Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 cured my fear of flying...

A Time of Change,  September 2001, watercolor  3" x 5"

On the MSNBC news last night Lester Holt did a segment on how 9/11 changed us.  For me it cured my intense crippling fear of flying, you’ll learn how in a moment but first here is my 9/11 story....everyone has one.

In September of 2001 I was doing an Artist-in-Residency at Corner Brook, NFLD.  I was taking a shower when the other artist in the residence came over from her apartment, pounded on my bathroom door to tell me about the planes.  Julie Tabrum, the other AIR, was from NZ and her mother lives in Quebec, she called Julie to tell her and then Julie ran over to tell me but we didn’t have a TV.  Already it was an international event! Then a neighbor we had befriended let us come up to watch her TV....I stayed for hours, I couldn’t get enough because I couldn’t believe what was happening.  I couldn’t sleep that night, couldn’t make any art at all, two weeks into my residency and pretty much all art making was done except for one little painting,....I just wanted to get home.  I began hearing about all the people stranded in NFLD when they grounded the planes and I wanted to rent a car to get back to Boston but they weren’t renting them.  Then I saw a car, a beat up wreck, for sale at a gas station for $500, I went to buy it but it was already sold.  I was going to be in NFLD till the end of the Residency, another 2 weeks.  Angela, the neighbor who let us watch her TV suggested we get away...a road trip.  All I really wanted to do was watch the TV but I’m glad she took us to Rose Blanche – Harbour le Cou for the day.  Along the way we stopped a number of times to check out the view or watch herds of Caribou that is where this little painting, my first plein air, (above) was born.  I was watching a herd of Caribou and looked out to the East over a vast unbroken landscape.  I knew there were no roads, no homes, no nothing for about 1,000 miles due East.  Only wilderness and wildness, the urge to step off the road and start walking was overwhelming, I wanted to walk off never to return just step out into the woods, explore, be with the animals when I noticed the spark of orange/yellow in the trees, started thinking about Fall, change and how everything had just changed forever.  This little painting is called “A Time of Change”, I will never sell it, I will never let it go it is my 9/11 tribute.

The rest of the residency passed as if I was in a fog, our kindly neighbor took us to other places and I’m so grateful for her attempts at diversion.  Newfoundland and it’s people are really extraordinary and I’d love to go back.  They should be remembered today as well when the world landed on their doorstep and they came out and took us in.

Finally time to go back to Boston and my normal, utterly crippling fear of flying is now so amped up that the only thing I can focus on is getting home and stop puking up my guts.  Up till this time I’d only gone outside the US once in my entire 53 years, only flown a handful of times when I absolutely could not get there anyway else.  I had a truly intense fear of flying or even getting near a plane.  And, by the way, it’s important to note here that I almost cancelled my trip to Newfoundland when I was at the airport that morning...for this trip my fear was off the scale...why it was so much worse I am not sure.  Now it’s time to get back on the plane so I did.  It was a prop plane, seats about 50 and looked like it was a restored WW1 antique.  Then I notice I’m one of two women, all the rest were men, dressed in camoflage.  Huh?  The guy next to me was dressed normal so I make a joke (I get super goofy when nervous) about the Newfy Army is coming to our aid...lots of people cracked up over that.   But my plane neighbor said “oh we’ve all been hunting for the last 2 weeks up in the remotest parts of NFLD”.  Curious.  I look out the window and see wrapped antlers and only boxes stamped MOOSE or CARIBOU being loaded....no suitcases. So I turn to the guy next to me and ask if the rent the “things” they shoot with (gun is a bad word on a plane now)  He said “no all the guns, amo are on board”  then he returned to reading his hunting magazine and the article was about the best kill shot with diagrams!  Stunned I started putting it all together....I’m sitting in a plane full of men who have spent the last 2 weeks (starting from 9/11) in the woods killing things, next to a guy studying kill shots, I’m sitting on top of their guns, amo and dead animals.  I started to laugh...till my belly hurt & the tears came, it was a good, long deep laugh I couldn’t stop...it was cathartic.  They all thought I'd gone mad but in fact I'd been freed.  God has a seriously twisted sense of humor.  I got to Nova Scotia and before transferring to my next flight went right to the bar, ordered back-to-back super stiff drinks, got on the plane and went home.

After 5 decades of airplane terror it was completely gone, after all that happened I couldn’t even imagine what more there was to be afraid of...IF the Shenksville heros can sacrifice themselves as they did, IF we can survive and grow from 9/11, IF I can get on a plane full of dead animals & guns and get home...it was all a sign.  Don’t get me wrong flying is still not my most favorite thing but the absolute terror I used to feel is all gone.  I’ve since flown many times to Europe, in the US and it still makes me nervous but nothing like it used to be, not even close.   God bless all those we lost on 9/11.


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