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Beyond the Light
I woke up to a wonderful morning, blue sky, birds singing, and fresh dew atop the grass. It was a beautiful September 10, 2001 in Boston.
I hit the alarm clock right on the OFF button and got up. I went through my normal routine, more excited than usual to get to work. Yesterday, I received a promotion to give a huge presentation to some very big clients in Los Angeles. I left the next day, and I was as excited as ever. I had never dealt with a client this big before.
My car sat alone in the driveway until I strolled happily to it. As I drove away, I thought about my colleagues, Ryan and Timothy. They were probably ready to scream with excitement, just as I was at that moment. They both were going to California with me.
I got to work and greeted everyone with a simple “hello” to start my day. Soon, I came across Ryan in the hall
“What’s up?” he said, stopping to briefly talk.
“Not much, you excited for tomorrow?” I asked
“Totally, I have the presentation all set up and waiting on my desk.”
“Gosh, I can’t wait to get to L.A.”
“Is this your first time going?”
“Yeah, I don’t get to go on trips like this very often.”
“Oh, you’re gonna’ love it, listen, I gotta’ go, catch you at lunch?”
“Sure, see you later.” I continued down the hall in the direction of my office until I found Timothy.
“Oh, Tim, hey!”
“Hey, aren’t you like totally excited to go to L.A. tomorrow?” he replied.
“Oh yeah, I just talked to Ryan, he said the presentation was all ready.”
“Good, nothing can go wrong on this trip, our jobs depend on it.”
“I gotta’ go to the file room. See you later?”
“Definitely, see ya’”
The day went on like normal, people congratulating me on my latest achievement, papers on my desk that seemed to take up more room than the desk itself, and the excitement building up inside me.
I drove home and entered my empty apartment. For good luck, I put my lucky football in my suitcase. I set my first class boarding pass on my night stand and drifted off to sleep after setting my alarm to a time earlier than usual.
I woke up to no beeping of the alarm. Panicked, I checked the time. Phew! I still had two hours left to sleep.
The second time I woke, still no beeping. But this time, the clock did not calm my nerves. It was two hours after the time I was supposed to wake up! I jumped out of bed and quickly got ready, skipping brushing my teeth. I only had thirty minutes to catch the flight. Taking two steps at a time, I ran down the stairs (not thinking of the elevator). As I darted toward my car, I realized one thing, no pants. So, I quickly sprinted back up the stairs, grabbed a pair of pants, sprinted back down and into my car. I drove, faster than usual, to the airport. Once I got there, I rushed inside, thankful for the short lines. As I pushed past every pedestrian in my way, I finally got to the gate. Unfortunately, the doors had been closed and the plane was taking off, driving down the runway with Ryan and Timothy, not me.
I staggered back to my home, the only positive thought in my mind was, “at least I can brush my teeth now.” As I walked into my apartment, made some coffee, and grabbed the newspaper, a negative thought arose in my head, “nothing could make this day any worse.”
I was very much wrong. I switched the TV to my favorite HBO channel, and was surprised to see that a news bulletin had interrupted the regular program. “Wow, interrupting HBO, this must be good,” I said to myself. I almost passed out when I saw the plane quickly flying into the north Twin Tower and then bursting into bits. When I realized it was New York, I was nervous to see the flight number, my plane would’ve been right over New York at that time. But just as I was hoping to see it among the subtitles, another plane flew in and crashed into the south tower. I couldn’t believe it, feeling devastated, angry, and worried, I stayed glued to the TV. Then there it was, the flight number, and it sounded terribly familiar, flight number 175. I began to rummage through the trash, searching for the boarding pass, recently tossed in there. I found it. I stared down at that one horrible number, the exact number on the news, number 175, the second plane.
I circled my apartment; the guilt was kicking in, rushing through my veins. I kept thinking, “Timothy and Ryan are dead, why not me?” and, “This is all my fault.” I scratched my head, trying to get my mind off of it. I could only imagine what work would be like next week. I thought of everyone I knew, staring down at me. They were all saying, “This is all your fault!” over and over again. I couldn’t bear it. My boss had not known that I missed the flight, and I just couldn’t tell him. What was I going to do?
The next day was horrible. I didn’t go to work, I wasn’t ready to face anyone yet. My two best friends and business partners had just died in the blink of an eye, and everyone thought I was dead too. I couldn’t help but think I could’ve done something, anything, to save the lives of those poor people. My mind was racing with thoughts of fear, anger, compassion and horrible sorrow. I walked around town for a while, desperately trying to erase the dying thoughts of the previous day. I went to some stores, bought a couple pairs of pants. I sat and ate lunch at the mall, I even tried to meet a girl, nothing worked.
By the time I got home, my head was spinning with the thoughts I had recently found, but still the ones I was trying to get rid of. Walking around didn’t help at all. Everywhere I turned was either a gloomy street or upset and scared faces of the citizens walking past. I turned on the TV, nothing but news. I turned on the radio, no music, just people talking about the incident on September 11. I couldn’t get away from it, and it couldn’t get away from me. I knew this would spark a war, everyone knew it. Everybody was either talking about it, or trying to get away from it. It was like the world had stopped spinning, and I couldn’t think of anything to do about it.
I started to run, I don’t exactly know why I ran, but I did. First, it was just to the park down the road, then it was around the park twice. I felt better. It was almost like I was running away from my problem, running away from what happened on September 11, 2001. When I ended my run, I felt energized and ready to take on the sorrow-filled world I lived in.
I went to work the next day, ready to conquer the pain all around me. I stepped into the building I worked in, Sanders Inc., and was greeted with screams of relief. All of the people I worked with rushed up to me saying, “Thank God you’re alive!” or, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it’s you!” But one thing that one person said brought my mind back into that never-ending train of anger and guilt. And that line was, “Are Peter and Timothy still alive?!” Once I heard this, I pushed through the crowd and rushed to my office. I paced the room, carelessly noticing that the furniture had been moved out. I spent my time pacing back and forth, sitting on the floor, then getting right back up again.
That’s how I dealt with pain. I never wanted to face it. Is there anyone who does? Is there anyone who doesn’t hide their tears? I always hide them until I come to a private and locked place, then I’d take up the time doing something pointless, fiddling with a pack of cards, trying to focus on reading a book, or, this time, pacing across the room over and over. Every time I thought about the thing that was horribly taking over my emotions, the tears just continued. Whoever said “men don’t cry” was seriously confused.
I tried to leave my office, but I couldn’t, the occasional tears came and went, just Ryan and Timothy. Finally a couple of my co-workers found a key, opened my door, and saw me on the floor, hands hiding my face.
“Um, are you ok, Steve?” Jenny, a good friend, said, peeking in the door. She didn’t do a very good job of making me feel any better.
I managed to groan, “Ughhh”
“Ok,” she turned around, “guys, why don’t let me talk to him for a while.”
“I don’t want to talk,” my muffled voice said.
“I know, but you need to talk. I know what you’re going through.”
My head shot up, almost scaring her, “How could you possibly know what I’m going through?!”
She relaxed herself, “Let me guess, you think what happened to Ryan and Tim was all your fault, and the guilt was eating away at your mind so much that you didn’t even care to tell anyone that you’re alive? And, also, you probably started doing something athletic, to get your mind off of the terrible thoughts that clouds it? Hmmm?”
I couldn’t believe it, Jenny sounded like same thing happened to her, like she was supposed to be on that plane too. I could barely speak, “H-how did you know?” Her expression could have killed.
“Well, something happened a few years ago that was similar to this. Except it happened to my sister,” her voice began to crack, the tears were coming, “My grandpa had just died and my sister and I were going to drive out to Minnesota for the funeral. After I heard the news, I felt like my sister was the last person I wanted to see, I took a plane instead. When I got there, everyone was asking where my sister was. I was confused; I thought that she would’ve been there by now. The next day, I got a call that said Debby, my sister, was killed while she was driving. Some idiotic drunk came up to her car, killed her, and stole the car.”
“Oh my gosh, that must’ve killed you, but my situation’s different, I could’ve saved all of those people and that plane.”
“No you couldn’t. Me, I could’ve saved Debby, I have no idea why I took a plane, she could be alive right now if I wasn’t so stupid. We would’ve escaped together.”
“But that’s just ONE life. I’m-” She cut me off.
“It was my sister’s life, my ONLY sister’s life.” The tears were like waterfalls now.
I finally realized what she was trying to say. Those hijackers were much stronger than me. I would’ve been killed before the plane even crashed, “I know, I think I get it now. One life or a thousand, I could have done nothing. And that car-jacker probably would have killed you too, and I wouldn’t have liked that at all.”
She smiled, “I guess you’re right.” I’d loved Jenny for a long time at that point. We met about a year ago, and she glowed in my heart ever since. At that moment, she glowed even brighter. She had just helped me live through the biggest emotional turmoil of my life. The best part was, she knew exactly what I was feeling.
“I love you.” I told her.
“I love you too.” She told me.
That night, I had the best dream of my life. I was walking in a never-ending all white trail. Suddenly, a giant flash of a bright light bursted out in front of me. I stumbled back as Ryan and Tim stepped out of the light, wearing plain white suits. I couldn’t believe it. I ran up to them and hugged them both. They told me not to worry, that they were much happier where they were. They said that guilt shouldn’t be a problem in my life and that what happened on that plane would have hurt me much more than the actual crash. They said they witnessed the brutal, horrible, death of the pilots. They said that beyond the light was where they could live in peace, where everything that happened in their lives was now behind them. When they finished talking, they turned and began to walk away. I tried to call for them, then Ryan turned back and said, “Oh yeah, and marry Jenny already.”
Laughing, I stepped back and said, “Will do.” And then they left, without even a goodbye, but I knew they meant to say it.
I woke up to my alarm (now it decides to beep). From that day on, I lived my life to the fullest. Thousands of lives can be lost in less than a heartbeat, I know that now. Some of those lives could be some of your closest friends. I take my time more often now, listening to and watching what’s around me. I learned that having someone that you love during a horrible time where you are barely getting by can turn everything around. I’m planning on proposing to Jenny soon, and we’ll live our lives thoroughly until it is our time to be beyond the light.