It’s hard to believe it’s been eleven years.

Checking my Twitter feed, one of my fellow North Branch Crit Group writers posted the following:

Kelsey Macke@KelsNotChels 11 years ago the towers fell, as did our jaws… and our tears. My song was my gift. It was an honor to give it.

We’ve only met in person a few times, and I do recall her saying something about having performed a song that received international recognition. However, I never knew that the events of 9-11 had inspired her to take her talents and give a gift of music to a wounded world. It is a beautiful song that speaks to the healing power of art and creativity.

At times, things happen that we can’t immediately process. They are so huge, we can’t even think of how to approach the problem of dealing with them and art provides the perfect outlet. Art can be as ambiguous, as evocative, as reflective as you need without requiring you to try and wrap your mind around every overwhelming detail. Then a talented person like Kelsey can come forward and provide that healing touch.

It also got me thinking – what about you? My friends, “followers”, Facebook family, acquaintances, everyone in my extended network, how did 9-11 effect you? How did you deal with it?

For me, the consequences were pretty dramatic. I was an official Stay at Home Dad – my son was a year and a half old and we were in the middle of a playdate with his best bud at the time, a  little girl named Kylie. Her mother was there and we were all watching Sesame Street waiting for the rest of our playgroup to arrive. Then I started getting phone calls from the other parents.

One of the parents mentioned there had been an accident in New York and she was glued to the set so she and her son were going to stay home. We changed the channel and it became clear that something horrible involving a plane had taken place. This was before the second plane hit. I thought immediately of my son. At a year and a half, he had already begun his infatuation with airplanes. (To this day, he can identify planes like he is some kind of World War 2 coastal defense plane spotter.)

I turned the channel back to Sesame Street and Elmo saved the day. A message scrolled across the bottom of the screen letting everyone know of the public television station’s decision to continue running children’s programming. I can’t say how grateful I was for that.

My son was a quiet toddler, always absorbed in thought. He had an amazing vocabulary for a kid his age, but he always seemed to spend more time in his head than anywhere else. I often wondered what went through his mind and on that day especially, I would have given anything to know. Was he afraid? Did he understand what happened?

If he were older, we could maybe talk about it. But all he knew at that age was that planes were these enormous, magnificent, roaring things that defied the rules of nature and danced in the sky. He’d flown on one by then, so, even though he was young, he would know at least one more thing – that planes carried people.

I wanted to protect him.

By our family plan, I was to be a SAHD for a few years. By then, our savings would have been as depleted as low as we were willing to risk. Those two years were rapidly coming to a close and I started my career search. However, I was lost. Graphic design had suddenly lost its appeal.

The events of 9-11 instantly affected my search. I began to apply for US Government jobs – positions involving in the security of our country. After months of searching, I accepted a position with the FBI and embarked on a radical career change. I started in a file room, quickly being promoted to a field position as an Investigative Specialist.

A career of that nature has a way of becoming your life. Any high security law enforcement or intelligence work creates a social cocoon around you. Only people you can openly speak to about your day begin to fill your social ranks. Further, maintaining any semblance of a normal life outside working hours is difficult. For my position, working hours were essentially any time, any day, anywhere. Meanwhile, that same little boy I wanted so much to protect, wasn’t so little anymore.

After nearly six years it took a few failed attempts at a promotion for me to realize I was slipping into depression. I wasn’t seeing my family. Sleep was becoming a luxury. The office politics were starting to slip into dysfunction (yep, it’s still a J.O.B.). Add to that, the creative, innovative spark which I’ve always carried was growing restless chained behind the enormous (and at times necessary) amount of bureaucracy and regulations. 

In 2008, I walked away with a glowing performance review and merit bonus under my belt. I used that money to start a private investigations company, Vigilant Investigations, and tried to squeeze a bit more out of my training but found I no longer had the passion for it (or for dealing with the types of cases clients offered.)

After a few more years, I returned to my creative roots and have slowly been carving out a more balanced life ever since.

So, there’s my 9-11 story. I rarely talk about it, but it felt right to put things out there now.

Categories: Articles

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1 reply

  1. Nice writing style. I look forward to reading more in the future.

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