The two-year anniversary of Sept. 11 happens to roughly coincide
with my two-year anniversary of being in Durango. My boyfriend,
Bryan, and I moved here in August of 2001 after a crazy year
in Taiwan and the Philippines. We’d spent a lot of nights
on the Internet in Taiwan, searching for the perfect place
in America for us to live, and came across Durango. After
a quick visit once we were back in the States, we decided
to give it a go.
Durango seemed like the land of opportunity (we were new
in town, OK?). I was all set to launch my career as a freelance
travel writer, and Bryan was starting a web design company.
“The future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades,”
he kept telling me.
Then he woke me up one morning with a strange look on his
face. “Airplanes flew into the World Trade Center towers,”
he said. Still groggy, I followed him to the computer to read
the news on the Internet. It seemed incomprehensible, and
I called my parents to see if they’d heard the news
and what they made of it. My dad answered, and I asked if
they were watching the news. He started sobbing. “We
think the Angells were on that plane!” he choked out.
I dropped to the floor and started sobbing, too. He told me
he needed to keep the phone line clear for the airline people
and would call me when he knew more.
Lynn and Dave Angell were close family friends.
I’d known Lynn since third grade, when I was a nerdy
bookworm and she was the school librarian who gave me all
of great books. She and my mom grew closer as I grew up and
formed a group of women who would go on ski trips together.
Dave and my dad were friends as well as colleagues, television
comedy writers trying to rise above the fray in Hollywood.
Every time the four of them would get together, I’d
always hear “there were a lot of laughs.”
So of course it was shocking later in the day when American
Airlines confirmed that Lynn and Dave were on American Airlines
Flight #11, the first airplane to crash into the World Trade
Center. I felt sick. We didn’t have a TV, so we knocked
on our neighbor’s door and sat with her to watch the
video footage we’ve all seen too many times of the second
airplane slamming into the second tower. I couldn’t
help imagining what Lynn and Dave were going through, something
I couldn’t stop doing for some time. I read that some
of the passengers on their plane had been stabbed.
In the days and weeks that followed, I was very depressed.
The drive to market myself as a travel writer screeched to
a halt since I could barely get out of bed, which didn’t
happen until evening some days. We were new in town and didn’t
have friends yet. I felt detached and alone.
One of the only things that got me out of the house was volunteering
at a local nonprofit. It was the only time I felt sane –
the world was screwed up, but at least I was doing something
to make a tiny part of it a little bit better.
Sept. 11 was on everyone’s lips, and I found myself
constantly breaking down and crying in front of fellow volunteers,
people I’d just met. But they didn’t get uncomfortable.
Instead, they’d put a hand on my arm, let me blubber
and sometimes even cry with me.
I started getting involved in other community groups and
gatherings, and everyone treated me with the same compassion
and concern. It got easier to get out of bed, and I didn’t
spontaneously cry as often. Bryan and I started hiking and
camping again to try to keep healing, and I felt waves of
comfort wash over me on the top of Handies Peak, or on the
banks of the Piedra River.
It’s been two years now, and I feel incredibly bonded
to Durango. The community and the environment carried me through
one of the worst experiences of my life. And I continue to
draw strength and happiness from our new home.
Last weekend is a perfect example. Bryan and I went to Red
Rocks to see the String Cheese Incident on Saturday night.
As the show started, guitarist Michael Kang told the audience
that with the anniversary of Sept. 11 looming, we’d
all be hearing a lot about fear, but that instead we should
focus on “concentrated bursts of joy,” which he
hoped the band would provide that night. And as I danced with
Bryan and other new Durango friends, the wisdom of his words
moved me. Life is short – sometimes shorter than we
think – and we should do everything in our power to
celebrate it. That’s how Lynn and Dave Angell lived
their lives, and that’s how I intend to keep living
mine – and I’m grateful to be able to do it in
a place as special as Durango.