Readers share how the 9/11 attacks transformed their lives

Lasting change: readers share how the 9/11 attacks transformed their lives

Gabrielle Gayagoy

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States altered millions of lives overnight–and over time. “In everyday life, it is often too hard to make major changes,” says Bill O’Hanlon, author of Thriving Through Crisis: Turn Tragedy and Trauma Into Growth and Change (Perigee Books, 2004). But “since life is already disrupted and shaken up during a crisis, big changes are easier.” According to O’Hanlon, forming deeper connections with loved ones, developing and expressing kindness and compassion, and using your experience to help others are the keys to triumphing over devastating circumstances. Here, six Shape readers give back by sharing the positive effects of the 9/11 tragedy on their lives.

Valuing time together

“I used to always worry about being on time. I hated being late, and I couldn’t tolerate others who were. On 9/11, my boyfriend had an interview scheduled in Tower Two for 9 a.m. He would have been there, but he was running late. When I heard that, I realized that I should just enjoy the time we spend together, whether he’s on time or not.” *Chris Fitzpatrick, 25, Yonkers, N.Y.

Following her passion

“[Back in 2001 in Seattle] I was in a job I hated, but I was too afraid to make a change. On Feb. 28, 2001, Seattle was hit by a 6.8-magnitude earthquake. I was in a building I feared was collapsing and I thought I was going to die. Then, on Sept. 11, I watched the events unfold on TV and the feelings I had from the earthquake came back to me. Two weeks later, I gave my notice and started culinary school the following January. I have since completed school and am now the assistant pastry chef at a small French restaurant. I couldn’t be happier!” * Heidi Engeset, 34, Woodinville, Wash.

Determining what’s important

“My husband and I had contemplated having children, but were dedicated to our demanding careers. Then Sept. 11 came, and everything changed. We realized how our priorities were off, and that we really did want children. By the end of September we were pregnant, and by January we found out we were having twins! I don’t even recognize the life we used to have before that horrible day, but I am grateful for the wake-up call it provided us. Life is very full, and at times quite crazy, but it’s definitely been better for us since that day.” * Tracy Wilson-Holden, 36, Lakewood, Ohio

Experiencing life to the fullest

“Since that day I have traveled to 10 countries, sampled jobs around the world, started to learn Dutch and German, fallen in love with a Dutch man, and given life my all. I live every day as if it were my last.” * Kirsten Elphick, 26, Ter Aar, The Netherlands

Finding a new appreciation

“Sept. 11 has changed my perspective on life in many ways. I appreciate our country and way of life a lot more than I used to. Being a sports fan, I have yet to hear the national anthem sung at the opening of a game without it bringing tears to my eyes. The phrase ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ does it to me every time.” * Cindy Ramos, 42, Bradenton, Fla.

Reconnecting with loved ones

“One very unexpected development from Sept. 11 was reconnecting with my father. Our bond fizzled out when my parents divorced in 1993, but after 9/11 happened, he got in touch with me and a tentative relationship began. Today, I am fortunate to have him as a part of my life. Our relationship has boosted my self-esteem and helped me to be a better person. I’m sure those terrorists intended to inflict long-term harm, but in our small way, my father and I have defeated them.” * Regina Coar, 24, Tallahassee, Fla.

Shape wants to know …

What positive changes would you like to see in your life in 2005? E-mail us at and include your full name, birthdate, city, state and daytime number.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Weider Publications

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group