Sunday was the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. Because it is impossible to forget, I didn’t want to spend my time watching specials produced to keep the wounds fresh. I know, it makes me sound callous. But honestly, I can still see what happened a decade ago. I remember how uncertain I felt, and the way that others reacted… I didn’t need to see it cut to sappy music.
So instead of watching specials and services, and trying to explain to my young children just what this was about (I still think they’re a little too young)… TheBoy and I went to a reunion at Disneyland. We decided that celebrating life was the appropriate thing to do.
I worked at Disneyland while I was in college. It was where I met TheBoy, and where I made a lot of wonderful friends. (And in the context of the day, it was how 9/11 affected my life the most) In truth, it sort of ruined me for working at any other company- not because the job itself was that great. It was fun, but taxing. But because of the nature of working attractions, you build a family from the people you work with regularly.
I was lucky enough to get to work at the World Famous Jungle Cruise. I came in at the end of a summer, and felt like I was on the outside. But TheBoy’s best friend Ry worked Jungle, and made sure I wasn’t hazed like most newbies (he reminded people that I had already worked at Disneyland for a year and a half). So I was welcomed with open arms by a lot of really great people. Hilarious people.
While I worked at Jungle for almost three years after that, and made some wonderful friends- it was that group that I felt the closest to. It was that group that we were meeting with. We got there early, and met up at the Hub (that’s the fancy name for the place by the statue of Walt & Mickey). We took some pictures, caught up and went through the Park for the day. And the funniest part of all was that it felt like no time had passed. Sure, we were all 10+ years older than the last time we’d seen each other as a group, and most of us were married with kids… but it felt as though we could have just gone to Jungle and hopped right back into our rotations.
I’ve hinted at the scope of my anxiety issues lately. Making friends, being back in situations I’m not familiar with… it’s enough to drive me crazy. I went to a wedding of a cousin of TheBoy’s and had butterflies in my stomach all the way up there! But it says something about the way we all worked together that it didn’t even occur to me to be nervous about anything other than taking my kids along. (And why didn’t we bring them? I knew there’d be a lot of hanging out and talking- indeed, our lunch took well over an hour. Not exactly something my boys have the patience to do. Nor would they have been up for trying any new rides. The next reunion, I’ll bring them along)
Here’s a picture I shamelessly stole from my friend Alan. It doesn’t have everyone (I’ll try to find a picture that does), but it’s a picture that I love.
Now, to what happened on 9/11 a decade ago. Because I live on the West Coast, the events of 9/11 unfolded early in the morning. TheBoy was getting ready to go to work, I had classes that day. As was our morning routine, TheBoy had the news on and woke me up to tell me that something had happened at the World Trade Center. At the time, all they knew was that a plane had crashed- before the second plane hit, they thought it was an accident. But we saw the plane crash into the second tower, and watched in horror as they fell.
He went off to work (at Disneyland) and was turned away at the gate. The Park would be closed. I went to school, and numbly sat in my calculus class. Our teacher didn’t even bother teaching new material, only five of us showed up at all. He answered any questions we had about the homework, and when none of us had any real questions about that, we started to talk about the day. Someone came by to tell us that they’d cancelled all the classes for the rest of the day. So I went back home, and watched.
Disneyland reopened, and I found myself working on the Jungle Cruise. People who’d booked their vacations came, walking around like zombies. Fighter jets flew overhead, and the whole Park would come to a stop. Everyone would look up, and then go back to somberly walking around.
We quickly figured out what jokes would work and what wouldn’t. I mean, you could make the joke about a Bengal Tiger jumping out of a plane, but it would be met by glares. Worse was the banter that was second nature to us all while the boat loaded. “Anyone take a plane to get here today? Oh, the airport called, they want it back.” I said it once and had the most uncomfortable tour of my life.
People wanted to laugh, but weren’t quite ready. This was when I perfected my “National Geographic” tour, as we dubbed our non-joke tours.
It does sadden me at the world we live in now. Not because we’re aware that there are bad, evil and crazy people out there. But because it’s caused us (as a nation, not individuals) to distrust anyone who isn’t a Christian or who might be foreign. Because we’ve reacted out of fear to everything. We force ourselves to stop and mourn everyone again, to relive the moment- when for me, it’s taught me to cherish life. It’s shown me that ordinary people can be heroes when thrust into extraordinary situations. That love and compassion are two of the most important traits out there… and that if you have the chance to pick how you spend a somber day, that there is no better way to spend it than fully embracing one of the happiest moments of your life. Whether it’s reconnecting with friends, or spending time with your kids- we should remember how fragile life is, and try to spend more time living life and loving those around us.