9/11 sobs that still catch in my throat


I always liked to think I was tough. Not mushy or sentimental.

It’s a useful delusion.

But there are these sobs that ambush me sometimes, like little muggers jumping out of a dark alley .I know most of them by now…

bieger & farah

the Star Spangled Banner at a ball game…

a picture of an American soldier…

the song Danny Boy or the sound of bagpipes…

any baby picture of my kids…

Steph & Jim

a photograph of me and my late husband laughing.



And just about any of the photographs from September 11th, 2001.

I’ve come to understand it to be the sweet side of grief. The part that made me more human.

The Wall at Ground Zero

To all of those who lost their precious lives 10 years ago, to their families who have lived with an empty place at the table, to all of those firemen and police who risked everything to save the few they could, I want you to know that I wept for weeks 10 years ago, and even now, a sob for you still catches me off guard.


Stephanie Ericsson

© 2011 Stephanie Ericsson


9/11 what would happen if we said, enough?

Part of a series in tribute to the 10th anniversary of 9/11

Years ago, I saw the documentary by Wide Angle (PBS) entitled, Ladies First, about the women of Rwanda putting their country back together. One of the most striking segments of the film was about the role that contrition and forgiveness was playing in healing the devastating wounds left over, not only among the Tutsi survivors, but among the Hutu as well. With the majority of the Hutu men in prison for their war crimes and the majority of the Tutsi men dead by the hands of these Hutu men, women had to run their lives, their communities, their economy and their government without them. There was no choice—they would pull their lives and country together or perish.

How did they accomplish this? They had been mortal enemies. There had been enough atrocities committed by neighbor against neighbor that it’s inconceivable to imagine how the Tutsi and Hutu women could have even sat in the same room, much less worked together and cooperated for their collective welfare. They did something that is unimaginable to most of us… the Hutu women asked the Tutsi women for forgiveness for the atrocities their men committed. And the Tutsi women forgave them. I’m not saying that it happened in one day. Or that it was readily accepted. It happened over time, begun by a few individuals.

Another documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, chronicles the journey of the women of Liberia, who’d had enough of the years of war, of losing their children and men, of starving, of living in fear twenty-four hours a day. They determined together to put an end to it. They achieved this the way that women always do—by working together. Christian and the Muslim women put aside their differences and discovered they had more in common than they imagined. They stopped the violence with non-violent protests. They refused to be silent any longer, refused to be intimidated by the men, and even refused to sleep with their husbands until the violence ended. They used prayer, chanting and non-violent sit-ins. They did not back down. They would not go away. This is how they ended the war in their country.

It made me wonder. What if mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers all said, “Enough!”?  Enough violence. Enough sending our sons and husbands off to die. Enough wasting our country’s time and resources on wars that never end.


What would happen if the mothers of Israel and Palestine stood together and said, “Enough”?

Better yet, what if the women of the entire world simply refused to cook or clean or have sex with their men until the war ended everywhere?

I’m sure women across the world have smiled to themselves during a quiet moment stirring a pot of soup, and fantasized about what might actually happen if all women, everywhere, were to simply stop—even for one day—taking care of minor things—like food, shelter, clothing, and raising children. How well could men run all those the important things, like politics, government and business?

© 2011 Stephanie Ericsson

9/11—america, meet evil… evil, this is america

We met the true face of evil on September 11th, 2001 and it left us standing helpless in the streets, looking up and asking “Why?”

The unfathomable scale of violence struck us dumb. Violence creates very complex grief. There’s never a way to make sense of it. Why? For what purpose? What did it achieve? Why my beloved? Questions that echoed back with no answer. Questions that are asked everyday in other parts of the world, but not here. Not in America.

In my book, I defined evil as—

“Systematic brutality, usually done with an innocent expression, which seems to make insanity look sane.”

“There is no conscience attached to evil. The shadow it casts over our values makes them seem trite. Evil parades as sanity so as to undermine our sense of reality… Evil is calm. It looks sane.” —Companion Through the Darkness
It hides in plain sight. It seduces us into a denial of its presence. It acts with no regard for the carnage it leaves in its path. Evil people serve themselves… their emotional bodies are vacuous—incapable of empathy and others are purely disposable utensils. Understanding evil does nothing to excuse or mend the damage it does. Physical wounds will heal. It’s the emotional ones that fester.

“The intangible is hard to bandage.”

In the years that have followed, we’ve done, as a nation, what all young adults do—we’ve gone to extremes, stumbled from one conclusion to another looking for the enemy, and awakened to the enemy within our own ranks. We’ve been hoodwinked by our own leaders into wars that did not heal us, but only served the private agendas of despots among us.

We’ve made monumental mistakes and are paying the consequences. But we’ve also matured. We’ve pulled together, rebuilt and re-visioned our future. We’ve learned and forgotten and learned again. And we will continue in that direction forward because that’s just what we do.

The attacks on 9/11 were not about religion. They were about power. A power-hungry minority have hijacked a religion and turned it into a mass-hysteria for pure evil. It is not the first time in history this has been attempted, and if you remember your history, it failed. then as it will fail again.

Human beings can only be oppressed for so long. We will only go along with lies for so long. Eventually, the human need for truth triumphs. The founders of our country knew all people have an inalienable right to freedom. Freedom of choice. Freedom of thought. Freedom of belief. Freedom of expression.

America is the greatest experiment in diversity that human civilization has ever known. It demands tolerance on a mass scale. But it’s that very diversity that, as Darwin said, is vital for a species to evolve and thrive. Even on our knees, we continue to invent, produce, and create more than any other country in the world.

We will take our grief from 9/11, embrace it and transform it into something meaningful. That’s the American way. 

Evil, meet America—your nemesis.

*(Thing Called Love, Bonnie Raitt)

 ©2011 Stephanie Ericsson

9/11 a spiritual awakening in real time

Part of a series in tribute to the 10th anniversary of 9/11

“Grief discriminates against no one. It kills. Maims. And cripples. It is the ashes from which the phoenix rises, and the mettle of rebirth. It returns life to the living dead. It teaches that there is nothing absolutely true or untrue. It assures the living that we know nothing for certain. It humbles. It shrouds. It blackens. It enlightens.

 “Grief will make a new person out of you, if it doesn’t kill you in the making.”

The term, a spiritual awakening, sounds so pristine, doesn’t it? At least to those who’ve never been through one and seen the carnage first-hand. A real spiritual awakening is blood, bone and gooey entrails—up close and personal.

And grief is a spiritual awakening of mind-bending proportions. It’s full of contradictions and paradoxes that threaten our sanity for a while.

September 11th, 2001, was a wake-up call for us as a country, but for those who were personally affected it was a day of true spiritual awakening. The survivors were forever transformed. Life for them would never be the same again. There was no negotiating with it. No way back to the halcyon days of pre-9/11. Worlds were destroyed. The rubble was vast. The concept of life ever becoming normal again was laughable because it was so inconceivable.

The most poignant interview I saw in those days and weeks after 9/11 was Connie Chung’s interview with the CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, who lost nearly 700 employees when they were trapped on 101st to 105th floors of Tower One. He, alone survived, because that morning, he’d taken his son to his first day of kindergarten.

To the untrained eye, Lutnick is obviously distraught but he is still able to articulate his feelings and the events that happened. What it isn’t so evident, except to those of us who’ve been there, is that, although clearly in shock, he is transcendent.

Watching this interview, I witnessed a spiritual awakening in real time. Clearly, he knew he was part of something larger than himself. Any concerns for himself were totally diminished in the face of the greater losses of those 700 families. He is humbled by the way that his remaining employees pulled together. He is lifted up and carried by it. I would even venture to guess that this became the crucial reason that he went on, not just to save his company, but to rebuild it with a new vision that enabled him to take care of the 700 families who lost loved ones that day.

Absolutely raw and intimate, this interview captures the rarest of moments, when a human being shares the true face of grief.


Cantor Families Memorial
Cantor Relief Fund
On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, & 9/11: A Story of Loss & Renewal 

Copyright 2011 Stephanie Ericsson