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.
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!