Not one single cloud could be seen; just crystal blue for as far as the eyes could see. Like so many East Coast Americans on September 11, 2001, I was in the process of my day. My two sons were in school, my husband at work and as I was traveling that morning to Greenville, South Carolina to a manager’s meeting for my job in property management. The route to Greenville was always a pretty one filled with beautifully tree lined roads and little to no traffic until you came closer to the city.
Despite the scenic commute, I wasn’t looking forward to this meeting. Matter of fact I was dreading it. At the time I had a supervisor who was extremely critical of anyone who was under her authority that had children. Her name was Kathy, and in her mind, if you had a child you could not give her the amount of work she demanded and would prefer that you were replaced with a person who had no kids or the desire to ever have kids and here I was with two sons. No matter my many attempts to find approval with Kathy, I was simply regarded as an unwanted manager she didn’t hire but inherited. Kathy tried several times unsuccessfully to replace me with a person who she wanted in that position, but I had the support of leadership in our corporate office and that was like waging a war in Kathy’s eyes.
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I was about 15 minutes outside of my destination when the radio station I was listening to let out an emergency broadcast signal. My first thought was emergency broadcast test, but then a voice immediately went on to report a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York City. It wasn’t being reported at that time that it was a commercial jet so I immediately thought it was a small twin engine tourist plane that had hit the building.
Within minutes of that initial report I pulled into my destination at the clubhouse area of the property where our meeting was held when I was greeted by several of my fellow managers at my car. As I opened my door to my Jeep I saw the eyes of my colleagues filled with tears as they asked me if I had heard about the plane hitting the building in New York. One of the managers, Mary Ann (who was considered our “faithful servant of God” in our group) was almost beyond consolable as she described the plane as a commercial airliner. Walking back into the clubhouse we all surrounded the television to watch the coverage of the event and Mary Ann would lead us in prayer for those who lost their lives and for those who were fighting for theirs. Suddenly Kathy walked in; unaware of the events staring at the group of women in tears her first words to us were “let’s get started on the meeting”. Before a word could be spoken the second plane hit the second Twin Tower and that was when it happened; the Kathy that I knew up to that point was no more.
There we were; a group of eight women from various parts of a region from different walks of life, sitting and staring at that television screen in disbelief with our eyes filled with tears. The agenda of our day no longer mattered as we literally could not look away from the coverage. The scene was horrific; smoke billowing out of the buildings and the thousands of pieces of paper floating like feathers in the wind and the news only became worse. Our lives were forever changed and with that the transformation of Kathy would begin.
You see, out of the horror and tragedy of the attacks of September 11th was the realization of what is truly important in life to Kathy. Suddenly, the “balls to the wall” persona she was known for was replaced by a woman who was inconsolable as the realization of so many innocent people that were taken so quickly by an act so unconceivable to a country and for our generation was just witnessed in front of her very eyes. Like so many Americans that day, from different walks of life we came together and like our country, we as a group of women grew stronger and closer.
Just days after the attacks, Kathy sent out a personal message to each manager and to this day I recall vividly how she spoke to me in my letter of how unfair she realized that she treated me and asked for forgiveness. From that point forward for me, the tragic events of September 11th lead me to begin each morning by sharing via email, an inspirational message from my morning Bible study. At first I only shared with my region but then surprisingly I was asked by my corporate office to share it with everyone in the company. For many I was told it brought a sense of comfort and hope each day and they began to rely on that message. Within 6 months of the tragedy of September 11th , Kathy decided to get married, moved to Massachusetts from South Carolina and announced the news of a first child being conceived. In the midst of terrible loss, a new life began, and for Kathy a life that was changed forever.