Even Stephen: In the wake of tragedy, there is hope

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Many of us can remember where we were on Sept. 11, 2001, when tragedy hit American soil.

The image of two planes hitting the World Trade Center played on a loop of terror on almost every news outlet across the nation.

I was working nights then and remember hearing something about a plane on the radio while driving home from a late shift. I went to bed at 8 a.m., not really aware of the magnitude of events yet to unfold.

When I woke up around 3 in the afternoon, I was flabbergasted to say the least when I turned on the TV. For a brief moment, I made my peace with God and waited for Armageddon.

On top of everything that had taken place, I was in the midst of planning a wedding. I immediately picked up the phone and called my fiancée to see if she was alright and let her know I was OK.

We were living two states apart and could only converse on the telephone. We thought for a brief moment about postponing our wedding in case World War III broke out and the world was flung into consummate turmoil.

But then we thought canceling our plans was what the terrorists would want, so we defiantly and bravely decided to move on with our lives despite the adversity around us.

Only two months had passed since 9/11 when my soon-to-be-wife and I took our vows in front of a packed church. It was almost like our wedding was the positive, healing element the small community we grew up in needed as a beacon of hope after so much had happened.

I didn’t know it then, but now that I look back, I can see the significance in us taking the step to keep moving forward with our dreams. After all, isn’t this what it means to be free?

In my business, I have heard compelling stories that surround the tragedy on 9/11. Many of those stories have brought me to tears and reaffirmed my faith in the human condition.

I felt like it was my turn this year to share what I went through to try to move forward past the darkness of hate. So now that we have passed another year of healing, I am planning another anniversary with my loving wife.

We both look back with a sense of pride and wonderment that we ever pulled off our wedding after re-watching old footage from that day. Yes, we were partly naïve and young, but we are proud we continued with our plans.

It happens the same way every year and probably will for life: When 9/11 rolls around, I find it bittersweet. This occasion was tragic but it also made many of us take stock in our freedom and democracy. It also marks the moment two kids in love continued to move forward and live what many consider to be the American Dream and in some small way fight what the terrorists wanted to destroy.

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