Friday, 11 November 2011

The Things We Can Control

It is now ten years and two months since September 11 2001. As a global community we felt helpless for a while. In the last post, I described a paralysis of fear that struck me. A distinct moment snapped me out of that feeling and I promised more details...

I wasn't directly affected by the terrorist attacks on the USA but I do recall feeling real fear. Irrational evaluations of risk became part of my decision making. My team, Essendon were playing off against Brisbane on the last day in September at the MCG. Should I take my kids to the AFL Grand Final? Will the terrorists strike there next? Images flashed through my mind, of jumbo jets ploughing into the Great Southern Stand.

Such thoughts were real to me... thoughts I felt a bit embarrassed about, so I was reluctant to share them. Since then, I've discovered that many others felt the same way. For a period of time, I reckon a huge proportion of humanity felt lonely in the midst of unspoken fear.

On the first day of fourth term, 2001, my daughter was in Grade 2, eight years old and loving life. Heidi, the school receptionist called me at work to say that Amber had had an accident during sport. She had been looking the other way, turned for a moment and as she turned back her forehead crashed, at running pace, into a thick, hard steel basketball pole.

"We've called the ambulance Bill... I think she's OK... how quickly can you get over here?"

It took a quarter of an hour to get to Amber's school, to only discover that the ambulance had just left. Not sure what the statute of limitations is on minor offences but I must confess to driving pretty quickly for another fifteen minutes on to the hospital. So fast that I actually caught up to the ambulance and arrived to see my daughter as the doors opened out. She was in a bad way and we learnt a new word that day Cephalohematoma. A huge swelling, like a big bag of fluid, had bulged out on Amber's forehead. It was scary. Those 30 minutes of driving were intensely frightening. On reflection the fear was because of the unknown.

A few minutes later in the emergency room, Amber said "I'm scared daddy, please hold my hand".

"Of course sweetheart". She gripped tight.

Amber was physically sick a few times as we waited for the specialist. The doctor finally arrived on a day when minutes felt like hours. He calmly said that things actually looked much worse than they really were. She was going to be groggy and nauseous for a day or two yet but so importantly, she was going to be OK. Ten years on, Amber is 18 and sitting her VCE exams.

There is still a little trophy bump on her forehead. When she asked me to hold her hand, I wasn't frightened about all the bad things that had happened in the world, any more.

There was a footy coach in that time who had a favourite saying that now has become sporting cliché... "we only worry about the things we can control". That was hard to do, post-September 11. Holding Amber's hand was something within my sphere of control... I could help her when she was frightened.

I often wonder now, when we are frightened in some way, if the best way out is borne in the effort to help another. All the best with your exams Amber. It is so special that you are able to do them.

Feel free to write your thoughts and responses in the space below.