I've lived in six towns in three states.
I've owned three different homes and three cars: a Volkswagon, a Jeep and a minivan.
I left my career as a newspaper photographer and started my wedding photography business.
I adopted Dakota.
I married J.
I became a mom.
10 years. So much has changed. But so much of who I am is rooted in that one day.
Rewind to one year prior. I was working at USA Today in Washington, DC, a fresh-faced and wide-eyed recent college graduate just 22 years young. I was rubbing elbows with industry big wigs, jet setting to national political and sporting events. Loving life.
That winter, my boss assigned me to cover a story about a flight attendant who broke her neck during violent turbulence and lived near my hometown in New Hampshire. The story was slated to run the next week so it was a little reprieve from the usual run-and-gun of turning images around quickly. While I was home, however, the story was moved up to run the next day and I was scrambling to have my film (we were just transitioning to digital in 2000) processed and transmitted from a local newspaper. That may not sound like a big deal now, but back then it was a major headache. A headache that could have been much easier had I brought my company laptop home with me. I had left it behind thinking it wasn't necessary given how cumbersome traveling with my photography gear is and how quick and non-urgent the trip was anyway.
When I returned, my boss sat me down and sternly told me that photojournalists always have all of their photography gear with them at all times. More precisely he said, "You never know when a plane is going to crash into the Potomac," referencing Flight 90 that crashed into the Potomac River in 1982.
On September 11th, I was driving on route 395 from Virginia into the city when I looked to my left following the panicked gaze of the driver in the car before me and saw what was then only a small plume of smoke from the Pentagon. I missed seeing Flight 77 crash by mere seconds. Ironically, I was on the 14th Street bridge, the very scene of that 1982 plane crash. Now a photo editor for the Washington Post Magazine, my photo gear was not in my trunk every day. If it had been, I easily could have been one of the first to the scene that day. Over and over again I heard the voice of my former boss in my head reprimanding me. But by the time I reached Constitution Avenue, I made the decision to continue forward through the city and then loop back around toward home on the Beltway. Deep within me, I was moved to protect myself. A drive that should have taken 45 minutes took 5 hours. But I was safe and later covered 9/11's aftermath.
Today, I still feel the impact of that day. It doesn't haunt me, but it does remind me of how precious life is, how important family is and how significant a role that beautiful September day played in my decision to document love and not news.