6 and 5 years

6 years ago the world was changed forever. 6 and 5 years ago my family was changed forever.

6 years ago, on August 30th, 2001, my uncle Jens, my mom’s brother, succumbed to Cancer. he was diagnosed in the Spring, and by the end of August he was gone.

some of my fondest memories of him are from December 1989-January 1990. My family flew to Denmark to be with my mom’s side of the family over the holidays. we were there for 5 weeks, and we stayed with my uncle Jens and aunt Lise most of those 5 weeks. it was wonderful.

Jens was a funny man…oh, he could make me laugh. he had such a great sense of humour, that man. he was a bit of a neat freak. everything in it’s place. he had a workshop in his basement where he kept all of his tools and did his tinkering. there was a peg board on the wall where the smaller tools, screwdrivers, wrenches and such, hung. we were told not to go in there, but my brother and i couldn’t resist…it was right beside the room we stayed in while we were there…it taunted us….we were 14 and 15 years old, after all. i remember we pulled one tool from the peg board, which tool i can’t quite recall, and them promptly put it back in its place. later that day, Jens asked us if we had been in there…he had noticed that one of his tools had been moved. how he knew, i will never know. amazing man, he was.

the last time i saw him was in September 1999. Jens, Lise and my cousin Louise came to Canada for a quick visit. my parents brought them up to Ottawa to see Carlos and i….we had just bought our house, so we got to show it off. it was a short visit, but i’m so glad we had that time…i’m so glad that Carlos got to meet my uncle Jens. i never would have…could have imagined that it would be the last time i saw him…that 2 years later, he would be gone.

my mom went to Denmark for a few weeks to be with her brother while he was ill. she was there when he passed away, and was there for his funeral. the news of his passing crushed me. i cried…i cried so long and so hard, i wasn’t sure i could stop.

i went back home to be with my mom when she came home from Denmark. i was there when we picked her up at the airport in Toronto. i remember waiting for her to come out of Customs, butterflies racing around in my stomach. for the first time in my life, i had no idea what to say to my mother. what could i say? all i could do was hug her tight, and try to be there for her. she was so glad when i told her my plan to stay for a week before heading back to Ottawa.

then September 11th came. i think mom came home the day before, but maybe it was a couple of days…it escapes my memory. but i remember that day like it was yesterday…we were sitting in the livingroom, having our breakfast and morning coffee, watching television.

a special news bulletin came on, telling us that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. they went to live footage, and we saw the gaping hole that was left by the plane and the smoke coming from the ensuing fire. we were thinking “how horrible!”, figuring some novice had gone off course and couldn’t recover, eventually flying into the tower. and then it happened. a second plane suddenly appeared at the edge of the television screen and flew straight into the other tower. all mom and i could do was scream. we screamed loud enough to make my dad coming running into from the kitchen.

we sat there, mesmerized by what we had just seen, and what continued to see replayed over and over and over again. we were numb, faces soaked with tears, eyes wide with disbelief. then news came of the attack on the pentagon, and of the hijacked plane that eventually went down. and the world was forever changed. we were changed forever. for the next few days, all we could do was sit glued to the television, seeing the footage again and again, listening to eyewitness accounts and press conferences. the sadness was unbearable. my mom mentioned that she wished she could talk to Jens about all of this…and my sadness deepened.

my cousin Thomas, the son of my mother’s brother Hans, was involved in the events of September 11th, even though he was in Denmark. he was an air traffic controller, and helped in the efforts to keep US airspace clear.

a year later, 5 years ago today, on September 11th, 2002, my cousin Thomas succumbed to Cancer. for the second time in just over a year, this insidious disease had taken someone from our family.

the last time i saw Thomas was the ’89/’90 holiday season we spent in Denmark. i remember we were playing pool one day at Jens and Lise’s house. we were both turning 16 that June, and he was teasing me that he would be 16 four days before i was. i teased him back, saying that it didn’t matter because i would be getting my driver’s license when i was 16, but in Denmark he had to wait until he was 18. we had so much fun during that visit. little did we know it would be the last time we saw each other. he was 28 when he passed away…too young. i sent him an email on his birthday that year…June 18th…i’ll never know if he got it…if he read it, and knew that i was thinking of him and praying for him to get better.

i’ve seen pictures of Thomas over the years. as he got older, he looked so very handsome…so much like my uncle Hans. it was uncanny, really. i’m so sad i never got to know Thomas as an adult. if Thomas was still with us, he would be 33 years old…4 days older than me.

even though it has been 6 and 5 years since, the sadness stays with me, surfacing now and again. today is one of those days. it is a day of mourning for the world, and mourning for my family.

my thoughts are with all those affected by the attacks of September 11th, 2001. my thoughts are with my cousins Therese and Louise, who lost their father Jens 6 years ago and their mother Lise 2.5 years ago (my aunt Lise also succumbed to Cancer…i will have to write about that in another post), and with Louise’s baby son Mads, who never had the chance to meet his grandparents. my thoughts are with my cousin Niels, my uncle Hans and aunt Alyce, who lost Thomas 5 years ago today…a brother…a son. my thoughts are with them also because they are now having to watch my aunt Alyce battle Breast Cancer. my thoughts are with my aunt Alyce, who has dealt with her Cancer with such strength and amazing spirit…again, this is for another post. it’s all too overwhelming…too much for one post.

this day is overwhelming…a day that will never be forgotten.

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