I believe in different things than I did almost five years ago. I think that many of us do. After September 11th, most Americans underwent some kind of shift in their worldview – as individuals, as different cultural groups, as political animals, as a country. Who I am now, my beliefs, are wrapped around the person that I love more than anything– my husband. When we first met he was doing construction, but all along, I knew he was fated to go into his family profession. Every man in his family has done military service and most have gone into either the police or fire services. My husband, a former Marine, is now a firefighter/ paramedic who specializes in high angle and confined space rescue. We live in the Midwest, far from New York City, but the job is still not a safe one. He has lost friends and family members in the line of duty. When we got serious, I realized that I needed to be at peace with his calling. Truly at peace. If I wasn’t, it could rip the love and the marriage apart.
And until 9/11, I thought I was at peace with his job. Looking back now, I know I wasn’t. I had a police scanner on constantly, listening to each and every call. I would get nauseous if he was ever late after getting off shift. I remember all the rationales I had sorted out in my head – he could die crossing the street, maybe even of some heart defect undetected since birth… No one ever knows when or how they are going to go; that’s one of the big mysteries. None of this calmed me, though, and I ended up walking on the dark side of love for a while. You hear all about couples who grow apart and don’t care any more – well, what if they have deadened themselves out of self-defense, because they love and care too much? Love deepens every day but if you don’t watch it, so does fear. The longer you love someone, the more unimaginable it is to lose them.
Until September 11, 2001. When the cameras showed emergency workers racing toward the World Trade Center, I screamed. And when we all watched those thousands of people die, I watched my husband die, too. He died in my imagination, not in my reality, but in those first searing moments, I couldn’t tell the difference.
That was five years ago. I’m a different person today. My husband still goes into burning buildings, still winds up at meth houses and at gunshot scenes, still dangles multiple stories above or below ground. I do still worry – but I AM at peace with it now. I am at peace because I believe in the power, beauty, and joy of the moment. Sometimes he eats the leftovers that I wanted or forgets to do the dishes, and I know that at times I drive him crazy, too. Every moment, though, I am WITH him. If he dies before I do, nothing will ever lessen the agony of that loss. But more than anything, I believe that fear and suffering are never reasons to close yourself off from love.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.