Posted by: Sven Olson, Bilateral Affairs Officer
September 11, 2011 was a day that dramatically altered thousands of lives… I am only one of the many affected… but it’s still an emotional anniversary to remember the horrors of that day. So many years later… I have a paradox of the tremendous losses and unexpected gains from a single monumental moment in time… and it makes for confusing reflection. The chain of events set in motion that day ended a marriage of 24 yrs… however leading many years later to another love that couldn’t have happened without Sept 11th. My businesses I had built and were dedicated to, had to be transitioned to friends and family… but have survived and thrived through an economy turned dark in so many ways. The life I had before is gone… replaced with a radically different reality… both good and bad… but in all ways more difficult.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was asleep at home in Tucson, Arizona. I was three time zones west from the events as they happened in New York and Washington DC when I received an early morning call to wake up and see what was unfolding. At the time, my family was hosting a German exchange student and after waking her to watch the events with me on TV… we watched and cried together as the towers fell. I knew at that moment, literally, as the towers fell, that my life would change. I am a member of the Army National Guard. I have pledged to serve in times of need… and this NEED was clear and present on the screens of every TV in the United States.
The next day I activated for Airport Security duty… and although released shortly after… within months I was activated for multiple tours of duty… and 27 months of the next 36 months were spent on military duty around the world… including the United States, Europe and a combat tour in Iraq. In the early days of the war there was little or no support for National Guard families dealing with the stress of multiple deployments… and my family counts as a casualty. A marriage lost… a family torn apart. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following my tour in Iraq and only through the incredible life saving services of the Arizona Veterans Hospital… can I write this blog for you today… healthy, happy and healed inside and out!
I survived… but lost so very much… and over the trials and triumphs of time… have gained new life… and new love. I was saved by the selfless service and love of others and for that I owe a debt of deep gratitude! I serve proudly to this day as a measure of my commitment! Following my recovery, I started a non-profit foundation to help support deployment families, and to this day we are providing youth services to National Guard and Reserve families as they deal with the stresses of serving around the world.
There is also a movement spreading around the world to make Sept 11th a day of service (www.911day.org) and so last year (2011, the 10th Anniversary) I chose to embrace this movement and spread some “Svenoshine” here in Ukraine. I spent the weekend in Lviv and throughout the day, I would search for gifted and talented people… sharing their gifts on the streets of Lviv. I gave each of those chosen a small scroll with a ribbon and note signifying that this gift was in memory of the events of Sept 11th… and was meant to thank them for sharing their Blessings with the world. Each scroll also included money to Bless the recipient. I found eleven wonderful people making the world around them smile. Some playing music on violins, accordions, guitars or even singing. Others were making balloon art for children, or helping guide tourists around the city. Being a part of changing the legacy of Sept 11th, from terror’s short lived victory, to a day of international kindness, was a healing experience. I hope this idea becomes inspiring to others.