after I turned on the TV and saw both towers burning, I called Melissa, my close friend studying at NYU.
After the first tower fell, I called again.
After the second tower fell, I called for the third time.
Later that evening, I received a call from a mutual friend in New York who said Melissa was injured from falling debris as she was running back to her building.
Melissa and I dated at the start of high school. She was basically my first love. My first real girlfriend. My first everything. She was the first person outside my family I opened up to. That night, as the enormity of the event was seeping in, I thought about Melissa.
I remembered how we first met while working at a summer camp together. I remembered how we used to go by the river in our town at night and slide down the smooth rocks. I remembered our first date when I bought her chocolate covered strawberries. I remembered how she used to talk about adopting a poor kid from a foreign country and how it made me laugh.
It was a very long night, I didn't sleep.
This Sunday will mark exactly 10 years since that evening. Melissa is now living in Connecticut with her second husband. I went to both weddings. Her physical injures from that day are long gone. She was lucky. She only stayed in the hospital for two nights. Others stayed much longer.
While the physical scars have disappeared, Melissa still has setbacks. She's taken various antidepressants over the years since the injury. She also takes sleeping pills almost nightly when 9/11 approaches. Sometimes she blames the event as the reason her first marriage failed. Sometimes she says it's the reason she still doesn't have any children.
As the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001 approaches, I find myself increasingly thinking about fate and chance because of Melissa. Perhaps Melissa is right. Perhaps it was 9/11 that caused her first marriage to crumble. Perhaps it was 9/11 that's making it difficult for her to have children.
Or maybe, just maybe, there's a different reason.
It's true that 9/11 hardened her emotionally. But maybe it's because of 9/11 that she found the strength to finally leave an emotionally abusive marriage. It's true that she's having difficulty bearing a child. But maybe this will now allow her to adopt one; like a poor child from a foreign country that she always used to talk about.
9/11 has changed Melissa's life. However, in a way, it may have also put things in place. After speaking with her tonight, and hearing her love for her current husband and her eagerness to adopt, I ask myself whether things happen for a reason or if they happen by chance.
What do you think?
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