When tragedy happens I find myself mentioning Austin. I try not to, as I feel the focus should be on the person that was just lost and not Austin, but catch myself doing it anyway. So this is a forewarning - I'm about to do it again.
Tuesday, September 10th
I found myself thinking about Austin as I drove to my class in Providence, RI. Out of the blue my mind began playing the conversations I had with a close friend on the day of Austin's accident. Time is blurred together from that day, but it was within 15 minutes of my finding out that Austin had died. It went something like this.
Friend: "Hey Lori, I just heard about Austin's accident. Is he ok?"
Me (choking it out): "No... he died."
Next I began replaying my response to the doctor when she called me from the hospital, breaking the news. "Ok... no, really? Are you sure?.... OK... ok, are you sure? OK...."
I'm not sure where these thoughts came from as I was driving down the road, they were just there.
Traffic was a little heavy and the typical slow drivers were holding up the rest of us. I am constantly scanning where cars are in my rearview and side mirrors, so when I have to change lanes I don't accidentally have someone in my blind spot. It was time to move to the left passing lane. I'd been watching my mirrors and knew there was room for me to move over. As I pulled a couple inches over I turned my head to the left just in time to catch the glimpse of a maroon car right next to me. I quickly pulled back into my own lane avoiding a near hit. The driver honked his horn, but if I hadn't seen him out of the corner of my eye it would have, most likely, been too late. My heart beat a little faster as I raised my hand to the driver, saying in driver sign language, "I'm so sorry!" Then my mind thought, "Ugh! If that had been a motorcycle it may have not been good."
Wednesday, September 11th (aka 9/11)
I arrive at the gym, in good spirits, ready to work up a sweat. I'm on the treadmill walking / running, listening to the music and watching the multiple TV screens in the front of the room, reading the closed captions when something caught my eye. One the channels was showing 9/11 events, reenacting what happened on the planes that crashed. Scrolling across the screen, they had several of the phone conversations that some of the passengers had with their loved ones during the last minutes of their flights. As I'm working out, reading the captions, I feel the tears well up in my eyes and have to refocus so they don't escape and start streaming down my face. When I finish I think, "Well that was an interesting way to work-out."
For the rest of the day I find myself teary-eyed. I'm in Target, checking out, and see a little boy that reminds me of my 15 year-old son when he was that age. It's a happy thought, but I am choked up. As I'm paying the cashier I'm trying not to cry. I laugh at myself, thinking of how sappy I am today, not because of 9/11, but can't put my finger on why I'm feeling this way. Oh well, as I learned a little over three years ago, I just have to go with it.
During the day, one of the questions many people asked, via Facebook, was "What were you doing when you heard about the plane crashes?" Alan Jackson asks the question in a song, "Where were you when the world stopped turning?" for 9/11. I can remember clear as day what I was doing - pumping gas, but I think for many this question applies to other times when their world stopped turning - when they loss a child, spouse, sibling, or best friend. I can see in my mind exactly what I was doing when I got the call from Austin's accident and when I was on the phone with my brother when we discovered my father had passed away.
Thursday, September 12
Text received from a friend at 8:25am: "... Andrew, who was the bartender at Austin's event... was killed last night in a motorcycle accident."
I sat there, rereading the text, speechless, a sick feeling in my stomach. I had only met Andrew once, at Austin's event, but this news hit home. It was as if all my thoughts from the past two days were just "wrapped up". Andrew's family's and friends' worlds just stopped turning around 11:30pm on 9/11. I knew that there were friends 370 miles away that had been through this with Austin, and now were going through it again. I knew there were parents receiving the news that just two days earlier I had been playing back in my mind from Austin's accident. I cried for Andrew, for his family, and for his friends. I cried because I knew the pain they were feeling and wished they didn't have to.
Even though I try not to pull Austin into remembering others that have been lost, sometimes there is no choice. And now, every year when we celebrate Austin's life at the "Remembering Austin" event, I will also be thinking of Andrew, who I only met once - as the bartender at this event. There will now always be a connection of Andrew with Austin.
My thoughts and prayers go out to Andrew's family and friends, as they grieve the loss of someone they loved, of someone who touched their lives.