Remembering 9/11 and 9/15 (Anne Schott)

Andrew Himes: "My old friend Anne Schott married her husband Mark ten years ago. Here is her eloquent essay reflecting on that experience."

This fall, my husband Mark and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. We were married in Seattle on September 15th, 2001, four days after 9/11.

In the days leading up to our wedding, I felt selfish thinking about anything other than the terrorist attacks. Food, flowers, photographers – it was all trivial in comparison. But the wedding didn’t disappear. With the airlines grounded, we scrambled to make decisions. Should we drive to the Midwest, where most of our family was located? Should our families drive to Seattle? Should we reschedule the wedding altogether?

Finally, with our families’ encouragement, we proceeded with few changes to our plans. Re-engineering our wedding in response to 9/11 wasn’t important. We knew we weren’t the only ones whose joy was paired with tragedy. For us and our families, what was most important was the inviolate core that is the purpose of every wedding, however large or lavish: the act of becoming husband and wife.

For a while, I considered writing an article for a bridal magazine about the lessons I learned from my post-9/11 wedding: Remember your purpose! Be grateful for each guest! Then I decided such advice would be a downer, like telling a pregnant friend, “Sleep while you can!” Weddings, like pregnancies, are about hope.

You hope for sunshine, delicious food, glorious flowers. You hope the carefully planned logistics go smoothly. You hope everybody has fun. And you hope, passionately, that your wedding will be the first day of a marriage that will be happy, and last forever.

We had planned a small, simple wedding. Expecting fifty-two guests, we had sixteen. The only relatives were Mark’s maternal grandmother and her husband. With the airlines playing catch-up to bring stranded travelers home, nobody east of California could catch a flight in time to join us.

I can imagine them all there, though. Facing the cavernous sanctuary, I see family and friends beaming on either side of the aisle like a bridge waiting to carry me to my future. I imagine the reception, a sunlit room full of people moving easily together, talking and laughing, sparkling with happiness.

Instead of these memories, though, there are others. I remember feeling physically depleted but emotionally full, knowing that my loved ones who didn’t surround me that day were ensconced on their couches, drinking tea, reading newspapers; walking in tree-lined neighborhoods; driving down familiar streets. They were, I hoped, thinking of me and Mark, sending us their prayers. They were alive.

Several weeks after our honeymoon, my husband and I traveled to the Midwest to celebrate with many of those, mostly family, who had missed our wedding. The occasion was informal, in a room filled with gratitude and love. I wore my wedding dress and felt like a princess for the second time. Looking around the room that day, I understood how meaningful it was to have those closest to me witness and celebrate my marriage.

Each September, Mark and I remember 9/11. We remember the loss of life, vast suffering, and acts of heroism. We remember looking at the world anew, innocence lost, blessings counted. We remember our wedding, so different from what we had hoped for. We count the years of our marriage, so full of living and suffused with love. We mourn and we celebrate. This September and, we know, for all the Septembers to come, we will relive a measure of the pain, faith, sadness, and hope that swirled around us and within us that fateful week in 2001.

~ Anne Schott, March 2011