How 9/11 Shaped our Lives

I was twenty-three years old with three children and recently separated from my ex-husband. Sitting in my first home of my own, a small three bedroom single wide in rural Virginia, I looked around at the suit cases packed for my “separation celebration.” We were going on our first cruise! My children, 2, 4, and 6 at the time, were starting to stir out of their rooms and pitter patter down the hallway when my phone rang. It was my mother and I was sure she was going to tell me that she was on her way as we were leaving that day from my house to make the drive to Miami, Fl. All I heard, instead of the excited squeal that I expected, was a somber “turn on the TV.”

I remember collapsing. I remember pulling my children close and sitting down on the floor in front of the television unaware of their stares as they watched their mother sob in fear. They, of course, were unaware what those images on the screen meant to their world but I could not imagine the world beyond that very moment.  Everything was over and all I could do was take in these last moments with my children in my arms.

Then it hit me. If this would be their last moments, what kind of mother would allow them to be spent in fear and uncertainty? What kind of mother would I be if I allowed a group of terrorists to take away the last smiles on their faces? No, I would not allow this. I would not be a victim nor would I allow my children to be victimized.

I called my mother back and said to come on and bring her suitcase. When she arrived, we sat for a moment and knew what we should do. I spoke with my father who thought it was a bad idea to go on with our plans and, perhaps he could have been right, but my decision that day made all the difference for my family.

That day, we made a decision to live. We live cautiously, but never scared. We boarded that boat on September 13, 2001, and we set the tone for our lives ever since. Eleven cruises later and I cannot say that I have ever learned more in three days than I did that maiden voyage.

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I learned that there is more to the world than what we see in our daily lives.

I learned that fear keeps us from seeing the most beautiful places, experiencing the most beautiful moments, and connecting with the most beautiful people.

I learned that my children need my strength in order to find their own.

I learned that the ocean is large enough to hold every hope and every dream.

I learned that there it is possible for people from all around the world, even in the face of such events, to come together and enjoy the beauty of the world.

I learned that wars are fought in politics not people.

I learned that everything in life must be learned and that this cannot occur without experiences.

Most of all, I learned that we can all live in fear, as the terrorists wanted, or we can continue to win every day that we choose to experience life.

To those who lost their lives that day, we owe it to you to continue to win!

“Gigi”

 

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Save Yourself: Your Children will Need you When they Return from Foster Care

If we would have entered that courtroom having forgotten who we were as a family, then we would not have been able to portray this to the judge. If we had entered that courtroom looking defeated, then we would have been defeated.

Many years ago, we were called the “boat people,” because every time we went into the local thrift store we were looking for attire for our next cruise. This was just our thing to do. Vacationing is a way of life and so many people would ask how we were able to afford this. Well, the first clue is that we were called this in the local thrift store. I mean, seriously, when were we ever gonna wear those dresses again? Vacationing defined us. People were always asking about this trip or that location and we did this on minimal income.

When the girls turned 6 months old (the youngest allowed on a cruise ship), yep, you guessed it, we were boarding in Miami! It was the perfect trip as we convoyed three vehicles from West Virginia to enjoy this milestone, this entrance into the family addiction to vacationing.

In March of 2017, we were approaching the one year mark on our CPS case. The house was empty and our momentum was beginning to decline. The lawyers had told us to stop looking for any other explanations in the case and to just use everything that we had done to show our side in court. The court date was approaching and idle time began to take its toll.

Then, we remembered who we are and how much of “us” the case had taken. We spent time with the children that week at our visits, packed up the van, and my mother (Nanny), my daughter (Ashley), and I made the drive to Port Canaveral to board a ship.

WHAT!!!! People were quick to ask if we had lost our minds. “Won’t this look bad in your case?” “How can you have fun while the children are going through this?” “How can you afford this with all of the legal fees and associated costs?” “This is soooo irresponsible.”

In short, our response was, “we had no choice.”

If we would have entered that courtroom having forgotten who we were as a family, then we would not have been able to portray this to the judge. If we had entered that courtroom looking defeated, then we would have been defeated. We had spent nearly a year looking through medical files, legal cases, attending visits, attending doctor appointments, sitting up at night crying in the silence. This had drained our very spirits and, when there was no more research to do, we felt hopeless.

So, we found ourselves again. We found our strength. We took a moment to remember how important it is to enjoy each moment of our lives and the people who are in them. We laughed. We cried. We stared out into the horizon and envisioned what was just on the other side.

When we came home, we approached that horizon. We entered that courtroom claiming that our family would be returned. And they were!

CPS takes everything that they can from you. They not only alienate you from your children but also from your very being, your soul until there is nothing left of you to fight for. Hold on to who you are because, WHEN your children come home, they are going to need that person to be there!

 

You are Important Too!

“Gigi”