September 11th, 2001 was supposed to be a routine Tuesday. My students filed in and sat in their desks chipper or sullen, depending on the kid. I took attendance after the tardy bell rang and began class. We were annotating a passage from Sandra Cisneros’ story “Woman Hollering Creek.” In it, Cisneros transforms the myth of La Llorona (weeping woman) to La Gritona (hollering warrior). The woman in the story finally recognizes her inner strength and becomes empowered. Our beautiful class discussion was interrupted when my next door classroom neighbor rushed over to report the horrific events of that morning.
One after one, parents pulled their kids out of school … all they wanted was to hug their babies and know for certain that they were safe. I, dating my then boyfriend/now husband with no plans of children yet, could not exactly relate to that all-encompassing parental love, but I didn’t need to. We were all yearning for our loved ones and for normalcy. Because I taught eleventh graders, I felt it appropriate to show my students the news coverage of the horrific event. I also recognized my responsibility to my students to console them as they consoled me. To come together with my fellow faculty members in order to create a huge chain of love as we watched, over and over again, symbols of American prosper crumble amidst a beautiful sky. We watched our brothers and sisters fall to their deaths in hopes of escaping the horror within those buildings. We watched first responders risk life and limb to attempt to save as many innocent lives as possible, while most of those incredibly courageous individuals never made it out alive. We mourned together. Our school counselors were on hand to help us all navigate this horror and we prayed. We all prayed in our own ways. We shook our heads and we prayed for peace and mercy.
Now, fourteen years later, time has passed and we, as a nation, have begun healing; however, every single one of us was affected, and we pause in reflection on this day. I ran my long run on Saturday, the day after Patriot Day, and so I was given the wonderful opportunity to reflect upon this day. A lot has changed in my life since that horrific day. For starters, I have been married to my husband, David, for thirteen years, I have two beautiful daughters, I transitioned from a high school teacher to a high school librarian, and I became a runner. Obviously, becoming a wife and a mother has been more rewarding than I ever could have imagined, and becoming a librarian has proven to be the best possible career for me, but running has transformed me. Running forces me to push myself in ways I never thought possible. Running teaches me to persevere amidst struggle, and this most certainly carries over into my roles as wife, mother, librarian, and friend.
Ben Sturner snapped a picture of a beautiful rainbow originating from the World Trade Center the day before September 11th, 2015 and shared it on Twitter. What a powerful image of beauty directly before the anniversary of a very dark day in our nation’s history.
For me, much like that rainbow, running is often my beautiful reprieve during difficult times. Not that I need to escape horrible events like the protagonist in “Woman Hollering Creek,” but I have certainly found that accessing my inner strength through running has made me a more capable and happy person. On Patriot Day it is nice to pause and reflect on our blessings and to see the beauty around us. I thank running for allowing me to do this.