When the planes crashed into the World Trade Center on that bright and beautiful September morning, life as I knew it changed.
I'd been struggling for five years to adjust to raising three kids on my own, keeping up with car and mortgage payments and finding part-time work to supplement my child support payments.
It was as if I lived on a hamster wheel (my friend Suzanne calls it the ferris wheel of shit) running as fast as a I could, never having a break.
My kids were teenagers and two of them were already deeply into drugs and skipping school, and my eldest son had threatened suicide. Nick had taken to the streets for a time and nearly died from refusing to take his thyroid medication, which had kept him alive and thriving since he was a toddler.
Every time I tried to take a full time job, something happened, from cops coming to the door to cuff the boys to endless meetings with school officials over truancy.
I was living a single mother's worst nightmare, filled with loneliness, alcohol dependency and fatigue. In spite of it all, I still held hope for a better future, perhaps a new relationship, the children inexplicably righting themselves.
Really, I was living for the future because my present was so damned terrible.
But then the planes hit those iconic buildings, and for me, at least, the possibility of the future was in question.
So I made a decision. If there wasn't going to be a future, I was going to guarantee myself a present.
I walked away from the house that I was sinking thousands of dollars into, pulled some of my savings out of the bank, and rented a house in the city. I paid off the creditors with the proceeds from my house.
I sold all my furniture and had new stuff delivered to a rental property and moved the kids out of the school that was sucking the very marrow out of their bones.
And I took my ex-husband to court to get him to pay me the right and proper amount of child support.
Suddenly, I was no longer a victim of my circumstances. I was shaping them free from the trappings that so many people care deeply about. It was scary but exhilarating.
The jewelry was gone. So were the credit cards.
I bought an old car and paid cash for it instead of financing a new one.
Why would I need anything material? We'd all be dead soon anyway.
That was my thinking at the time.
It was something Joan Dideon refers to as magical thinking. The real name for it might have been delusion.
Actually, I take that back. Maybe for the first time in my life, I was thinking clearly.
I was using the power of intention.
My life started getting better.
I didn't have to worry about how to pay a $6,000 bill for a roof. I had no credit but I had no debt, either.
Most importantly, for the first time in my life, I stopped feeling frightened, stopped waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Instead, I dedicated myself to living in the moment, to dealing with matters as they came up.
For more than 40 years, I lived in fear.
My fears and low self-esteem defined me. I was even afraid of Santa Claus.
In a strange way, the events of 9/11 brought me new courage and peace in my life.
It gave me a new outlook.
Fear was no longer an option.
I thought of this, this week, when watching the terrorist attack on Parliament Hill and the War Memorial. The events made me sad, for sure, but they heightened my resolve to live each day without fear.
I will walk the streets of Ottawa, I will congregate with friends at a hockey game, and I will not look to my left and to my right to see if some crazy person was there to do me harm.
Life is a crapshoot anyway, don't you know?
We are all one OC Transpo bus away from the Pearly Gates.
I am not stupid, I am not reckless, and I will keep my eyes open, if only to see the beautiful colors of this autumn day.
But I will not "remain vigilant" just in case.
If we live like that, if we stop doing what we want to do, if we stop jogging on the canal on a beautiful day, that's when the terrorists win.
Living well, and without fear, is the best revenge.