Ten Years Ago Today

Ten years ago today. That’s a phrase that’s been repeated often this Sunday. Ten years ago today. Memories from a decade ago have been shared like they occured yesterday, with detailed recountings of place and feelings and even what we were wearing. For many of us, for most of us maybe, the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon seem that close. For some it prompted a significant change born out of a sudden urgency to do something meaningful, to be someone who mattered. For far too many it meant a loss of friends and lovers, of loved ones and acquaintances. For all of us September 11, 2001, is a date we will never forget.

I was in the former group. I was in Indianapolis, getting ready for work, dressed in my robe with my hair in a towel watching the Today Show. My roommate had gone next door to speak to our neighbor, so I stood alone and saw smoke rising from the first tower. I watched, horrified, paralyzed, as the second plane hit the second tower on live television. I snapped out of it and ran next door to get her. We somehow finished getting ready and drove separately to the small business where we were both employed, listening in disbelief as the Pentagon was attacked.

Once there we turned on the TV and saw life as we knew it crumble, both literally and figuratively. I didn’t know anyone in New York. I’d been there only once for an overnight stay. I had no relatives, no friends, no acquaintances to worry about. But my mom was in Chicago and working in the CNA building. Dad couldn’t get in touch with her. We didn’t know until around noon that she was OK, and those few hours of agonizing uncertainty give me an unbounded empathy for those whose loved ones were not OK.

We left work early, of course, and I spent the rest of the day with close friends, at one point watching sitcom reruns to try to save our souls from the devastating realization that nobody was safe, never really ever safe.

That weekend I drove to Chicago to find an apartment. I had been commuting back and forth to a northwestern suburb to see my son, who was eight years old and living with my ex-husband and his wife. We’d gotten divorced when I was only 24, too young and too gullible to get an attorney, and for seven years I drove whenever and wherever I needed to so that I could see him. But that day – on September 11 – I realized just how much I was missing and it was in my power to change it. I drove up September 15 and signed a lease for the first apartment I saw because it had a view of the Sears Tower.

On October 20 I moved to Chicago. I didn’t have a job, but I was hired at Kinzie Chophouse on October 22. I immediately fell in love with the city, and in the next few months I had an idea for a website that had everything organized by neighborhood. I’d finally finished my degree in journalism the year before and tried to use what I’d learned to create something that would be intuitive, user-friendly, and help residents and visitors grab as much of this city as they can fit in their wide-open arms.

People who know me know that I work every minute I’m awake and often when I’m sleeping. They know that I’m passionate and driven and will not quit. What they don’t know is why.

The Local Tourist is a direct result of what happened on 9/11. Because of that I feel an incredible responsibility to make this the absolute best resource it can be. I HAD to take what was becoming a staid, complacent life and do what I knew was right for my son and for me. As a result, in the last ten years my son and I have strengthened and nurtured our relationship and I’ve found a passion and a calling that, hopefully, helps others live life to its fullest.

My son is in college now and wants to be a firefighter. On this day, and on all days, I am both proud and terrified by that prospect. He would be one of those who runs to the danger, who would rescue those in need. He would be one of those climbing the stairs of a crumbling tower. He’s the reason I moved here and the reason I found out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Ten years ago today a tragedy caused me to choose the direction of my life. It is something I will never forget, and I will always honor the memories of those who died.


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