Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

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Donna Smith

Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation

September 11th, 2012 10:41 AM

September 11th and Love

Each year on September 11th, I feel a deep sense of love and peace.  In fact, it is one of the few days of the year that remains so for me. 

I understand that for those who lost loved ones and friends in the September 11th attacks of 2001 in New York, Pennsylvania, and D.C., September 11th brings so many memories that are not gentle and their sense of loss continues.  And for those who suffer long term health issues related to their service at ground zero in New York City or elsewhere related to the 9/11/2001 events, being reminded of the day when their problems began is not happy.  I am not ignorant or dismissive of those emotions or the grieving that continues.  Certainly, marking 9/11 each year is a reminder of one of the pivotal days in world history – no matter where you come down on the political or societal aftermath of that day.

My son, Russell, was born 36 years ago on September 11th.  Though he has his own family now, lives a long way away from me, and I rarely get to spend time with him, his birth and his life are affirmations of love and joy and peace.  The day he was born was a beautiful day with clear blue skies and cool, early fall temperatures much like day when the 9/11 attacks took place.  I was so young and my world was full of the issues younger women face surrounding balancing work in and outside my home, childcare issues, and trying to make sure my family was healthy and happy.  Russell was a gift of immeasurable bounty during a time when I often felt very limited.  Year after year, September 11th came along to remind me of the good parts of life amidst all of the internal and external struggles.

On September 11th, 2001, Russell was working high up in the Sears Tower in Chicago and was sent home from work in the aftermath of the NYC attacks.  I spent a good deal of time with him on the phone that day as his birthday was altered in the wake of such tragedy, and I wanted the comfort of not being alone just as many of us did on that day.  When I see human beings hurting and killing other human beings, it makes me sad and frightened about who and what we are at our core.  But when I see Russell, I know we are better people than our daily news feeds might suggest.  I know who Russell is.  He represents love,  joy and peace – even when he’s yelling about a football game.

From the day when I first held him in my arms to this September 11th when I can only wish him well from afar, I have embraced what he brings to my life and tried to share that with others.  Some years on September 11th , I buy meals for random people in line behind me in restaurants or stores and sometimes I just make sure I am kind to people – even those who make it difficult to show kindness.  I am just one person, but I do hope if I touch five or ten lives in a kind way then perhaps that will ripple through to more lives and more kindness.  Russell’s gift to me becomes the gift I try to give to as many others as possible without being obnoxious or foolish.  Besides, Russell loves math and would appreciate the concept of exponential numbers and the capacity for exponential acts of decency.

As I struggle to make sure our healthcare system provides access to high quality care for all under a Medicare for all for life model, I need look no further for my motivation than to the hopes and dreams I had for Russell when he entered this world and as he makes his way through it.

I can never wipe away the horrific moments this day held 11 years ago or the trauma so many people have faced in its aftermath.  But so long as I am alive and my September 11th red-headed, funny, and brilliant Russell is in this world, this day will give me reason to stay in the struggle for a kinder, more joyful world. 

Today, I hope others will join me in seeking the courage to keep loving one another even in the face of our individual and collective shortcomings.  Happy Birthday, Russell, and to all who carry heavy burdens today, I wish you a little peace and a lot of love.  It is a world worth loving.

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