In A Sentimental Mood…


Today marks the 13th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC.

I have never told my account of the day that forever changed the US, but i’m in a sentimental mood…

I was freshly out of college and was a n associate in the media office at the National Academies, a government think tank for science, engineering and medicine in Washington, DC.  That day, I remember we were extremely busy, so I was at work before 8am.  There were lines of media trucks at the building, waiting for this important stem cell study to come out, a study that basically said that we have the capability to clone body parts.  That study never saw a single camera flash.  At around 8:00am, the fire alarms went off in the building.  We had to evacuate.  As everyone was ushered outside, I remember feeling like this was a strange day for a fire alarm exercise, especially knowing that this study was coming out.  Less then 10 minutes later, the building shook right in front of my eyes.  I had never seen anything like it.  We thought that the “fire” had destroyed a part of the building.  Nothing else moved, but this concrete, completely stable building.  It was unnerving.  Ten minutes later, we were told we could enter the building.  We had been monitoring the news the entire morning, waiting for news outlets to talk about the stem cell breakthough report. What we saw on our computer screens when we came back to the office was horrifying.  Reports of a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center buildings in New York.  Then, The second plane hit.  I actually watched it crash into the building.  As we watched the reports of what was going on, we had no idea that a plane had already crashed into the Pentagon.

Remember the building shaking?  The National Academies sits right across the river from the Pentagon.  Probably less than 3 miles away.  I believe our building shook because of the plane crash, not because of some fire in our building.  Then we received reports that a car bomb was set to go off at the State Department.  The National Academies sits directly across the street from the State Department. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like the two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center did so by accident.

All of a sudden, we were told to evacuate.  But before we even left, we were told that traffic was jammed so there would be no way to get our cars out of the parking lot.  Any attempts at taking the subway were quickly diminished as well.  The government shut down all of the subway stations downtown.  Dressed in my business suit and heels, my co-workers and I quietly filed out of the office, taking our belongings with us. As we left the office, I saw swarms of co-workers quickly walking out of the door.

Walking home was painful, but it was surprisingly communal.  Everyone was out in the street walking home because of gridlocked streets and shut down subways.  I talked to people who I didn’t know at all.  We shared a common fear and morning experience.  No one could use their phone service, text was just barely working.  You’d be surprised at the level of friendliness that people extend when tragedy sets.  People helped each other find ways to get home.  Those who’s text were working helped older men and women and children reach their relatives.  For a town that barely talks to one another especially on the street, It actually felt like a family for once in the streets of DC.  I was only able to reach my sister who was attending Howard University at the time, and she told me that school was closed and she was at our apartment that we shared.  When I finally got home, I was extremely tired, my feet felt like pins were still sticking them and I was probably still in shock.

What the hell just happened?

My sister had the news on and we were glued to the station.  She was able to text both of our parents and some extended family that we were together and safe.  I actually didn’t realize that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon until I was at home watching the reports.  It was then that I learned two minutes before our building shook, the Pentagon across the pond had been attacked as well.

I remember feeling a sigh of relief that neither the State Department nor the National Academies had been attacked. I was distraught seeing people jump out of buildings to their deaths.  It was grotesque and I couldn’t imagine the decision those people had to come to, to realize that their final day on earth was that day.  I felt forever connected to those in New York that were experiencing a more harrowing trauma even though our experiences were dramatically different. I cannot imagine seeing co-workers jumping out of buildings, narrowly escaping a building collapsing on your head, losing loved ones, and being covered in soot for miles as you head in to work.  But those of us in DC and New York remain a part of the community with first hand accounts of what happened the tragic morning of September 11th.

What a difference a year makes

I have been truly humbled.

Today marks the One year anniversary of one of my best friend’s sobriety.  One year ago today was a very dark period in her life.  Usually I write about motherhood and all of it’s offshoots, but today I can’t help but write about my friend.

We met in college and instantly connected.  We say to people we were roommates, but we actually stayed right next to each other.  We did all of the things that roommates in college do, eat lunch and dinner together, go out together, plan vacations together, celebrate birthdays together, and long after our college days were over, we stayed in touch throughout the years.  We both entered graduate school at the same time, her law school, me film school.

I remember when she left the city and moved to an even bigger city, I would visit her often.  We survived a blizzard together.  We took a 10 day trek across the west coast together.   I remember when she graduated from Law school, she sent me pictures of her graduation and I was sad that I missed her special day.  We try every year to celebrate our birthdays together.  She has planned every major baby/birthday/wedding milestone that i’ve had.

She moved back to the area after she graduated from Law school and like every other person, got a job, and went about the day to day life of a single person living in a city.  I, doing the same, went about my life as well.  Even though we lived in the same city, we would try to talk often and get together as much as possible, but in the day to day bustle of life, plans would get canceled or forgotten, weeks would turn into months, months would turn into years, and before we knew it, we weren’t spending time or talking to each other much at all.

So when she called me a year ago, looking for help to find a new apartment, I didn’t think much of it.  I searched some places, sent her some links, and carried on with my day to day life.  She called again, lamenting about the trouble with her search.  Again, not thinking much of it, I rationalized away her need to just talk through her emotions over moving.  I again suggested places for her to call and placated her with the standard “Everything’s going to be okay” “You’ll find something” “Everything always works out in the end”

Now, before this call, every once in awhile, I would get a random two or four AM text or voicemail from her saying she needed to talk.  But since I was always asleep at the time, I would never get it until at least the next day.  Sometimes I wouldn’t respond until days or weeks later, thinking to myself, “Oh she was probably okay, I don’t think she needed anything that important, I’ll just call her when I get a chance.”

But one day, a year ago, she called me late at night.   I don’t remember what time of day it was, but I remember it wasn’t too late that I was asleep, but late enough to be dark.  She sounded upset.  Normally, I would have tried to calm her down and placate her again with cliche sayings about everything being okay in the end, but this time sounded different.  She was barely cohesive, she would switch between manic and depressive moods in the blink of an eye, her overall conversation was truncated and she was talking about things I knew nothing about.  I called my husband and told him that I was going to stop by her apartment after work just to see if everything was okay.

What I witnessed when I came through the door was not my friend.  The person I saw was the shell of the girl I knew.  Her eyes were empty, she was chain smoking and drinking until oblivion.  Drinking away what?  I will probably never know.  My entire body wanted to start crying.  How did this happen?  How did I not know?  Why did we go so long without getting together regularly or checking up on each other?  I sat down and just listened.  Listened to this person who had taken my friend.  I didn’t know what to do.  I didn’t know what to say.  I wanted to hug away all of her hurt and pain.  I wanted to take away every emotion that made her go to the bottle.  But I didn’t know how.  I didn’t even know the first steps to helping her.  So I just sat and let her talk.  That night, we sat together and she eventually fell into a drunk sleep.  I called her sister, who she had been talking to earlier in the night, to tell her that she had fallen asleep and left the apartment.  It was almost four AM.  After seeing that, I thought the worst was over.  Man was I ever wrong.

The next evening, I got a call again.  Again she needed to talk.  I stopped by a local fast food restaurant to get her something to eat. I went home to explain to my husband that  I would be heading back to her place again.  I was breastfeeding at the time and I couldn’t afford to really be out late for another night, so I went home and got my 3 month old daughter and brought her to my friends house to help her not pick up a drink.  I had no idea if she had or hadn’t been drinking.  I tried to see if there were any bottles or glasses around and there weren’t any.  A family friend who lived in the area stopped by as well.  We would get bits and pieces of a story.  Still not cohesive, still not making much sense, but again, I would just listen, hoping to salvage a story out of her musings.  I left her apartment at three AM that night.  My body was weary. If I put on a strong front for her, it would break down as soon as my driver side car door closed.  That night I just sat in my car for awhile hoping I could get it together enough to drive home.  I had after all, my three month old baby with me, I had to pull it together for her, for me and for my friend.  I cried in spurts all the way home.

When she realized she had a problem, it was a conversation that was simultaneously a relief and hard to ingest.  This person who, for me was so full of life and such a light for others, suddenly found herself needing the help she so frequently gave out.  She was set to go to rehab on Monday morning.  Little did I know what it would take to get there.

Enlisting the help of another mutual friend, together we met at her apartment to begin her journey of healing.  Uneasy at the start, she was hesitant to get in the car.  But once she did we were finally off.  I thought, “This is easy, we only have a quick 20 minute ride and once we get registered, she’ll truly begin the healing process.”

Things took a turn for the worse once we hit traffic.  She began to fall in and out of consciousness reciting biblical scriptures and hallucinating.  In trying to remain sober for me, day three proved to be too much for her.  Not knowing it at the time, my friend was not so quietly going through withdrawal in my car on the way to rehab.  I know now she was most likely suffering from DT’s; delirium tremens.  The death rate from DTs — which are characterized by confusion, rapid heartbeat, and fever — is estimated to range from 1% to 5%.  When I say I was frightened for not only my life, but hers and our friend who was helping us, it would be an understatement.  To see a dear friend switch moods from hysteria to calm to hearing voices to talking to the dead;  again, I didn’t know this person.  I tried to remain as calm and collected as possible.  It took everything in me not to start hysterically crying in the car.  I felt every emotion that she was putting out in the universe and it hurt like a sharp knife in my heart.  I kept repeating to myself in my mind “Just get her to rehab, just get her to rehab” “She’ll get better once we get there.”

But the universe was trying to tell us something different.  In my rush to get to the rehab center, we got into a car crash.  My friends hallucinations got worse.  I can only make up variations of stories in my mind about the lady who hit us wondering why the passenger seemed more upset than I was, but in the moment, I didn’t really care.  I quickly took her info and set back on the path to rehab.  In hindsight that was probably the worst thing I could have done.  Leaving the scene of an accident in which I was of no fault, but I had other pressing matters to attend to.

We finally get to the rehab center and when the staff took a look at her, they knew she was detoxing.  They immediately sent us to the hospital.  The past three days of no alcohol was way too much for her system.  After our mutual friend and I admitted her to the hospital and gave them all her paperwork and accompanying information, we both went down to the hospital cafeteria and just looked at each other.  We couldn’t believe what had just happened.  I remember my mouth moving and us talking to each other, but I don’t remember the conversation we had.  I think we both just wanted to breathe.

After three days at the hospital, she was finally admitted to rehab.  I was relieved.  Her stay there proved to be a much needed worthwhile one.  She has taken this incident and her healing very seriously and for that, I am grateful to finally have my friend back.  It is evident by her dedication to attend meetings and take steps to correct certain prior roadblocks in her life.  When I attended her 1 year sobriety anniversary, all of the depressing emotions of the previous year were replaced by sheer joy.  Like a proud parent at their child’s graduation, happy tears flowed freely.  It’s definitely not over, but i’m proud to say I love her effort so far.


I Don’t do Cock Fights

Self-editing is such a good thing.

So I begin my story by saying, I self-edit a lot.  I have to, it’s part of my job, plus I have a husband and kids, so the ability to “keep it real” is not always afforded to me.  This is probably why I have a blog.  I carry a journal with me so that when I have an idea for a new blog post, I can write it down and write down the main points so that if I have the chance to type it out at some point, I can expand my bullet point thoughts into a new post for you all to see.  So two weeks ago I had an idea, based off of an incident in my life that gave me ample dialogue for a post.  I wasn’t able to type it out online, so I went to my journal.  I furiously wrote my first thoughts down on paper and after finishing, I closed the book, hoping to write it out at some point on this blog.

I’m so glad I didn’t do that.

Because most of the time the first thoughts out of anger, aren’t the thoughts that actually need to be conveyed.  What does need to be conveyed is the principle behind those thoughts.  My main point that I wanted to get across?  I don’t do fighting.  I didn’t do it as a child, and I definitely don’t need to do it as an adult.  I don’t encourage my children to fight.  Fighting creates so much stress for all parties involved whether it be an office fight or a fight in the home, where the ramifications extend far beyond the principle characters.  This is why.

Office fights can add so much stress to your home life.  This Gallup study estimates that at least 450 billion dollars a year are wasted due to office fights.  Nevermind the possible lawsuits from the fallout of an office fight, but it can also result in a lack of productivity and an increase in distraction.  How can you concentrate at work if the only thing that permeates your mind is the reverberations from an office fight?  Home life and lack of engagement with your family can result as well.  Who hasn’t been in an office fight where all you can seem to talk about at home is what crazy drama happened at work?  Trust me, you family cares, but not that much that it becomes the only thing you can talk about.

Couples fighting can lead to stress in children.   This study by lays out why children don’t need to see their parent’s fight.  Parental stress can lead to child stress and even if you don’t “mean to” do this to your children, it still can result in behavioral issues with your children.  “The early childhood brain is disproportionately receptive to what’s good and bad in the environment,” says Rahil Briggs, director of the Healthy Steps program at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore. “This is why a young child can learn a new language in a year. It’s also why stress in their environment is disproportionately impactful.”

So it got me to thinking.  I care about my kids, I really do.  After I had my first child, my entire world changed, and whatever I did, whether it be professionally or personally, I tried to do it to the best of my ability so that when my children were old enough to discern what mommy did and how she lived her life, they would be proud.   Seeing their faces when I wake up in the morning and when we go to bed at night gives me so much joy.  I know I can’t take away all of the stress in my life, but I also know that in order to raise happy healthy children, managing the sometimes crazy in my life needs to be a constant priority.