I am not proud of my reaction on Sept. 11, 2001 – the day that took the lives of nearly 3,000 people. As soon as the news hit, I left work and pulled my child out of day care. Not wanting to be alone, I retreated to my sister’s house. We walked the beach, distracting ourselves by playing with our kids, who were too young to understand.

I remember two men pulling up at the dock. They had been on their boat without a radio and learned about the event from me. I didn’t have to tell them. They would have heard about it the second they turned on their car radio, but I needed to tell them. Strength in numbers, maybe.

One of them responded, “Well, you poke that beehive enough times and they will attack.”

I remember thinking, “What does he mean?” Possibly some reference to the Middle East that I did not understand.

I called my husband, who was working an hour away, and demanded that he come home. There was nothing he could do, but I wanted all the emotional protection I could assemble.

That evening, I huddled with my daughter in her bed, wishing that it would all go away. I remember thinking, “I don’t care who is president today or what political party he is affiliated with – just man up and figure this out. And make sure it doesn’t happen again.”


“Selfish” is the only word for how I felt.

Protecting my family and my small world was the most important thing to me. It wasn’t until weeks later when National Public Radio broadcast nothing but updates on 9/11 that I was brave enough to listen to the horrible details of that day.

Anyone born before 1958 likely remembers where they were when President Kennedy was shot, and anyone born before 1996 probably remembers where they were when the Twin Towers collapsed.

The year, 2001, was the dawn of the Internet, but most of us then were still getting our news from traditional sources like the evening news, the newspaper and the radio. We had not yet been bombarded with tweets and posts. Facebook did not exist. Imagine.

Today, Twitter feeds and news apps on our phones keep us updated on events every second of the day.

My daughter has become my source of sound bites. At any given moment, she will look up from her phone and, with no context, pronounce a celebrity marriage or a celebrity death. She has become my primary source for national news – most of which is heartbreaking.


Boom, a plane is shot down over Ukraine. Boom, Israel and Palestine are at war, again. Boom, we are back in Iraq. Boom, Robin Williams has committed suicide. Boom, an unarmed African American teen is shot down on our American streets.

There are weeks when I can’t read or listen to the news because I need time to process one tragedy before the next. When a plane is shot down and hundreds of people are killed, I need time to reflect. Not mourn. “Mourn” is too strong a word for an event that did not involve me or anyone I know.

The pace of information coming at us is like driving in a nor’easter 365 days a year – a horizontal snowstorm pounding at your windshield when all you can do to keep on the road is watch the white line.

Last week when I was adjusting to the news about Robin Williams’ suicide and to the reality that we were back in Iraq, my daughter walked down the stairs and announced, “Lauren Bacall died.”

She could tell by my expression that I had had enough and quickly followed her sound bite by saying, “It’s OK, Mom, she was old.”

Jolene McGowan lives and works in Portland with her husband, daughter and dog and has no plans to leave, ever. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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