Remembering 9/11, 20 Years Later…

I’m sure we all have our stories, of where we were when the first plane hit the first trade tower in New York City, now 20 years ago today. People don’t talk as much anymore about those events that unfolded on 9/11/2001, as there have been so many others to focus on in all the years since, especially lately with this ongoing pandemic and continuing losses of life from it.

Personally, 9/11/2001 hit me far harder and affected my life far deeper than this pandemic has having been from New York, having had a family member on that first plane, and having personally witnessed a part of it so close to my home back then. The fact is the events on 9/11 will most likely be ingrained upon my brain for the rest of this life for me.

I clearly still see myself standing in the café at the job I was working at back then, watching news coverage of the first tower smoking from the plane that had hit it. Seeing another plane hit the other tower, I quickly realized this was far more than an accident. Silence was all that could be heard amongst those around me after that. I went back to my desk and ate the egg sandwich I had purchased at that café. I kept trying to get onto the Internet to no avail when a co-worker suddenly yelled a plane had just crashed into the Pentagon. My heart raced, given I was living and working a mere 10 miles or so from there. My employer quickly rushed us all out the door to go be with our loved ones. I silently wondered if this was the beginning of a war.

The highways around D.C. were all gridlocked as everyone else scrambled to get home. I was quite sure they were all afraid like I was for our major metropolitan area. As F-16’s screamed overhead, the Internet still not working, and all cell phone towers down, my drive home seemed to go on forever. I found myself really worrying about my partner who had a much farther drive than I to get home. Thankfully, he was already there by the time I arrived. While he sat glued to the news on the television, I was in shock, given I was from New York, that I had just gone up those towers the year prior, and that I knew people who worked in the towers and the pentagon. At that point I didn’t know who was affected or how bad this was going to end up being, so I did the only thing I had to do, I went out and cut my grass, trying not to think about it. It didn’t work.

I think at that point I was already developing PTSD over the events unfolding, with the news continuing to show the towers collapsing repeatedly. On some level, I wanted to believe none of this was real, so I got into my car with my partner and drove to the Pentagon. Seeing the plane smoking in the side of the Pentagon made the events of 9/11 far too real. Learning shortly thereafter of the loss of one of my family members on my sister’s husband’s side, who wasn’t even meant to be on that plane that day but took an earlier flight home to surprise his wife, hit my heart hard. Having my cousin who was NYPD, call me from the scene in New York, describing what he was experiencing was even worse.

It took me a year to get over the shock of 9/11’s events, which at some point I realized I had to stop watching all news coverage of it, for it was only preventing that from happening. I was in therapy solidly for that entire time to get through the PTSD from it all, which to this day, 20 years later, I still don’t like seeing the news footage of smoking and crumbling buildings, people jumping from them, soot-covered faces, or the like.

I visited Ground Zero a few years after those tragic events to come to peace with it all and have since visited there a few more times. If there is one thing comes up each time I do, it’s the sadness I have that anyone could ever believe God would ever advocate for such a terrorist act, when in my book, God is unconditional love, and destruction and death like 9/11 is the exact opposite.

May all those who died or were tragically affected on 9/11 be at peace now.

It’s most assuredly a day that I’m sure many of us will never forget…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Getting Over Regret With 3225 Nealon Drive…

Have you ever gone back to look at an old home you once lived in and have fond memories of? Maybe a childhood home? Or a home you built your own family around? I recently did that at 3225 Nealon Drive, Falls Church, VA, which was the address of the first and only home so far that I’ve ever purchased in this life, and it was most definitely an emotional event for me, one that initially brought me regret.

On a recent trip to Northern Virginia, I opted to head over to my old neighborhood where the home I once owned and place so much TLC into still stood. The last time I had visited the property was the summer of 2011 and much of what I had beautified the place with continued to flourish. The serene backyard and gardens were still there just like the day I had left them behind, which brought me great happiness. But, when I pulled up to the front of the same home just over a week ago now, 10 years later almost to the day, everything I had put into it was now gone. The crape myrtle I had planted in the front, the lush green backyard, the gardens around the front and side, and the Japanese maple that I had received as a gift for my 30th birthday, were now all gone. Even the huge deck I had built in the back to overlook the creek that lay beyond was now converted into this strange makeshift sunroom. All of this brought me great sadness. Sadness because none of the love I had put into improving the home and property remained there anymore. Essentially all of me was now gone from there. As I stood there and stared at the property, even talking to one the new owners who really loved the place, I found myself experiencing regret. Regret for what the place was now worth and regret for how none of what I had given to it from my heart and soul remained. For a while after leaving, I allowed that regret to consume me.

I couldn’t believe the place was now worth well over $600K, which incidentally, was not from any improvements made to it. It’s only because of its location being inside the beltway and so close to Washington, DC, as well as a Metro transit stop. And while I had sold it for a profit back in 2003, sadly, I lost it all in a business that eventually went belly up, that I only bought into because I codependently had been trying to save a relationship back then. And then thinking about all those improvements I had made both inside and outside now being completely gone, it was just too much for my mind and ego to comprehend.

To get over that regret, it took me remembering that quite a few good things came into my life only because I had sold that home and moved on. Good things like meeting my friend Steve Furness on the island where that business was, who was the sole reason why I eventually became a writer, as he worked for two local newspapers and helped me to become a columnist for them. Good things like developing a close friendship with Christy Lynn, a person I only met because she worked for our business and helped to manage it. And then I can’t forget that my entire life in Massachusetts only arose when my life on that island ended abruptly. As in Massachusetts it’s where I’d grow closer to my sister, my twin nephews, learn 12 Step recovery, volunteer and become more selfless in life, and develop closer relationships with my dear friends Cedric and Debbie.

So, while my mind struggled completely with regret over the value of my old home and the improvements I made now all being erased, I was able to find peace in my heart and get over any of that regret by remembering that some pretty dam good things wouldn’t have happened in my life if I had chosen to remain at 3225 Nealon Drive to this day.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Source Of That Negative Energy We See Isn’t “Out There”, It’s In Us…

I often think that the main problem in our world is how many of us focus vast quantities of negative energy on some issue that’s “out there”, rather than working on the source of all that negative energy, which is ultimately within us.

Lately, it seems as if everywhere I go, everyone has a negative opinion about this pandemic, especially when it comes to the vaccinated versus unvaccinated. At the gym the other day, I overheard a guy angrily talking about one of his wife’s family members who wasn’t following the same path he was when it came to how the virus was being handled. He spent at least 30 minutes bashing this other person who wasn’t even present to defend themselves. Last year this negative energy was focused on the Biden versus Trump and Democrats versus Republicans ordeal. Just prior to that when the pandemic began, it was the masked versus maskless. And before that was how people viewed the “MeToo” movement and so on. All of this has left me wondering why we keep on focusing on what’s wrong with the world, rather than looking within at the source of all this negativity.

I love what Bill Wilson once wrote about this very thing in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous so long ago now. He said, “Our actor is self-centered, ego-centric, as people like it to call it nowadays. He is like the retired businessman who lolls in the Florida sunshine in the winter complaining of the sad state of the nation; the minister who sighs over the sins of the twentieth century; politician and reformers who are sure all would be Utopia if the rest of the world would only behave; the outlaw safe cracker who thinks society has wronged him; and the alcoholic who has lost all and is locked up. Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity? Selfishness, self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.”

Look, I’m not innocent in any of this and am just as guilty. I can easily get caught up in the latest drama in the world and how I think it should be handled better. But, in all reality, does any of my negative opinion surrounding some issue make any bit of a difference. The reality is no.

Buddhism talks much about this, that the world will always look imbalanced to us for so long as the world within us remains imbalanced. 12 Step recovery says it slightly different in that every resentment and every bit of negativity we feel towards someone or something is really about ourselves and some selfish, self-seeking, dishonest or fear-based thing within. In light of that, at the core, here’s the harsh reality I’ve come to learn as the truth in my own life.

Even if this pandemic went completely away right now, in the blink of an eye, something else is going to take its place that will annoy me, where I’ll want to channel my negativity energy towards, talking about it to anyone who’ll listen, expelling it outward, even going so far as to share it in one negative posting after another on social media, thinking it will somehow make a difference in how I feel. It never does, as doing so only expands the negative energy we feel. I’ve experienced this quite well when my health gets the best of me and I start sending that negative energy outward towards some issue I see in the world I don’t like, when it’s really my pain that I don’t like.

Nevertheless, at some point, this pandemic will end and when it does, are you just going to shift your negative energy about it onto the next thing in life? Maybe it’s time for all of us to really take a hard look within and see why we are being negative in the first place about one issue after another in this world. I know from personal experience that doing so does a far better job of dispelling that negative energy, just as much as I know that continuing to share it outwardly is going to do nothing but make it grow even stronger within us…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson