Twin Collapses

My Personal Tie-in to 9/11

I no longer have a connection to an Arab last name or live intimately in an Arab culture, but every year September 11th carries reminders of my own twin tower collapse.

When I married Ihab, an Egyptian Muslim, it seemed we had the strength to overcome so many obstacles. His words reassured me that he was committed to whatever life threw us–including his father’s wrath, his mother’s grief, and a military court marshal. He survived all three and came out unscathed, even from the military investigation conducted under blinding lights and threat of imprisonment.

When I announced to my mother that I was marrying Ihab in Egypt, the terror those words drove into her heart were enough to prevent her from driving for a week. Mom feared that I would never return to the United States again. She didn’t know him and didn’t trust foreign countries. Marrying a foreigner prevented my father from ever connecting to my husband in the same ways he had with any of my siblings’ partners–mostly because he didn’t know Ihab’s family, or background. I robbed him of that.

We faced all these outside influences intact–two towers with strong girders. 

We purposely built them into our relationship as we bridged our religious and cultural differences by focusing on our shared values–tolerance, loving others, optimism, humor and kindness.

The seemingly invincible twin towers - Compliments of herstorycampus.com
The seemingly invincible twin towers – photograph taken from herstoryoncampus.com

Our families and even his military saw the red flags we didn’t.

We talked at length if we should risk having children and passing on my hereditary genetic condition of Retinitis Pigmentosa. “We are strong enough to cope with even that,” Ihab insisted. “You have a big heart and see beauty where others see only ugliness. Regardless of the outcome, you will be a model mother.”  

Swept away by his words of faith in me, we became pregnant with twins our first year together as we settled in neither America nor Egypt, but in a third country – the United Arab Emirates.

But in the fifth month of my pregnancy, I was rushed to the hospital after the loss of one twin. There, I was admitted and faced dramatic twists and turns for the next six weeks as we tried to save the second twin–all to lose her in the final moments of her birth!

Devastating anguish followed.

This loss impacted our relationship. Our faiths and cultural differences prevented us from sharing our deepest emotions about what happened. The girders we so carefully built had begun to weaken.

On September 11, 2001–morning in America, evening in the United Arab Emirates–the first planes flew into the Twin Tower and it collapsed. My husband calmly came into my office and delivered the news. I ran to the television to watch as the disaster unfolded. When the second tower collapsed, we knew it wasn’t an accident.

The day the twin towers collapsed, so did my marriage.

The man I married, the one I once felt was compassionate to the core, seemed hard and unfeeling to the agony of what was going on in my country. In a complicated twist of accusations, he blamed my government.

In the days that followed, so did more recriminations. His friends, once our friends, came to the house and criticized my country. They talked about the unfair treatment of Arabs in the United States in the aftermath of 9/11. Because of the negativity and my husband’s inability to empathize with what had happened in New York City, I became defensive. “Go somewhere else to air your views. Don’t bring them into my house to talk like that. I’m still your wife!”

His disregard for my feelings grew as did my defensiveness and we had our own fiery collapse.

We were divorced less than a year later.

When I see 9/11 footage of the dazed workers standing in the dust-filled rubble of Ground Zero, it always makes me think of myself, also dazed, standing in the ruins of my own life. I couldn’t find my husband there. I searched and searched but the man I knew and loved had disappeared. I found someone who looked like him but this man couldn’t have been the one filled with optimism for our lives. He was angry, accusing, disrespectful and unkind toward the people and country I valued. This came on top of the loss of his disappointment that I could not seem to bear him a child. The death of our twins collapsed the first tower and the terrorists effectively demolished our second.

9/11 brings such a sense of futile loss.

It didn’t have to happen.

I know losing my children and my marriage cannot be compared to what much of America experienced in the actual collapse of the Twin Towers. But my private devastation is and will always be linked to that day. I cannot hear the words, twins, towers, Ground Zero and Arab without remembering and comparing them to my own sense of invincibility and subsequent shaken faith in all I believed in for a time.

Fifteen years of my life. Gone up in plumes of smoke.

But, like so many others, I’ve moved on from Ground Zero and have dug myself out from the rubble. God ministered to me throughout my personal collapse and helped me to channel my energies into an optimistic outlook once more.

My faith now consists of stronger girding and I no longer fear collapse.

Twin Collapses
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12 thoughts on “Twin Collapses

  • September 12, 2015 at 3:33 am
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    Wow Amy. I didn’t know any of this. I enjoy reading your blog, to learn things about you, but I was not happy to learn about this period of your life. Everyone has their own unique experience with this day in history and yours broke my heart to read about. I hope the pain of this has at least lessened as time goes by, but obviously something you will never forget.

  • September 12, 2015 at 2:35 pm
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    Dear Crystal,
    Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I will probably include something about this in my book, Heavenly Light, which will encompass our romantic courtship and subsequent life together. Thank you for validating my feelings on a day many might view it as a selfish look into my own life while the vast majority is focused on the pain a nation.
    Amy

  • September 12, 2015 at 2:41 pm
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    Thank you so much, Kerry. I think we, as a nation, will always set aside this day to remember as I do, individually. I’m writing a book about it (Heavenly Light). If I can ever get the one I’m writing now done! Ha ha! Love that you have a copy of your new anthology in hand!!!
    Amy

  • September 12, 2015 at 7:13 pm
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    forget the ref but ‘the name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and are saved” someone said and was recorded in a Psalm…. still true today and your life shows that. So glad I knew the YOU then and the YOU of today., more mature because of challenges and grief.

  • September 12, 2015 at 7:49 pm
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    While I’d read some of this before, I hadn’t caught on to the timing of it all. Such a painful and heartbreaking time in your life. How sad that you’ll always have the media and others to remind you of something so personal, for which you need no help remembering. Praising God that He’s brought you through it and that now you’re on the bright side. {{{{Hugs}}}}

  • September 12, 2015 at 10:17 pm
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    Thank you, Amy, for sharing this vulnerable and difficult part of your life. God has indeed restored what was taken from you and He will continue to strengthen the girders that support you.

  • September 13, 2015 at 8:01 pm
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    Amy, God’s strength and restoration is evident in your story. Thank you for the courage to share this trying time in your life. It gives hope to many. I always believed if you want to know what someone is really like, see how they react to tragedy, trials, or tribulation. It’s easy to be whomever when our feathers haven’t been ruffled. May you continue to grow closer and closer to God every day.

  • September 14, 2015 at 6:10 am
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    Hi RJ,
    Many thanks for encouraging me to share my experience with 9/11 so long ago and for reading this post today.
    I believe you’re right. God is continuing to strengthen me. 🙂
    Amy

  • September 14, 2015 at 6:14 am
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    Hi Bettie Lou,
    I’ll look for that reference. Yes, you are one of the few who knew me then and now. What would I have done without you to help me through the turmoil of those days? So thankful for all God is doing in and through me.
    Strange to look on that event from a foreign country, wasn’t it?
    Amy

  • September 14, 2015 at 6:16 am
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    Hi Melissa,
    Yes, praising God that He brought me through it.
    And He repaired that relationship so that we finished as friends – though I haven’t spoken to him for several years. He is now remarried.
    Amy

  • September 14, 2015 at 6:17 am
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    Hi Jena,
    Seems like forever since we’ve talked!
    Thank you for your encouragement on that story.
    Amy

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