It's been 65 days.
I'm never going to be able to tell our story in a way that people will understand. I'm never going to understand how, 10 years later, the anniversary of 9/11 paired with being the wife of a firefighter has brought up such raw emotion each day leading up to today. I'm never going to fully comprehend how what we experienced in Norway 65 days ago relates to 9/11.
All I know is that it does.
It all does.
We live on the west coast. A continent away from the attacks that took place on 9/11, but as any firefighter will tell you, those were his brothers racing towards the burning buildings. Those were his brothers pulling people out. Those were his brothers being crushed when the towers fell. Those are his brothers still dealing with the physical effects and emotional scars of what happened on September 11, 2001, every single day.
When you're married to a firefighter, you don't get to "forget." You don't get to "move on." Much like the military is a family, the firefighter family spans age, race and gender and unites us all no matter where in the world we may be. Every man is your husband, father, uncle, friend or son. Every tragedy could have been him.
If Seattle had been the target of an attack, my husbands department would have been one of the neighboring departments called in and I could be in the same exact situation as those who lost loved ones in NYC, DC or Pennsylvania.
So when my children turned their heads to me and asked, "Could that happen to Daddy?" I had to answer as truthfully as I knew how, "Yes, but it won't."
This is what it's like for a firefighter family.
Sailing into Oslo that morning, we knew immediately this place reminded us of home in the Pacific Northwest. It was green and hilly, a stark contrast to the flatness and lack of evergreens in Denmark. We felt an instant ease and familiarity although we had never been there and didn't understand the language. It felt right.
It had been raining heavily off and on that Friday, but that hadn't stopped us from seeing the city. The first thing we did after leaving the ship that morning was to take a 2 hour bus tour of the city, Holmenkollen and Vigeland Gardens. We figured that since we truly would be on our own, without our Copenhagen family to act as tour guides, it would be a great way to get an overview of Oslo and acquaint us with some local facts and maybe even some insider tips on how to do the city. We were really excited.
The bus left the City Hall and wound its way through the narrow cobblestone streets that make up a lot of the surface in Oslo. We drove by the parliamentary buildings, famous museums and the government buildings which flanked a large parklike space of land.
We did the touristy thing, following our tour guide and her little golden flag around at each stop. She shared stories of Norway and we were grateful for her chipper execution despite the pouring rain. When the bus dropped us back off at City Hall, we felt prepared to tackle what little bit of Oslo we could see in the time we had.
After waiting out the rain in City Hall, touring the incredible rooms and reading everything we came in contact with, we braved the rain to find a cozy spot for lunch. We nourished ourselves with a delicious fritatta and even more delicious coffee before going souvenir shopping and eventually finding our way back to the waterfront and the Nobel Peace Center, which was a priority on our "Things to see in Oslo" list.
There, we inhaled the messages of peace, non-violence and humanity that seemed to shout from every square millimeter of space in that building. We gazed upon the faces of Nobel Peace recipients and felt humbled. We sent an email home from an interactive exhibit about Nansen.
That's how my mom knew where we were when she heard the news that morning.
When we walked out of the Nobel Peace Center in downtown Oslo on July 22nd, we had about an hour before we had to be back to our ship to Copenhagen. It was "that time of day," the time of day we'd grown accustomed to (in a very short time mind you) to having a little pre-dinner snack of pastry or soft ice. We looked to our left, back towards City Hall and the downtown area that we'd already seem much of. We looked to our right, a meandering walkway along the harbor flanked by retail shops on one side and what looked like ice cream kiosks on the water side. We knew which way to go.
It's been incredibly hard for us this year. The combination of being in the fire service for my husband coupled with the terrorist attack in Oslo that is now a part of our shared history, has taken it's toll and I don't know how to fix it other than to write it out and finally try to take a step towards letting go.
It's not much, but hopefully it will be enough to help us remember and to let go of the terrorist experiences that have become a part of our story, our history, us.