Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thoughts on 9/11

This is a little delayed, but I feel like I need to put down in written form my thoughts and experiences from the terrorist attacks on our country on September 11, 2001, since we just had the tenth anniversary.

On that morning, I awoke in a hotel room in Eugene, OR. (A great beginning to any story...). I was 22 years old, and on tour with the National Touring Company of Les Miserables, and we had re-entered the country the day before, Sept. 10, from spending the summer performing in Canada. I always thought that was a blessing; who knows how long we would have been stuck trying to come back into the US if we had been a day later.

I woke up about mid morning, and without turning on the TV, went straight to the gym, which was connected to a nearby mall. As I got to the mall searching for an entrance, the building was like a ghost town. I was a little confused, but asked some nearby security guards how to find the gym entrance. They looked at me really strangely, and asked if I had heard the news, which of course, I had not. I don't remember exactly what they said, but they tried to tell me what had happened, but it was so confusing and foreign that I know I didn't grasp what they were saying. They gave me directions to the gym, and off I went. When I arrived there, I was assaulted with every TV screen in the place showing the World Trade Center Towers been crashed into and falling, over and over again, the Pentagon on fire, and a random plane crash in a field in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania.

Arriving back at my hotel room, the TV was on again, and my roommate that week, Lisa Morris, was glued to it, as was everyone else in our company by that time. It was late morning by then, and we were 3 hours behind the east coast, so much had happened before any of us were even aware. That day the TVs stayed on, and my friends and I all tried unsuccessfully to reach friends and loved ones in the City. That night our show was dark, along with the rest of the Broadway community out of respect and mourning. A girl in my company asked me if I wanted to come to a prayer meeting that night in one of the rooms. Since we had the night off, I thought I would take that chance to go to the doctor. I don't remember why I wasn't feeling well, but I decided to go then instead of to the prayer meeting. I remember that, because she was surprised that I would do something so mundane on such a night.

The next night we did our show to a packed house. The emotions ran high throughout. Les Miz is a musical about many things, but among them are redemption, the belief in God, and the fight for what you believe in. A major part of the show is how a group of French middle class students stand up against the aristocracy (in a nutshell), staging a battle, most of them dying in the process. Some ensuing scenes include the women singing about their men dying for a cause, and one of the main male characters, Marius, singing about surviving that battle, and wondering why he still lived when his friends had died. Needless to say, none of us got through the show very well that night. It all hit way too close to home. I remember that the man who played Enjolras, the leader of the students, broke down in his final battle cry. Below is the stanza I am talking about:

Let us die facing our foes
Make them bleed while we can

Make 'em pay through the nose

Make 'em pay for every man!

Let others rise
To take our place
Until the earth is free

He was not a normally emotional person. On the contrary, Stephen Tewkesbury was a guy who was always up for a good time, never serious. When he broke down singing the lines that called us all to a final stand, we all lost it. That is a very vivid memory for me. We fought that battle like it had never been fought before. Maybe if it was real, we would have won.

Personally, that time was interesting for me. I think I was mostly in shock. I was saddened, but I think mostly, I was shocked. I went to the doctor that night, and other than thinking about it and talking about it, I went about my business. I didn't know what else to do. That is the way I am, I guess. I grieve, but I go about my business. I know much more about grief now than I did then, but in some ways I am still the same. I don't try and repress it, but I am not the type to be immobilized by grief. Especially not then, being as young as I was, and without a lot of significant life experience. But it didn't mean I didn't feel, and I was very hurt by the attacks in either word or action by some of the women in the company who accused me of being unfeeling, or having no concept of what had happened. I was devastated by that. Who were they to tell me how to feel or act under the circumstances, or assume they even knew what was happening in my head? How dare they decide how I need to react to anything?? No one came to my aid in that moment, but one woman later told me she thought the others were very wrong for what they did. I try to look at it as more of a reflection of where they were in their grief process, and leave it at that. These were good women otherwise, and they were hurting. We all react differently to trauma, I have figured out. Of course, that has only come in recent years, as I understand more about other people. But I was very judged that night, and hurt by it.

If I am honest, I was not really struck emotionally by the events of 9/11 at that time. Not to the core, like others were. Not that I am ashamed of that, or think those women were right to say unkind things to me. But I was not as "affected" emotionally then. Like I said, I was probably just in shock and didn't know how to process all the information; somehow it wasn't quite real to me at that time. I didn't feel quite connected. I knew it had happened, I tried to keep up with all the incoming news, unsuccessfully; I cried at the songs that were written in ensuing weeks and months commemorating 9/11. (I am a sucker for emotional manipulation through music). I remember, and was very sobered, when President Gordon B. Hinckley stopped in the middle of General Conference 3 weeks later and announced that we were at war. I guess the right word is "sobered." I was very sobered, and prayed, and stood with my country during this whole time period. But I didn't cry too much, and will always believe that is okay.

Fast forward to the fall of 2003. I had come back and graduated from BYU, and had made the big move to New York City to make my way as an actor. I lived with a friend for a few months in Hoboken, NJ, just across the Hudson River. One day, I was out walking and I entered a riverside park. In that park was a covered bulletin board, the kind that people would post flyers on for lost dogs, cars for sale, etc. On one side, the board was covered with flyers with faces. I looked closer, and realized they were 9/11 victims who had been residents of Hoboken. There were pictures and biographies/obituaries of each one. I imagine they were hung sometime soon after 9/11, and two years later they were still there.

Then it was real.

I cried then.

I read each one, all alone on a late fall afternoon in that park, directly across from the New York City skyline where the Twin Towers used to stand tall, and wept. Now that I was living there, and in the same city as these good people, it was real to me. These innocent people, all they had done wrong was NOT call in sick that fateful day in 2001. They fell victim to the ultimate Hate Crime. It was real.

It was very cathartic for me, like I had been holding it in for 2 years, or something. Maybe I hadn't fully comprehended until that moment. Maybe it hadn't been real to me until then. Maybe I grieved two years later. But I grieved.

God bless my country. God bless the rescuers who gave their lives, or worked day and night to find the survivors and bodies. May God bless the families left behind.

I will Never Forget.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Just a little Sunset.

In May I did "Sunset Boulevard" at Pioneer Theatre Company.  This was a significant show for me, because it was the first full professional contract I have done in 6 years.  So, it was big deal for me, being my first foray back into the professional theater industry in a long time.  I had such a great time, and our cast was amazing!  I was in the ensemble, and it was the best ensemble show.  I had enough to do that I didn't get bored, but not so much that I was stressed out during the show.  I loved everyone I worked with!  It was seriously so fun, and so fulfilling, to perform with that caliber of people and production again.  Pioneer was great to work for, and I hope to do it again soon.

Two guys that I became good friends with, Eric Jackson and Ben Eackley.  Love them!
Guess who's photo idea this was??
"A Little Suffering"
One of my FAVORITE people, Jeff Stevens.

I was one of the "Harem Girls."  With me are Theresa Bramwell and Sara Kae Childs.