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Remembering Sandra, 20 Year Later

It was a beautiful September day in Washington, DC.. I went to work early that morning and as I arrived, I placed a flyer about a photography workshop on Sandra’s desk, forgetting that it was the day she was to leave for her trip to Australia. She was so excited about that trip. She was looking forward to indulging in her passion of photography, especially architectural photography. It was a unique hobby. She was a unique woman. She dreamed of a second career as a photographer although she was an excellent, ambitious physical therapist. I only remembered that she was traveling that day after my colleagues and I watched the 2nd plane fly deliberately into the World Trade Center. When we heard that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon, we prepared for casualties to come in to our hospital but there were hardly any because so few survived. So we waited. And we tallied all the people we knew who were flying that day... there was Sandra, a coworker’s father, a friend of a friend. We worried, we prayed, we tried to get in touch with our friends and loved ones. When we found out that the plane that crashed into the Pentagon had taken off from Dulles airport en route to L.A., a coworker insisted that Sandra must be okay because she had flown out of Baltimore. We held our breath, we waited, we assured our own frantic loved ones that we were fine. Then we heard a guttural cry come from our manager’s office. Then we knew for sure. Sandra was on that flight. My colleague, my friend had just been killed by terrorists. It was shocking. It was sickening. Why Sandra of all people? Sandra Teague was my age. We were physical therapists working at Georgetown Hospital. We didn’t work directly together but we sat back to back in our office. Her reputation was one of an assertive, strong and hardworking PT. She treated inpatients at the hospital, helping them to regain their strength and function after surgeries or major illnesses. She wasn’t my closest friend I liked working and socializing with her. We regularly went to the same parties and happy hours. She was on our softball team. She was at my 30th birthday party 8 months before she died.

In life, Sandra was someone I would have described as the odd girl out but pleasantly quirky. She was one of the only Republicans in our social circle. She liked George Bush, wasn’t afraid to say it but really didn’t care who shared her opinion. While the rest of us would go out dressed in the requisite little black skirt and Steve Madden slides, she went out in jeans and an old leather jacket. She wasn’t afraid to let it be known who she had a crush on and when it wasn’t reciprocated, she moved on seemingly unscathed. In death I realized that she was someone who wasn’t afraid to be herself. In retrospect, her strength and her self-assuredness became examples of the life I that I aspire to lead.

She's been gone for 20 years now. I still wonder what she would think about this post-9/11 world. How would she have handled this pandemic? What would she make of our intervention and exit from Afghanistan? Would she have voted for Trump?! Whatever she would think, I believe that she would have shared her opinion in an honest and respectful way. In memory of Sandra, I will strive to cultivate Satya, to be more true to myself, yet respectful of others.

Today on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, in memory of Sandra, here’s an affirmation from Kripalu on the yama, Satya or Truth: I live in truth. I speak the truth to myself and to others. When offering my truth in the form of feedback I am sensitive to the the feelings of others; I speak in the spirit of love. I also take responsibility for my actions. I do not blame anyone for my experience; I honestly see my own part in every situation.

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