I was born on September 12, 1974. Every year I get excited as the date gets closer. Every year it is my party to celebrate life. We were supposed to be celebrating my birthday at a military ball. My husband at the time was a soldier in the US Army. We were stationed in Germany. He was out in the field, as he had just come back from Kosovo. He was supposed to be coming home from the field to celebrate with me; however the plans changed. September 11, 2001 changed not only by birthday but my life indefinitely.
The job of a military spouse can be exhausting and an emotional rollercoaster. When there is a call for war or a natural disaster and the National Guard is deployed, not many people will think about the role of the soldier’s spouse. As that soldier is deployed, the spouse instantly becomes the mother and father, an accountant, a doctor, a psychologist and the list goes on and on. The everyday stresses are doubled. Not many people question about who is there for the spouse.
I was working at an afterschool program with kindergarten students. I kept looking at the clock and was anxious for each parent to pick up their children because I knew then it was my time to get ready for my birthday. As my anxiety built, parents started to rush into the center but not with excitement to see their children. There was a fear engraved into their faces. Finally, a parent revealed that there had been an attack on the US in New York; the first plane had just hit the Twin Towers. Terror grew inside of me. I sat and I cried. I cried for those in pain and those who lost their lives. The fear that I felt that cold dismal day on September 11, 2001, the day before what was supposed to be a day of celebration. My blue eyes were dimmed gray; and my nose was tinted pink as tears ran down my face.
The biggest challenge for me was to take on the tasks as a single parent even though I wasn’t technically a single parent. I had only the other spouses in my building to talk with, no counselors to express frustrations or fears. The stress of taking on these challenges strengthened me mentally, but at the same time weakened my body, later I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.
Living with Fibromyalgia has shown a different way of looking at life. “Yes I am in pain on a daily basis, but I would rather live with the pain than to not live at all”.
As the anniversary of the attack approaches, I reflect back upon my experience. I am a stronger person now. I don’t take life for granted. I tell those around me that I love them on a daily basis because I don’t know what is ahead of me. It taught me how to be a single parent, as I later divorced my husband and I had learned how to feel confident in what I pursued. A bucket list is exactly what I began, completing my undergraduate and Master’s degrees I am now working towards a Doctorate in Management. I no longer work at a daycare center, but as an admissions coordinator for a medical school where I listen and help students. I have also written and published several books. I speak to groups of people about healthy living which includes stress management and balanced eating.
My birthday became more meaningful. I now celebrate not only my own life but for those who lost their lives on that grim day, September 11, 2001. A birthday is a day to celebrate to say thank you. My special day is so much more.