The terrible events of eleven years ago are still fresh in my mind for many reasons. They changed my life, but in a way that the forces of evil might not have foreseen.
I was living and working in Japan (as I am now), alone and lonely in a small town up in the mountains. The evening of 9/11, up until then a very ordinary day, I was tired and went to bed earlier than I normally would have. Five minutes after I turned out the lights, I got a call from a girl named Masako, and my world changed, in more ways than one.
I'd returned a couple of weeks earlier from summer vacation. I'd flown back to Michigan to see my family and friends and salve the homesickness that creeps up on you when you've been away for a long time (two years, in my case). Flying back to Japan on the 12.5 hour flight, unable to sleep in the cramped confines of Northwest economy class, I stared out the window (blanket blocking the light, as everyone else was watching the movie or sleeping) at the clouds and the Canadian Rockies six miles below, and I felt small and lonely. I decided to do something about it. The day after I landed, I took out a small personal ad in a publication for expats (at that time known as The Alien), looking for friends.
Masako contacted me on August 25, and we e-mailed back and forth. I liked her immediately, and we met up for the first time on September 1, 2001. I thought she was beautiful. She was kind of nonplussed at my appearance, but liked me enough to make a follow-up date a week later. I went to her family's house, a nervous wreck, and met her father and mother.
On September 11, Masako's father was watching the news and saw the events unfolding live. He called Masako, and told her that she'd better call her "boyfriend" and let him know what was happening.
As Masako recalled, some time later, she was at first confused. Who was this "boyfriend"? She didn't have a boyfriend...
Then she realized that he must have meant me.
She called. I turned on the TV. We watched together, horrified. Finally I excused myself so I could call family and friends back home.
I was lucky, in certain ways. I didn't know anyone in NYC. I'd never even been (still haven't, to this day) to NYC. But in other ways, it was worse. Being 6600 miles from home, unable to help, unable to hug and comfort (or receive hugs and comfort) from family and friends, and being in the position I was (public school teacher), having to go in front of my classes and be strong and calm and rational and try to discuss it without turning into a bawling wreck... those things were tough.
But there was Masako. We talked. We dated. We grew very close, very fast. She moved in with me before the end of the year. We married in April of 2002. Since we married, we've never been apart more than 24 hours and don't wish to be.
It was the events of 9/11, that stray comment by her father, that really got her to thinking of me as her "boyfriend", that let us grow closer, that led to where we are today. This isn't to say that things wouldn't have turned out well for us is she hadn't... but on the other hand, she was also seeing another guy at the time, and who knows how she might have chosen?
I don't mean to diminish, or downplay, or belittle the importance of 9/11, the legacy of its victims, or the sacrifices of its heroes. But 9/11 will always give me mixed feelings. The feelings of horror are tempered with the birth of love. I think it's a lesson in unintended consequences. The hijackers and their bosses set out to destroy, maim, and sow chaos, and so they did. But they also ensured that at least two others are much happier than before. I like to think that the evil of that day is at least partially balanced by such things. How many people met and fell in love, gained friendships, or knew love and support because of the tragedy that shattered so many lives?
It's a lesson I wish the terrorists of the world would learn- you can hurt us, maim us, kill us... but you cannot destroy hope and the human spirit.
Thank you for reading.
Thu Sep 13, 2012 at 2:25 AM PT: Thanks for the diary rescue, and my first appearance in the Community Spotlight!
In the midst of tragedy, we can find happiness, and happiness can turn to tragedy as well. I mentioned in the diary that I didn't know (nor Masako) anyone directly affected by 9/11, but our lives haven't been untouched by terror. Masako's high school friend was with her new husband on their honeymoon in Bali; both were killed in the Bali nightclub bombing. My best friend's high school friend was one of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing. We must never forget those who died, but life goes on, and the strange connections and unfolding possibilities of each day we live weaves the tapestry of history. It's up to us to decide if we have the patience and wisdom to make the overall picture beautiful or ugly.