Sunday, September 27, 2009

Why I love my neighborhood grocery store....

I'm a firm believer that I should write about the good as well as the bad. I had an experience on Saturday, and it was too cool not to share.

Let me begin by saying that I've always been a big fan of local businesses. We prefer local restaurants to chains. I prefer local vendors to national conglomerates. I have a horrible love/hate relationship with Walmart: I love the low prices; I hate the Walmart machine.

When I moved to Utah 14 years ago, I had to find a new grocery store; they don't have the same stores here as they have in Illinois. For the 10 years that I lived downtown in Salt Lake City, I adopted Albertsons as "my" grocery store. It had all of the things that epitomize downtown. In fact, we called it our "ghetto Albertsons." Sometimes I miss those day...where the bloody guy was being chased through the produce section by the EMTs....or the drunk guy whose "old lady was out in the car" came in to buy a 12 pack of beer because he just got out of jail that day....or the fight I got into with the ignorant clerk who was so rude to a young black man that I just couldn't keep my mouth shut....ah downtown, how I miss you. Sometimes Bradley and I take a trip downtown just to get good Greek food and look for hookers and tranvestites. It's great fun.

When we moved to the suburbs, I was again out of my element and forced to choose a new grocery store. We had heard about Harmons for years...seen the commercials...but had never visited one of the stores. I decided to give it a try, and I was sold! It is honestly the best grocery store ever! We joke that they have everything at Harmons, and they do! They also have a custom cheese bar and a custom olive bar...oh, and a "dollar store" within the store. They take your groceries right out of the cart for you so that you don't have to load groceries on a belt...and...wait for it....they have COMPLIMENTARY drive and load. I can't say enough good about them.

Saturday, I had an experience that will keep me as a Harmons customer for life.

I was in a different part of town, and I stopped at a Harmons for my Saturday grocery shopping. I came in with a list and LOADED my cart....I mean it was overflowing. As I rolled up to the check out line, a man came up to me and said, "Can I just say thank you." It was Bob Harmon....the owner....who I'd seen on TV many times. I said, "For what, spending all of my money here?" He said, "Thank you for choosing our store." Stop and think about that for a often does that happen....that 1) the owner of the store is out and about on the floor; 2) that he stops by to make a personal introduction. You don't get that every day.

Harmons has dozen or so stores in Utah. I told Bob that this isn't my normal location and that I was just in the area because the girls were playing softball nearby. He asked how many girls I had playing softball; the answer is "2." He produced a free fruit coupon for them and told them to have a piece of fruit on him.
I've gotta tell you....I was so impressed with that brief interaction. That is hard work and relationship building at its finest! This country was founded on folks who worked hard, had dreams and open businesses. Harmons has been around for almost 100 years. Four generations of Harmons have served the people of Utah. It's clear why they are still in business and doing so well. They have a great story, and their history can be found on the web.

I hope that if you have a local business that provides excellent service in your neighborhood that you frequent that establishment. For me....I'm a Harmons girl. Bob Harmon sealed that deal for me, and the great folks who work at my local Harmons keep me coming back again and again!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Our 9/11 Tradition

I've posted this in the past, but 9/11 is a special day of remembrance in our family. I'm a bit surprised that it is not a national day of remembrance, but I'm also encouraged to know that the events of 9/11 are being shared with a generation who is too young to remember the day from their own experiences.

This year I volunteered to give a presentation to the 6th Graders at Sandy Elementary about 9/11. I approached the presentation from a historical perspective, and I smattered a few of my personal memories of that day; I was in Manhattan on that unbelievable day. I spent hours and hours preparing a power point that I thought would be appropriate for 6th Graders and do accurate justice to the day. The theme of the presentation was "remembering the heroes of 9/11."

At the end of the presentation, I asked the children how they could remember 9/11. I was stunned with some of the answers they gave. They are SMART, THOUGHTFUL kids! Many of them have an adult in their life to has told them of their personal experience on 9/11. Many of them already have 9/11 traditions with their families. I was quite surprised that many of them wanted to share their thoughts. Perhaps I underestimate 6th Graders. I learned a lot from them.

In keeping with our family tradition, we all went to the Healing Field in Sandy, Utah (now our home town), and we spent some time reflecting on that day. The following are some of the pictures. With the exception of one of these pictures, Bradley was the designated photographer for the event, and he did a fabulous job!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mary Leonetti: May 30, 1922-September 12, 2009

I got the call this morning that my maternal grandmother, Mary Leonetti, had passed away. No one ever wants to receive that call, but unfortunately, death is a part of our lives. Mary had been suffering with cancer for a few years now, and her death was not unexpected. She was 87 years old.

When I hung up the phone, I began to cry. I was sad because I cannot make it out for the funeral. I'm certain if I insisted that I need to go that work would figure out a way to make it happen, but work is not my only consideration. This is just a bad week for me to try and make it happen, and my mom, sister and nephew will have to represent the family in my stead.
I cried because I never really knew my grandmother. I wish that I could tell you that she was the kind of grandma where you had sleep overs, she baked cookies, read stories and loved me. I know she loved me. She was just completely incapable of any of those other things. My grandma had minimal mental capacity. She had the IQ of a third grade child, and she was incapable of taking care of herself. Since the 1940s, she had been institutionalized, and she received tireless care from her family. The burden for her care has fallen to my Uncle Tony for decades, and I'm in awe of him for that.
As a child, we rarely visited Mary. Back in the day, the institutions were uninviting and quite scary for a small child. I remember visting her once and being upset by the experience. Perhaps that is why my mom didn't have us visit her much after that. Her care improved over the years as facilities and care options improved. I remember one year we had a family get together in Sherman, and Mary was there. She looked great and was quite lucid that day. I remember other visits when I was an adult that were no so pleasant. It was always upredictable when it came to visiting Mary.

There were several years in my 20s and 30s when I tried to send Mary postcards and letters regularly. Because she was incapable of doing so, I never got responses. I tried really hard to send her cards on Christmas and Mother's Day and sometimes for her birthday. One time when I visited her, one of her care givers mentioned that she loved the letters. Every time I visited her, it broke my heart to see a framed picture of me and my sister when we were about 3 and 1 years old (respectively). It is old, and the color has faded. She's had that picture for nearly 40 years, and it is still prominently displayed on her dresser.
There were some visits with Mary that were good. Sometimes she would talk and talk. Sometimes she would look at me sideways and ask me a logical question. "You went to Croatia, didn't you?" "You have a good job, don't you?" "You got married, right?" She was not un-intelligent. On a good day, we could hold a decent conversation. She told me about Pearl Harbor Day and what she remembered. She lit up when I asked her facts about her life. She seemed to remember more about her distant past then she did about current happenings.
Several years ago, Mary had a stroke, and she hasn't really been the same since. My last visit with her was quite a while a go, and it was not a good day for her. I was so upset after the visit because sometimes her behavior was hard for me to witness.

I cried today becasue I wish that I'd tried harder...had more patience...visited her more than I did. I'm trying not to be too hard on myself, but it's difficult.
I do have one bit of hope in all of this. My faith helps me understand that this life does not end with mortality. I believe that our spirits live on and that someday, we will all be resurrected in our perfected bodies. I believe in a loving God who will perfect Mary's mental capacities so that she will not suffer with this trial for eternity. I believe this. I also believe that I will see my grandmother again. I will get to sit down with her and marvel at the person she is....the person whose mind is whole...the person who I need to thank for being my grandmother and providing me with a rich family lineage.

I believe all this will be. I look forward to that day when I will see Mary, her parents, her parents parents and so on and so on....the Italian side of my family will be having a big party in Heaven. I only hope there is great food, good music and lots of Italian love!
May God Bless Mary and take her in His Grace. I love you, Grandma, and I hope that you are resting peacfully until we meet again!
Your loving granddaughter,
My mom (left), Mary (right) with me in the baby blanket. Look how happy she looks!
The Leonetti Children- Left to right: Rose, Tony, Mary, Sam

My mom and my grandma (10 years ag0)

September 11, 2001: How I remember it

....I was digging through some old files tonight, and I found this document that I wrote in 2002. It is long, and it is detailed. I put it out here in cyberspace just to have one more record in case something happens to the file. I have not edited the document. Here it is in its entirety.

September 9, 2002

Words can’t adequately express the tumult of emotion that I feel as we approach the one year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America. For a year now, I have had good intentions of writing my story. I feel it’s necessary as part of a healing process. I feel it’s necessary to record my thoughts for my posterity.

Each generation has a memory of a watershed event that changed world history forever. For my parents it was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. For my grandparents, it was the attack on Pearl Harbor that catapulted the United States into World War II. Before September 11, 2001, my world event was the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986. I also remember the day Ronald Regan was shot and the day that the Berlin Wall fell. Nothing in my memory compares to the raw emotion that I still feel from the events of September 11th.

I would anticipate that someday it will be a national memorial day. The wounds are still too fresh, though. It will be an ad hoc memorial day for all on Wednesday, September 11, 2002, an involuntary memorial day, for it is impossible to not be affected by the tragedy. It seems impossible that a year has passed. It seems like yesterday in some respects, and in other respects, it seems like a lifetime ago.

It was the day that the world changed forever. It sounds dramatic, but it is true. No other act of aggression has been so horrible against the civilian population of the United States of America. These weren’t soldiers who were killed…those who had volunteered to protect our freedom…these were citizens of my country who were otherwise proceeding with what should have been a normal day. It was anything but normal.

I have a story that needs to be written because I was in New York City on that day. I was a tacit observer to that which happened. I have never been more scared in my whole entire life. I suppose that is why they call it terrorism.

Let me back up and tell this in a chronology.

I love New York City! I first visited the city when I was a little girl. I remember that we took the subway and we went to Barnum and Bailey’s Circus at Madison Square Garden. I was very young, perhaps 5 years old, maybe even 4 years old, but I still remember it.

My love affair with the city grew as I got older. When I was 18, I traveled to the city on a trip to the National Forensics Association national speech tournament in East Orange, New Jersey. It was at Uppsala University (which closed its doors just a few years ago.)
I marveled at the grandeur and power of Time Square. I was shocked by the price of a hamburger, and I did the “Rockette’s Kickline” with girlfriends as we stood in front of Radio City Music Hall.

I returned other times as an adult. Most times it was for a quick vacation or to see friends who lived in the city. I love to shop at Macy’s all by myself! I love to do all of the touristy things! I love to eat at the greatest restaurants in the world. My heart wanes for a great Broadway show. I love New York. It is everything I wish I had the courage to try just once in my life.

In the Summer of 1997, I traveled to NYC with my friend, Kristijan, and we had a wonderful time on a shoestring budget. It was great to see the city through the eyes of one who had never seen it before. We had a wonderful time.

In the Summer of 1999, I spent the 4th of July in New York City with a group of friends. I visited Ellis Island on that day out of respect for my Italian immigrant ancestors who passed through the Island on the way to a better life and a future in Illinois. I stood on the top of the Empire State Building and watched the fireworks on the Hudson and on the East River. I was positioned between a two French tourists on top of the observation deck; it seemed rather fitting for only the French with Bastille Day rival the US with regard to celebration.

In the Spring of 2000, I traveled to the city to see friends. I had dinner with an old friend from high school, Evan. We ate at a local vegetarian restaurant in lower Manhattan where we talked about religion and philosophy and got caught up on the details of our lives. That conversation changed my life. Evan always did have that kind of effect on me. Marija, Justin and I had a wonderful Saturday in the city. We ate at Tavern on the Green and took in a Broadway show.

Last summer, the summer of 2001, I had a friend visit me from Croatia. I decided that his perception of the United States would be quite skewed if he only visited Utah. I planned a trip with him to New York. He was to return to Croatia from there, and I would return home. We left Salt Lake on Saturday, September 8, 2001.

On Saturday night, we stayed in Queens with Marija and Justin Nielsen. Justin was in law school at the time, and Marija managed a retail store in Rockefeller Plaza. On Sunday, Dubravko and I went for a day of exploration in the city. We went to the Statue of Liberty and did a bus tour of lower Manhattan. I remember on the tour that we passed the World Trade Center. It was simply the largest structure I’ve ever seen. I’d seen it before, but it doesn’t diminish in impact each time I see it. I have a picture of it from that day.

On Sunday night, Dubravko and I stayed at the Waldorf Astoria. It had always been a dream of mine to stay there. It was quite disappointing. On Monday, September 10, 2001, we moved to the Doubletree on Time Square (47th and 7th).

On Monday, we ate lunch at Planet Hollywood where we sat for hours and watched a Michael Jackson look-a-like contest. Michael was playing New York that night, and the top two impressionists got free concert tickets. We walked around Manhattan, and it rained, if I remember correctly. Eventually, we met up with Marija, Justin and a friend of theirs named Grant. We took a cab to a wonderful Hungarian restaurant on the upper west side.

I remember that we had wonderful food, great conversation and lots of laughs. It was like being back in Yugoslavia hanging out with friends and just “being.” We tried in vain to convince Dubravko to see a Broadway show with us on Tuesday, but he wanted absolutely no part of that.

I remember that we walked over 50 blocks to about 34th. It had rained that afternoon and evening, and it was nice outside. The pace was moderate, and it felt good to walk. We all parted at the subway station, and Dubravko and I went on to the Empire State Building. He wasn’t really interested, but I convinced him that one of the most spectacular views of the city is from the top of the Empire State Building late at night.

We were up there at about 10:30 or 11:00 PM. It was spectacular. The rain left a clear sky. It was windy, but it was a great time. The view is overwhelming. You get an impression of how big the city is and how small you are.

That was the last time I saw the World Trade Center, Monday, September about 11:00 PM…from the south view of the top of the Empire State Building.

There was no way I could have ever imagined that it would be the last time I would see those buildings. There was no way that I could have ever imagined how the world would change just hours from the time that I stood at the top of the Empire State Building.

I remember that we took a cab back to our hotel, watched Monday night football (Giants vs. Broncos) and watched a movie on pay-per-view at the hotel. I was exhausted when we finally retired. For some odd reason, I remember that I feel asleep fully clothed. I was so tired that I just climbed into bed.

The next morning, my cell phone rang. It was right around 9:00 AM. It was Marija, and I chose not to answer it. I would call her later. We were both completely wiped out, and I had every intention of sleeping in on my last day of vacation. A few seconds later, the phone rang in the hotel room. I knew it had to be Marija, and I knew that she really was trying hard to get in touch with me. She knew the hotel, but to the best of my knowledge, I had not given her the number. I answered. Time stopped.

She told me to get out of bed and turn on the TV.

I did.

I was so confused. First, I was tired. Second, I was watching this horrible accident on television. I really thought it was an accident. The night before at the Empire State Building, one of the guides told a story of a plane that hit an upper floor on the Empire State Building many years ago. Everyone on the floor died except for the elevator operator. She had several broken bones but lived.

I thought that perhaps a corporate jet had gotten too close and accidentally crashed into the building. I had no idea that it was a big, passenger jet.

Immediately, we called Dubravko’s mom in Croatia. I knew that if she heard there was a plane crash in NYC that she would be so upset. We wanted to let her know that he was OK. We called her before the news hit Croatia, so she had no idea what we were talking about. He told her that he was fine and not too worry. We found out later that it was only minutes after the call that the news picked up the feed on local Croatian television. It was such a blessing that we were able to get an international line before all hell broke loose.

I called work to let them know that I was ok. My boss would worry, and she knew that I was on vacation in NYC. I recall that Sherrie answered the phone and said, “Are you calling to tell me about the thing in New York?” At that point in time, no one had any idea of the gravity of the situation.

We threw open the curtains in the hotel, but our view of lower Manhattan is, of course, obstructed by tall buildings. The sky was blue, and all indications were, from looking out the window, that everything was normal. It wasn’t. In fact, it was the most abnormal day that I can ever remember.

Dubravko and I watched the local NYC station 2. They were broadcasting live, and there were several news choppers up in the air. As we were watching the building, a small explosion happened in the other tower. From the angle of the camera, it looked like either a bomb had gone off or a news chopper became consumed in the smoke and accidentally hit the building. We all know now that it was a second plane, but from the angle that we saw it (live), it was difficult to tell. It seem like a long time later, but it was probably only a few minutes before they accurately reported that it was a second plane.

For some reason, it did not compute in my brain. Others processed it immediately as an act of war or an act of terrorism. I, either out of disbelief or shock, could not comprehend what was happening. I was overwhelmed to know that this was happening just a few miles away from where I sat. Even as I write this now, I can recall every detail of that hotel room, the bed spread, the TV, the position of the bathroom. It’s like the moment is burned in my mind. I’ve been in 30 hotel rooms since that day, but this one in more clear in my mind that the one I was in two nights ago.

I remember that I frantically flipped TV stations toggling between local New York news and CNN, FOX, Headline News and any thing else that could tell me what was happening.

I called my sister, Julie, and got her out of bed to watch the whole thing.

My memories of chronology are sketchy during about the first 6 hours. I remember events and feelings more than I remember the order in which they occurred.

I remember watching the first tower fall. If you have never seen the towers, you have no idea of their size. I can’t believe that it fell. I can’t believe it fell so soon after the hit.

I remember when the plane hit the Pentagon. That is when I went into shock. I literally freaked out. I finally believed that it was terrorism. My first thought was, “No one attacks the United States.” I said this out loud. I paced the floor and ran my fingers through my hair. I remember that I was very, very upset.

Poor Dubravko. This was overwhelming for him, too. I have never reacted this way to anything, and I’m sure that he was in shock on many different levels. I’m sure that it must have been strange to see me in such a condition. There was nothing that he (or anyone) could say that would have brought me any comfort at that time.

I remember thinking (and saying out loud) that I had to call people in Chicago, LA and San Francisco and warn them to get out of big buildings. Dubravko said that I was overreacting. I told him that we had no idea where this could end. I firmly believed that every plane in the air could have been a potential hijack and a potential threat. I was near hysterical. No, I was hysterical.

I vaguely recall the plane crash in Pennsylvania. This is not to in any way discredit the good people who died on flight 93. It is just to say that of all of the tragedies that day, that is the one which I recall the least.

My cell phone was receiving message after message, but the phone wasn’t ringing. I couldn’t get a cell signal, and I couldn’t get a landline. It was a horrible feeling of helplessness. I just wanted to start talking about it, and I wanted to contact my friends and family.

The second tower fell, and in an odd way, things went silent. The city was in complete and total chaos, but I felt silent. Was there going to be something else? I feared an attack on the Empire State Building. I feared that other explosives were planted in the city. I was so close to Time Square. Could that have been the destination for an attack?

I waited. What would be next? There were rumors that the White House was a target. What would be next? Was it over? There was a terrible period of “not knowing.” There was a terrible period in lower Manhattan where smoke covered the city. Dust and debris floated through the streets like a powerful gust of air had pressurized the contents and exploded on an unsuspecting public.

The images were shocking. The thought of the number of dead was heart wrenching. I can say that great anxiety and sorrow and fear filled my heart, and I feared it would burst under the strain of containment.

I did not cry. I was in shock, and for some reason, I was incapable of tears.

I was able to make calls to friends and family. The strangest calls of all were those from people who I rarely hear from. Messages on my machine that said, “Hi, I’m sure you’re nowhere near New York, but I thought of you today, and if you could just let me know you’re ok.” The irony of it all…..

I remember talking with my dad. He said, “I really don’t like it that you’re there.” What an odd thing to say. I didn’t like it either, but at that point, I had no choice. My mom…was really worried, but when I finally talked to her, she was pretty calm. She said to go buy food and hunker down for the night. Kevin, my cousin, was really upset and wanted to “come and get me.” It is funny what we think about when we’re stressed. His desire was completely illogical, but it was a powerful urge to “do something.” Julian was gravely concerned, and he called me frequently. After telling the story over and over again, I had Julie call family members with updates. I just couldn’t spend all of my time on the phone. It was too taxing. Between my cell phone, my calling card and my hotel phone bill, I spent over $1000.00 in phone calls on September 11th…and the days following thereafter.

One of Marija’s employees, Arlene, had to evacuate the store in Rockefeller Plaza, and since they closed the subway, she had no way to get home. Arlene stayed with us until about 8:00 PM that night.

At about 3:00 PM on September 11th, we realized that we were hungry, and left the hotel suite to find something to eat. The city was at a stand still, and everything was shut down. McDonalds was a few blocks away, and it was opened. People there were all in shock. All eyes were turned to the TVs, and strangers were sharing stories with each other. Some in the restaurant had been in lower Manhattan and a few had been in the towers. It was surreal.

We were sitting in the upper part of McDonalds when Dubravko said, “How am I going to get home tomorrow?” We were both to return to our respective homes on the 12th. Poor guy. I unloaded on him. It old him he could get a boat and start rowing for all I cared. There were thousands of people dead, the international air system had been shut down, the United States had just been attacked, and he wanted to know how he was getting home???

He took a long walk that afternoon that lasted several hours. It was good for both of us. He walked down to Tribeca until the police stopped him. They had cordoned off a large part of lower Manhattan for emergency personnel only. He took some pictures of lower Manhattan.

He came back to the hotel, and we all ate in the hotel restaurant. We got Arlene off on a working subway so she could get back to Brooklyn. Dubravko and I bought some sandwiches, cookies, fruit and water and took them back to the room. Sometime late that night, we finally turned off the TV. It was too much to watch such devastation for that many hours. I really think it was unhealthy. We wanted to know the details, but it was like re-living the whole thing all day long. I don’t know how it could have been any different, but I do know that my anxiety was never lessened because the TV was constantly on…telling every sad story I’ve ever heard in my whole entire life. It was traumatic.

On Wednesday no planes flew.

I knew that the US had stopped all international in bound flights, and therefore, there were no outbound flights. We tried and tried to get Dubravko on a flight, but the airlines were in such a flux for days that it was impossible to secure anything.

We went to Marija’s and Justin’s, and we stayed there on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday when planes didn’t fly to Salt Lake from New York, I decided that we would go to Philadelphia and catch a Delta flight from there to Salt Lake. I couldn’t sit for one more day watching the television and wondering what was going to happen. I needed to do something.

I was extremely agitated and suffering from high anxiety. It made for very tense relations between me and Dubravko. The situation was already difficult as it was, and the stress of him not being able to get home was almost unbearable. It became apparent that he would travel back with me to Salt Lake and that we would then be able to make arrangements for him to get home.

On Thursday, I found my way to the Howard Beach branch library where I could finally access the Internet. I had been out of touch for a week, and it was killing me.

My boss, Carol Shear, was great! I was technically off of vacation. SCT paid for me to get home, and that was a great comfort to have that burden alleviated.

On Friday afternoon, Dubravko and I took a taxi from NYC to Philadelphia. It was about $260 for both of us. The cabbie had a brother in Philadelphia, and it was worth it to him to take us. It was about $300 with tips and tolls, but it was a fair price for a two hour cab ride that crossed three states. We stayed at the airport Sheraton. We tried to forget…for just a little while. The consumption of 24 hour news coupled with speculation was unhealthy. We watched mindless television and movies to distract our minds. Our flight was scheduled for Saturday night.

On Saturday morning, we found that our flight was cancelled. Dubravka freaked out for some reason, and she really wanted Dubravko to come home. I understand. And if there were any way that I could have gotten him home, I would have done it. It was simply impossibility. At about Noon, I left Philadelphia to drive to Cincinnati. I figured that we had a better chance with a flight between Cincinnati and SLC since both are Delta hub cities.

The ride on the Pennsylvania turnpike was therapeutic. Dubravko and I had a chance to talk and relax. For the first time in days, I felt like I had some kind of control. I was driving as far as I could away from New York City. I had that car reserved all the way to Salt Lake City, and if need be, I was prepared to drive it that far.

As we stopped at a PA rest stop, I needed a map and a phone charger for the car. The rest stops were all out of both…everywhere along the highway. It was like a mass Exodus of people had gathered up essentials and maps and cell phone chargers were top on the list. In Harrisburg, PA we finally found one at a Radio Shack in the mall.

Somehow, I took a wrong turn, and our trip to Cincinnati was via Cleveland..exactly three hours out of the way. Oh well, at that point in time, you just drive. India.Arie was our company. We listened to her music for hours and hours; it has such a calming effect. I think it is the honesty of her artistry.

Right outside of Cincinnati, I pulled the car over. I needed to cry. I had not cried about the tragedy. I had been in too much shock. I pulled over, and gained my composure. I knew if I started to cry that I would not stop for days and days. I was exhausted…physically, mentally, and spiritually. I was so exhausted.

We finally pulled into the National Car rental facility shortly before 2:00 AM. We slept at the airport hotel for a few hours and rose early for our flight. We were at the airport three hours in advance, and waited for 2 hours and 45 minutes after we cleared security. I slept in the Delta Crown Room and prayed that the flight would leave today.

It did.

I slept the whole way.

I just wanted to get home to go to church. I knew that I would find comfort and solace in worshipping with the saints. The Salt Lake 11th Ward had a memorial service that day, and that was exactly what I needed. I needed to grieve. I needed to weep. I didn’t weep…not for months….but I was patriotically weepy. I have such a sense of welled up pride when I sing the national anthem.

Dubravko went home on Wednesday, a full week after he was originally to go home.

I returned to a normal travel schedule 10 days later.

My life has changed forever.

I’m touched by the stories of those who died. I’m touched by the stories of those who survived. I’m affected by my government as it struggles to balance global power and fight terrorism. My travel life has become stressful as security procedures at airports affect how I travel.

The 2002 Winter Olympics were here in Salt Lake City in February, and it was a military state here. Blackhawk helicopters were audible during the opening ceremonies, soldiers patrolled venues, and it was noticeably a “different” Utah. We all survived the long lines, and I had the time of my life at the Olympics.

I remember during the Sunday morning session of General Conference in October 2001, the news broke that the United States had bombed Afghanistan. It was historic. It took almost a full month after September 11th to strike back. The conflict still ensues, and I fear that it will only intensify.

In December 2001, I was watching a news re-cap of the year, and I saw the footage of the planes hitting the WTC. I had seen it 100 times before, but that night, it affected me deeply. I cried and cried and cried. It was like I was seeing it for the first time. It was overwhelming.

In March, I watched a CBS special about documentary film makers who had an up close and personal view of the events. I had to turn it off. It was like re-opening a wound.

I don’t think I’m in denial. I just know my limits.

As the anniversary approaches, I am filled with emotions. I want to cry. I want to remember. I want to forget. I want to lock myself in my room. I want to be with those I love.

I have heard that time heals all wounds. I don’t know if that is true or not. There are a lot of people still suffering from September 11, 2001. My wounds are insignificant compared to others, but this is my story. I needed to write it down.

September 10, 2002

Twenty four hours later, and the media reports have reminded me of many things. One thing I remember is that on the night of September 11, 2001 Time Square was empty. The mayor had asked everyone who could to leave the city and clear the way for emergency vehicles. We had planned on staying at the Doubletree on the 11th, and we didn’t change those plans. We spent most of the day in the hotel glued to the television.

After we ate dinner and saw Arlene off to the subway, we noticed how empty the city was. People stood in the MIDDLE of Time Square…I mean in the middle of the street. There were police officers on every corner, and the city was eerily quiet. They shut down Broadway (no shows played that night), and you couldn’t find a restaurant open. In fact, the whole city was shut down. It was really, really strange, but in comparison to what had happened that day, it…well, there is no comparison.

Long time New Yorkers got out of their cars, stood in the middle of Time Square and took a picture. It was that strange of an occurrence. New York was such a paradox that night. It was the most devastating place to be, but it was also one of the safest places to be. There were police everywhere; ships in the harbor; F-16s patrolling the skies. It was a military state with a war wound bigger than any imaginable.

As I write this now, I’m watching an NBC news report by Tom Brokaw. It’s just really traumatic to watch the events as “history” on TV. It’s too new to be history. It’s too raw.

I remember that Mayor Guiliani was a rock for New York City. He was traumatized himself, but he kept the city and the world informed. I watched with great interest when he spoke and gave updates. I felt that I was a citizen of New York in an odd way. Everyone knows the mayor; everyone knows New York. We grew up with it…in movies…in books…the sports teams…the New Year’s Eve traditions.

I remember that the people of New York rose to the occasion. They dropped everything to run down and help…to run down and donate blood…to run down and search for loved ones. A city typically known for an attitude that is direct, curt….and can only be described as “New York.” Hearts were softened in the city. Strangers shared stories because now each person in the city had something in common with each other person. They had all been through September 11th together.

I remember taking the train to Marija’s house on Wednesday during the midday. It was strange to walk down the street to the subway. I really wanted to believe that nothing had happened. After all, I never saw the site with my own eyes. In an odd way, I hoped that it wasn’t true. It was a strange state of denial, but I knew that it was real. I knew it was real.

We got on the subway, and people were actually talking to each other. Generally, you ignore everyone on the subway. One elderly woman was headed down to the site to “help.” Another passenger encouraged her to heed the word of city officials and stay away from the site. They had more volunteers than they needed, and added volunteers only hindered rescue efforts. At this point in time, just over 24 hours later, there was still a lot of hope that potentially hundreds of injured would be found. As we now know, that never happened.

The locals who had lost loved ones made posters and begged for information about the missing. Hope was evident for several days, but as time wore on, it was clear that the grim reality was that there would be few survivors. That was one of the most difficult things for me to handle. I thought that more people would be found in the building. The truth was that the devastation was too great and the fires were too intense to spare many lives. I have a copy of the Daily News from September 12, 2001. The headline read 10,000 Dead. Wow. That was hard to take.

In Queens one day (it was probably on Thursday…) I took a long walk along the main road by Marija’s house. I got thirsty and stopped in a local grocery store to buy a bottle of water. As I waited in the check out line, the cashier talked to the customers. Obviously, people knew each other in the store. The woman in line behind me started to cry when the cashier called her by name and asked how she was. Her husband was a fire fighter. He was alive, but many of his friends didn’t make it. I remember the cashier said, “Oh, honey baby, I’m so sorry.”

Suddenly, my problems didn’t seem so important. I was 2000 miles from home, but I was alive. My family was alive, and all of my friends were alive. I was fine.

I do want to record that Delta Airlines was really, really great to me. I called them almost every three hours to check on the status of flights. It was a time of crisis for everyone. They booked me on many, many flights to try and get me home. I literally talked with probably 50 different agents over the course of a few days, and with RARE exception, they were phenomenal professionals.

My corporate travel agents were equally competent.

I wrote many thank you notes in the weeks that followed.

I’m sure that I’ll have more thoughts tomorrow on the one-year anniversary.

December 27, 2002

I had good intentions of writing on the anniversary, but, clearly, that didn’t happen. I was in Edwardsville, Illinois on the Anniversary. I went to observe my teammates demo in the morning, and in the afternoon, I went to the St. Louis Temple. There were so many feelings that I had on that day, but I just really felt that I needed to be as worshipful as possible.

I don’t think I focused that much on the temple session, but that’s OK.

My good friend, Mike, was really upset around the anniversary. Mike kept saying, “No one remembers.” I don’t agree with him. I think that everyone remembers and no one knows quite how to handle the situation. There is a fine balance to be achieved between the desire to remember and memorialize and “dwelling” in the past. People haven’t figured it all out yet.