• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Math Geek Mom: Changes from Tragedy

The September 11 anniversary.


September 10, 2015

A “perpetual calendar” that indicates the day of the week a date falls on for any possible year is a topic that is taught in “Number Theory.” However,  I have memories of a similar issue arising in a Government class I took in college. There, on November 22nd, the teacher asked us all to write down what event happened on that day that most people remember. I had no clue, but wrote down something relating to the World War II. Of course, that was the day that John F. Kennedy was shot, when I was just a small child. I found myself thinking of this recently as we once again prepare to mark the anniversary of the terrorist attacks that happened fourteen years ago today.

In the late summer of 2001, I received a letter from a physician saying that I had a yearly appointment scheduled for 8:45 on a Tuesday morning early in the semester. Since that time would put me downtown right in the middle of rush hour, I called the hospital and asked to have my appointment time changed. “Sorry,” I was told. There was no alternative time, and I would need to make it at 8:45 or wait for a new appointment to open up. And so, I took the appointment, arriving early so as not to get caught in traffic. Little did I know that, as I sat in the waiting room and read old magazines, the world around me was changing. I did not learn of the chaos on the outside until I had spent forty minutes doing what many would call a “drunk driving test.” When I turned on the radio in my car, I learned of crashed planes and buildings that were destroyed with people inside of them. Surely, I thought, this is a re-play of the show “War of the Worlds.”

But it was not an audio show dug up from historical vaults. Rather, this was the last day that would begin in the “old world” and the first day of realizing that the world had changed in major ways.

One of the most profound ways that my life changed that day related to how people addressed me. When I was born, my Italian family named me after a deceased grandmother, using the Italian name she used, “Rosaria Marie.” However, as I grew up, the name “Rosemarie” was used in almost all situations, from taking the SATs to applying for credit cards. Only my driver’s license, which required a birth certificate, used my Italian name, as did my diplomas, as I thought the name sounded cool with the Latin on the sheepskins.

However, after September 11th, I could no longer easily purchase plane tickets under “Rosemarie” and show identification with an Italian name, explaining to the people at the airport that one name was an Italian version of the other. I resisted changing my name, since “Rosaria Marie” carried such emotional power for my family who had lost my grandmother at a very young age. However, the need to fly easily won out in the end, and so, sadly, I went to probate court and had my name officially changed to “Rosemarie,” on records and on my driver’s license. Of course, my daughter still called me “mom.”

The second way that my life changed that day was that I was reminded of how precious life really is. While I had begun ending all conversations with family with the words “I love you” years before, after a friend’s sister died suddenly in a car accident, this reinforced that habit. Because of this habit, I am sure that some of the last few words my sister and my mother heard from me were “I love you.” That is a comforting thought.

As we remember those who were lost in the tragedy fourteen years ago, I ask my readers: in what ways were your lives changed by the horrors of that day?


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