I kind of knew Christina Ray Stanton before reading her book. She grew up in my hometown of Tallahassee, FL, and I met her once in New York City. I knew she was in NYC during 9/11, but didn’t know much more.
A few years ago, my mom told me Christina was writing a book about her 9/11 experience, and I was very excited to read it. It was also interesting to me, because I had just started writing my own memoir, Discovering My Scars.
I ordered my copy of Christina’s book as soon as it was available (May 31st 2019) and read it in one day. I planned to take a few days, but I couldn’t put it down!
The book starts right where I remember learning of the events, the morning of September 11, 2001.
Christina was awoken by her husband, Brian, at 8:46am, and she followed him to the terrace of their apartment, just six blocks from the World Trade Center. They watched the “thick black smoke boiling up from the North Tower.”
She gives the reader an inside look into what she and her husband went through in the minutes, days, weeks, months and years after the events of 9/11.
For 18 years, I have tried to imagine what it was like for a New Yorker that day. I saw the news coverage, I visited ground zero in 2002, I visited the 9/11 museum, and still this book gave me the most insight to what that day was like for the people of NYC.
One thing I never thought about before was what happened to the pets of NYC that day. Now that I have my own dog, reading of Christina and Brian’s journey with their 40lb Boston terrier, Gaby, was very emotional.
Reading about the “gunk” that coated his fur from the fallen towers, and in-turn ingested, was heart-breaking, but important in understanding the full picture of that day (Gaby did survive and lived a normal lifespan for the breed, although they believe he died from 9/11 related cancer).
While entering Christina’s world, I couldn’t help but relate it to my own life and story.
“I felt no shock or horror or even sadness. I had become detached. Analytical. I no longer felt any emotions.” (Excerpt page 18 from Out of the Shadow of 9/11)
I had these similar feelings when I was held for 74 hours in a mental hospital.
“Lord, I need you. I need YOU. I don’t want all the good things you’ve given me to be ultimate things that are above you. I want you. “Whatever I become” is simply up to YOU now.” (Excerpt page 131 from Out of the Shadow of 9/11)
When I was at my lowest, it was then that I turned to God, and finally found truth, clarity, and direction in my life.
“Do you really think we have PTSD? I thought that was for soldiers after horrific battles. Yes. It’s pretty evident. My advice is that you don’t try pressuring Brian into talking. It’s often very difficult for people with PTSD to talk about their trauma, and it can even make things worse for same people.” (Excerpt page 142 from Out of the Shadow of 9/11)
When I was diagnosed with PTSD in a therapy session, I too thought of it as a soldier illness. It was in that, that I realized the horrors I endured in the mental hospital, led to the debilitating flashbacks I constantly suffered from.
“God can turn everything to the good, Brian. We may have some scars, but maybe those scars can be turned into some seriously cool tattoos that could be of use to glorify God.” (Excerpt page 152 from Out of the Shadow of 9/11)
I couldn’t have said it better myself! I believe scars make us stronger, different from one another, and allow us to learn new lessons and teach other. This is our motivation behind the Discovering Our Scars Podcast, that Beth and I host together. By the way, episode 11 is titled “The Day We Changed…reflecting on 9/11” and will be out September 20th.
I highly recommend this book to all!