Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11 and chocolate cake

I don't think I have ever done a special September 11th post..I am, however, too lazy to go back and look...in any case...I know I have never done THIS September 11th post.

In 2001, I was working nights at a casino. I went to bed around 5 or 6 am the morning of September 11th and was deep asleep when my now ex-husband called and woke me up from Ohio where his band was on tour. He kept saying to me a plane hit the twin towers. He kept saying twin towers and I kept saying what twin towers and he didn't know their name...OK...I was groggy and the only twin towers that came to mind was a set of dorms on the campus of Emporia State University in beautiful downtown Emporia, KS. So I drug myself out of bed and turned on the news.

I was watching the news as they were talking about the plane and other things and then all of a sudden there was a second plane. I wonder how many people, like me, saw the second plane hit.

When you hear people talk about what impact this day had on their lives....I hear people say things about feeling scared, feeling disbelief that this could happen, feeling patriotism, feeling anger. When I was sitting home alone and saw, before my eyes, buildings collapse and saw...right in front of me...that many people die at one time I felt the greatest sorrow. I wonder how many people, like me, witnessed the death of so many people in one minute.

I was listening to the radio as I drove around today and they had people call in and say how their lives were changed by witnessing this day. I heard a lot of personal stories and a lot of general stories that almost sound like canned responses....for years and still today there is canned rhetoric surrounding that event...most of which start with "in the wake of 9/11". Just listening to that made me remember more about my life 8 years ago.

In addition to working full time at the casino as a table games supervisor....I was also working on my MBA and I was supposed to go to class on the night of September 11th - it was cancelled....not as a memorial to the people who died...but because we met in a really tall building in New Orleans and that day - everyone was afraid of what could come next.

So, instead of class, I went to CC's (community coffee) and sat down to write a novel. Yes....periodically I will decide that I am going to write a novel and make a million dollars...blah....blah...blah. However, this novel was going to fund my adoption. I had decided to adopt from Kazahkstan around this time and was following the Kaz forums...there were families getting ready to travel..families who were travelling and everyone was freaking out...majorly.
Obviously, I didn't adopt from Kaz at that time...I went to medical school instead!

What you may ask was my novel going to be about? Well, I had forgotten this part of the story until today on the way home and the plot and impetus for my plot came flooding back as I listened to people talk about September 11. One woman today talked about how the rest of the world became a very scary place to her and she swore she would never travel abroad and would never let her kids leave the country because she was sure that the rest of the world wanted to just kill us. For me, it kind of had the opposite effect - I felt more like we were part of the rest of the world...I wanted to go out and be a part of the rest of the world and make a difference. I had never been outside of the country - and was, quite frankly, afraid to go somewhere by myself. I wanted to go help orphans...I had read through a lot of the Orphan Ranger stuff which was super new in 2001...but I had a dog, I had bills, I had a job with health insurance, and then I had plans to go to medical school ( my second interview exactly one week away). So I sat down to write a work of fiction where a character left to do all of the crazy things I couldn't.....escapism at it's best.

Brandi (named after a super insane red-haired craps dealer I worked with) was a super-insane craps dealer who was living a mildly depraved life in New Orleans - lots of details....I was going to include all of the crazy things I saw at the casino and around town in the 5 years I lived there. She reads one day that a person she knew in college had died. This person had been a very peripheral part of her college experience....she barely knew her but had always been impressed by her and meant to get to know her better. She had been a quiet woman who was always, unsuccessfully, trying to get people involved in projects to improve the world....recycling efforts, getting the dorm house to sponsor a child for save-the-children. The clearest memory of her is her sitting out in front of the library on campus, alone, in the rain with it seemed like hundreds of brightly decorated signs, sagging balloons and a skimpy, soggy assortment of baked goods for a bakesale fundraiser....with a huge smile on her face and talkng to anyone who paused to put down their umbrella about the orphans in Romania. yadda, yadda, yadda....conflict builds...yadda, yadda, yadda... Brandi leaves everything behind and flies to China to work in an orphanage.

Yeah...it is a little formulaic...but I was totally convinced I could write this novel..it would be witty, funny, philosphical, moving, etc....and I would make enough money to fund my adoption. Also, the crazy character could do the things I wanted to do but was too chicken!

I have started to write no fewer than 4 novels in my life and never written more than about 5 pages. Maybe some day one will actually come out! I read somewhere that everyone thinks they have one great American novel inside them just waiting to come out! Maybe I will do the blog write a novel thing some day....or better yet...maybe I should just do the things I dream of doing and then I will have no reason to create a work of fiction with a character who can do the things I dream about!

So, in a very circuitious way, September 11 opened up the world to me and reminded me that we only have a very short time here to make a difference in other people's lives....whether it is orphans in Kazakhstan, orphan sex slaves and child soldiers in Sudan, the pesky 12 year old down the street, or the family who is sitting by the hospital bed of their dying father. No matter what you believe happens after you die....there will not be another chance to help others once you are dead...this is it people.....it is our only chance to meaningfully help others (and eat chocolate cake...but again...completely beside the point).

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