I remember sitting in my University’s cafeteria eating breakfast when the radio station playing broke the news that a plane had crashed into one of the Towers. Then watching live as the second plane crashed and they reported that one had hit the Pentagon. One thing a lot of people don’t realize is that the local news in Washington DC, at this point, just started reporting everything that came in, whether it was true or not. I remember them reporting that a jet crashed on the mall, a bomb went off at the treasury building and a couple random other things. I remember going up to the roof of my dorm and seeing the smoke slowly rising over DC while I could hear but not see, fighter jets scrambling overhead. I remember how confused and helpless my friends and I felt. With the news reports it seemed like all of DC was under attack. We knew our family would be worried but cell lines were jammed. We wondered if it was over or just getting started.
I could go on for awhile but everyone knows the story. One of the worst days in history. Today is the anniversary of 9/11 and it’s got me thinking. About a lot of things, but mainly about death. In the past two months I’ve been in a 6.8 earthquake only miles from the epicenter on the Pacific coast of southern Nicaragua with an evacuation due to tsunami threat. I’ve stepped on a stingray in Costa Rica, been bitten by some sort of spider in Morocco which formed a small necrosis that took two months to heal, and walked within one foot of a rattling rattlesnake in the climbing area of Lovers Leap near Lake Tahoe California. In two back to back days in Colorado about a month ago I was, 1: taken off belay at the top of a 70ft cliff i had just climbed and started falling down the route. The only thing that saved me was that the ridge and slab blocking my belayer from seeing me and realizing I wasn’t tied in to the anchor, also caused enough rope drag that I didn’t fall very fast and was able to grab the other side of the rope as it came up at me. If it hadn’t been for this I would have fallen to my death. I looked over the ridge, saw what had happened, screamed that I was still on belay and watched my frightened belayer hustle to put me back on and then lower me. 2: The very next morning at breakfast I told my Mom that the new Batman movie was opening that evening, she asked if I wanted to go, I thought about it and decided that no, I didn’t want to fight the crowds. I was visiting my Mom who lives in Aurora Colorado and that night a mentally ill young man went on a shooting rampage at the Aurora theater. 12 died and 58 more were wounded. I woke up the next morning to texts asking if I was ok, pulled up the news on my laptop and was horrified.
In all these circumstances I was only in very real mortal danger once, the climbing incident, but all could have theoretically ended my life (of course, so could crossing the street every day). I’ve also flown on planes, surfed my first overhead waves, climbed a 600ft multipitch using almost exclusively nuts for protection and ridden in all manner of crazy Central American vehicles with no seatbelts. What’s my point of all this? Am I bragging about my brushes with mortality?
I’m not intending to, though I do feel a small amount of pride in still being alive. After all, these circumstances all happened in the last two months but before I turned 18 I’d already had two doctors tell me I was extremely lucky to be alive from two different accidents. One wrestling and one bicycling. Both doctors told me that had the circumstances been just a tiny bit different I’d be dead.
As I stated earlier. Thinking a lot about death today. I’m scared of dying but not like I used to be. I’m not sure why other than after what I’ve experienced in my life so far it would be less tragic then if I had kicked the bucket when I was young. I’m hoping that I will feel that way even more so later in life. I’m also hoping to be around later in life. I believe in God and the afterlife and that makes a big difference for me, I think if I didn’t I’d be petrified.
I read a good quote a couple weeks ago by Ben Franklin, who was an amazing man. “Many people die at 25 but are not buried until 75”. That’s popped into my head a lot since reading it.
I’ve also recently been listening to a Decemberists song called June Hymn and I really like the lyricism of this one line.
“Years from now, when this old light, isn’t ambling anymore.
Will I bring myself to write, I give my best to Springville Hill.”
Obviously this means something to the writer, Colin Meloy, and I have no connection to any place called Springville Hill but sitting on a beach, watching the sun go down over the ocean in San Juan del Sur while listening to it and thinking about these subjects it had it’s own significance to me. Years from now, when my light isn’t ambling anymore, will I be satisfied? If you live your life like you’re afraid of dying you might as well be dead already. I know that’s trite and it’s been said a hundred times before but there are some days when you believe it and other days when you BELIVE IT. Today as I ride a ferry to an island volcano on the anniversary of that terrible day, I fall into the capitalized category.
Proud to to be from the USA on this day as well. Much love, all the best.
ps. Are you surprised I didn’t use this Dylan lyric instead?
“He not busy being born is busy dying”