September 11th, 2018. Having lost my father 17 years ago, the day that our city and country witnessed the terrorist attack on 9/11. People all over the world glued to their TV’s watching in awe thinking “could this be real? Is this really happening? Who would do this to us and why?” Our country was rocked to its core,for almost 3000 New Yorkers and their families their world and their lives were crumbling just like the towers. Never in a million years would I have imagined that my family and I would be one of those families, but we were.
Back to the question does time heal? Personally, for me time doesn’t heal, I have had to accept and adjust my hopes and dreams to my new reality. The days passed and each day without my father presented its own challenges, uncertainty, fears but also became my new “normal”. The days and months following 9/11 I was scared and experienced every feeling imaginable: sadness anger, disbelief, shock, and loneliness. I questioned “how am I supposed to go on? How do I live my life and what does it all mean? “
September 11th, 2001 was supposed to be the first day of my internship for what was going to be the start of my career. I started the internship in January 2002 instead, the important part was that I started it, not as planned but then again nothing was as planned anymore. Something was missing, an ache in my heart this was my first experience of having a major event happen in my life and my father not being there; his not being part of it, not asking me questions about it.
For myself I have found that the first year is the hardest without your loved one - the first birthday, holiday, anniversary, etc. Since 9/11 I have had many first, many life changing events, I graduated from my internship, I got my first job, I got engaged (I am so grateful that my father knew and loved my husband) I started dating my husband when I was 15 and I was 23 when my father was killed. We got married June of 2004. My wedding was beautiful but very different then I imagined as a little girl, my daddy didn’t give me away, we never had our dance, I didn’t get to see his proud smile he so often had when he looked at my mother, my brother and me. I had my first daughter and named her Billie after him, I bought my first house, my career grew, I had my second daughter, my brother got married, I gave birth to my third child this time a boy. So many wonderful happy moments that he wasn’t a part of. What I learned very early on was that for me every moment from 9/11/2001 was bitter sweet, there would always be something missing.
I also learned it was O.K. to laugh again, smile again and enjoy the good things in life (I can’t believe I just said that, if you would have asked me about good things in life 17 years ago I would have said there aren’t any).
What I learned most in my grief process is my purpose in life, to help others in their own grief process and honor my father, Billy. I started A Caring Hand, Founded in Memory of Billy Esposito. I did this so that others could deal with their own grief in a loving and caring environment, a place they could be themselves, know that they aren’t alone, could laugh and smile again and remember their loved ones. Since the foundation began serving children directly, we have helped over 1600 children and their loved ones in the New York City area alone grieve their loss. Out of a tragedy I was able to do something good for so many others in need, I am able to channel my own anger and grief in a positive way and keep my father’s memory alive.
For me I can say time doesn’t heal, the more time that passes I yearn to hear his voice, see his face and have just one more hug and kiss good-night. I learned to adapt to the new normal, enjoy the good in life, replay the 1000’s of memories we made over and over in my head, be thankful for the unconditional love I had and felt, continue to make my father proud, and never take any day I have with my family and loved ones for granted because as I learned 17 years ago tomorrow isn’t promised.