by Jewel Leann Williams
Fifteen years ago, I was a Communications Operator for a police department (that's fancy talk for "911 operator/police dispatcher). I was at the end of my shift, and an employee from another area in the department came in and said "A plane has just hit one of the Twin Towers." We turned the radio up to hear this sad, interesting piece of news. Then a second plane hit.
I started answering 911 calls from people freaking out about what was happening on the other side of the country. My department was making preparations "just in case" this was just the beginning of something worse, something nationwide. We didn't really know what we could do, but we made our city as secure as we could at that moment.
Shock, fear, anger---as I finally made it home, hours after my shift was supposed to end, and sat glued to the TV as the towers fell. Knowing that cops and firefighters were sacrificing their lives in that moment, knowing that dispatchers were hearing their friends' last words, their cries for help, their silences..... I couldn't stop shaking. My heart broke for the victims, and broke again for the public safety family that I belonged to.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, a little girl with blue eyes and shiny white-blond angel hair was joining our crazy world. Her parents named her Joy and a truer name was never given. I got to take my place as her Mom when she was 5 years old and from that moment, 9/11 became about something more than loss and shock and even patriotism, it also became about Joy, about hope, life, love, and did I mention JOY?
When I think about the horror that entered our world and took its place in our collective consciousness that terrible morning, I can't help but think about the gift that was given as well. I do not think that Joy's personality and her spirit were by chance. Being around her and experiencing her is the polar opposite of the horrible emotions of the other part of September 11th, 2001.
Those who know my sweet Joy know that she was truly a gift given to a world that had "stopped turning" to quote the song. Her smile, her care and concern for all she meets, her amazing capacity to show love, and the literal joy that just oozes out of her, are all gifts to us from God, and I am so grateful that I get to be her Mom.
On September 11th of every year, I cry, I remember, and I mourn. But at the same time, I celebrate the life of the young woman I believe was sent to balance that sadness with a little joy of her own. I also say a prayer of gratitude for this reminder from our Heavenly Father that He will not leave us comfortless. He is ever mindful of His children and even in the midst of tragedy, there is always