On Sept. 11, 2001, my 82-year-old father lay in a hospital bed, with little hope of ever being the father I had once known.
I watched the tragic events unfold on the hospital TV that morning. I remember trying to explain to my dad what had happened during a rare moment of semi-clarity within his haze of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. He nodded his head vaguely, with no real comprehension as far as I could tell. I counted him lucky in that respect.
As the rest of my family kept vigil with both my father and the TV, I took a walk to reflect on how things might now change in the world, how things were changing at this very moment. I felt frightened and helpless for the country, for myself. But I knew one thing for sure: I was as unprepared for this seemingly unimaginable happening as I was for my father's sudden onslaught of illness. I vowed to never be caught off guard this badly ever again.
[Your story: How has September 11 changed you?]
My journey over the past 10 years has taken me through a horrible separation and divorce, two painful deaths of close family members, an IRS audit and a shocking layoff from a good job.
I know in my heart I could have easily fallen apart on any of these occasions had it not been for my experience on Sept. 11. My realization that day that everything can change in the blink of an eye taught me to stop taking things for granted.
The incredibly brave passengers on flight 93 taught me to take charge and find the strength and determination to solve unforeseen problems at a moment's notice. The many survivors and victims' families taught me to go on with life no matter what happens, to do whatever I thought was necessary to make myself happy.
Today, I work in a hospital where I provide nutritional support to the patients. I love my job even though it means being around illness and death. I could never have done this job prior to 9/11 because hospitals scared and unsettled me. Now I feel extremely fortunate I am able to rise above those fears because I know I am helping people. I am also engaged to a wonderful man I met as a result of letting go of my fear of the unknown.
Before 9/11, I was living in my own little bubble. I thought nothing bad could ever happen -- that my parents would live forever, and that our country's military would always be able to protect us. I was wrong.
I am a far different person now. I am stronger, more enlightened and more capable of taking care of myself. And perhaps most importantly, I am no longer one of those people who stick their head in the sand. I am now firmly planted in reality, eager to meet whatever challenges life has to offer. For this I am grateful. To this day, my late father's wise words ring in my mind: "Within all that is bad always comes some good." I am a believer.