Rivkah Writes…

September 13, 2009

September Again

It’s September again; the time of year I take stock, mark endings, and note beginnings. Fall always carries an evocative bitter-sweet kind of nostalgia of its own: the end of summer, another year gone, chilly mornings, shorter days – all precursors to winter’s imminence. But then there are those perfect fall days that feel like a gift. Days when, as you hurry about your business, you can’t help but bask in the dappled sunlight dancing through the wind-swept branches. On those days, thoughts of winter recede, and fall envelopes you with the promise of hot drinks, cozy sweaters, skating rinks, and Christmas windows.

This September also marks the anniversary of my rebirth – 8 years since my escape from the World Trade Center where I worked on 9/11. I was one of the lucky ones – not only did I survive, I didn’t even know any of the victims. Both physically and psychologically, then, I remained intact. Somehow, I had been able to tune out all but the most important of survivor instincts – action and reaction – insulating myself from the horror until I was safe. What kept me going was the sense that I had to put one foot in front of the other, get out the building, and reach my family. That’s all I thought about, all I allowed myself to think about, and it saved me. Even once I was out of the building, I never looked up, never looked behind me – except when Tower II collapsed – and kept moving forward. Watching the planes crash through the towers on TV later that day and on successive days, I was horrified at how close I had come to death. At the time, though, adrenalin had buoyed me up and away from the terror of the moment.

September, of course, heralds the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, which incorporates Rosh Hashanah, the New Year and, 7 days later, Yom Kippur, the Day of Judgment. During this auspicious period, God judges his people and determines their fate. Depending on the year, Rosh Hashanah will fall either in the beginning, the middle, or the end of the month. In 2001, Rosh Hashanah fell one week after the Trade Center Tragedy; the irony of this juxtaposition was lost to none of us. The liturgy for Rosh Hashanah includes Unesaneh,Tokef, or, “Let Us Relate the Power,” which describes how, on this day, God will inscribe our fate for the coming year: “…who will live and who will die…who by water and who by fire…who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by stoning…” As I stood in the synagogue that Rosh Hashanah and recited the prayer, I realized that for the Trade Center victims, death had meant “all of the above.”

This Rosh Hashanah, I will have an additional reason to celebrate: the welcome change in my circumstances. After almost 5 months of unemployment, I am working again, as a freelance Communications Consultant, and have just begun my MS Ed in Mental Health Counseling. Five months of unemployment probably seems a relatively short period given the current market. Still, those were 5 arduous months in which I developed my blog, networked, applied for jobs, dutifully did a round of informational interviews, courtesy of outplacement training, and braved the questioning stares of my neighbors every time I walked by in my trusty interview suit. “Not yet,” I’d say brightly, before they had the chance to ask, “but soon – I’ll let you know when.” Occasionally, during that 5-month period, I’d lose it and cry as though the world was coming to an end, much to the distress of my family. Once the deluge was over, though, I’d dry my eyes, hug it out, take a deep breath, and move on.

It’s September again; this year, along with the end of summer and the anniversary of my rebirth, I’ll also mark the hopeful change in my prospects. And on one of those perfect fall days, as I hurry about my business, I’ll bask in the dappled sunlight dancing through the wind-swept branches, and envelop myself in the promise of new beginnings.

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