Tina Maldonado, Illinois

Editor’s Note: The essay below was written in 2001 and appears in the self-published book, Through Our Eyes: A Tapestry of Words and Images in Response to September 11. Printed and distributed in 2002, the book was the result of an independent, volunteer documentary project organized by a journalist and several friends. The author’s bio was written in 2002 and has not been updated.

Chicago, Illinois

Christina Marie Maldonado – known by pals as Tina – lives in Chicago, where she studies nursing and psychology at Loyola University and works at the University of Chicago Hospital. This sassy and intuitive gal has spent most of her 25 years of life in Arizona, where her dear parents and siblings still live. Passions include running, volunteering, movies, music, backpacking, hiking, camping, reading and traveling. Tina has thoroughly explored the United States and has made numerous ventures into Mexico. She hopes to eventually wander through Europe and join the Peace Corps. Tina began watching the Sept. 11 horror unfold at approximately 8:50 a.m. on the “Today” show. Her remarks spilled out around five days later.

Oh my god! Oh god … what’s happening?!?! As if “god” – this higher celestial being with absolute, unconditional love and guide of the universe would let September 11th happen. Or could he … I wonder.

I wonder if not having a solid faith in this supposed lover of all things, creator and protector of humanity and heart, has hindered my absorption of this horrific tragedy. All over the world people are looking to god, asking god, praying to god, begging god for a miracle to find their loved one’s body. Filled with pain, pleading and crying to god for a miracle. Why? If god looks upon us as his children, why would he allow such sorrow to take over so many lives? If not more now than any other time in my life, do I hate such a god. This will take over lives completely. Forever.

Forever I am changed. I will not ever, ever say goodbye to mom or papa without letting them know how much they mean to me. “Taking for granted” is something I can never see myself doing again. The dollar bill will not mean the same thing to me any longer. I will not use the phrase “Someday, I will …” because tomorrow could be my last someday. Tomorrow I will make one person feel good about themselves, or at least crack a smile. Maybe that smile will kill them with the kindness they need to snap out of that shitty mood … that’s not doing anyone any good. Living a life worth living is something the rest of my forever will be. Someday is now.

Someday, I’ll quit smoking. Fuck it – I quit yesterday and my day sucked. It was filled with apprehension and constant longing for a drag. Fuck it – we’re going to be bombed, Anthraxed, or go crashing down into a fucking cornfield. That last cigarette may be just what I need. And what if I would’ve quit? The quality of my last days may be hell because those damn “DON’T START” ads started to get to me. I’m justifying … because that’s what you do when things like health are still important, not worrying about thousands of innocent people being murdered within an hour. I don’t know anymore. Maybe I’ll quit and use that stressful-nicotine-deprived energy to focus on more important, less trivial things. Simple things. Making people smile.

Smiling? How in the hell can you be smiling at a time like this! I can’t sleep, can’t eat, can’t hold down tea … and you want normalcy to kick in? Go through the motions of a day without an emotional breakdown? You mean, I’m not supposed to cry at school? On the train? I have to get out of bed today? How do I not react in the craziest ways for the millions of people affected by this? Every minute of every day? How dare I not drop my piddly ass bullshit I go through day in, day out and mourn for this horrific tragedy and the loss of so many lives.

Lives that will be merely a memorial, a memory, a celebration, a tombstone (for the lucky ones whose body part (s) are found). I am beyond words. I am beyond angered. I am livid. I am so scared of what is to come and so scared there are people existing in this world that are capable of September 11th. I fear for my nephew, who at his tender age of one has no understanding of how this could affect his life.

The frustration in my head is hurting my stomach. My spirit is broken. Humanity has broken my heart in a way it’s never been broken. Wounded. My discouragement now is not even comparable to my most discouraging moments in all 25 years of my life. I am freaking out … will this help anyone? Probably not. Medication? Only to sleep again. But is there something I can take to make me dream well again? I need that … good dreams. I need to have faith. I need to feel resilience. I need to be the whole person I was, not the crumbled mess I feel like now. I need to feel hope again. I guess I need to find hope first. I need to feel that my world and the people I love and care about are safe and not wondering about an end … like I am now. Will there ever be a time like that again? I feel the worst is yet to come.


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