Friday, September 11, 2015

When the Towers Fell

Today, I hate religion.

Every September 11th, I hate religion.

Ask me any other day and I will be willing to admit that there may be a limited amount of beneficial things in regards to organized beliefs. But not today.

I was still a Mormon when the planes stuck the Twin Towers. A Jack-Mormon - one who doesn't follow the letter of the law though they believe in the religion - but still a Mormon.

I wasn't at home when the towers fell.

My mother kicked me out in March 2001. My mother had decided that I was a bad influence on my three younger brothers because she caught me talking about condoms with my (boy)friend who I met on AOL in November of the previous year. These are all horrible things.

My choices were simple:
I could be homeless,
or try to impede upon relatives to whom I was not close,
or move across country with a complete stranger that I had met on the internet in November 2000.

After asking around to try to secure a couch until my mother 'forgave' me, I realized that I was going to be homeless. This had been the third time my mother had kicked me out of the house for trivial things that any good parent would have coached their child through.

I decided enough was enough.

The first time she kicked me out was in September 1999 because I called letting her know that I was going to be 5 minutes late for curfew. I was with my Mormon boyfriend on a typical dinner-and-a-movie date, and I called her to let her know the movie got out later than we had thought it would.

She told me not to bother coming home if I couldn't make it home before midnight. So I slept on his couch that night. I went to church the next day and went home afterward. She told me because I didn't come home that night, that I needed to find another place to live. I moved in with my best friend Tina and her mom.

A few weeks later, my mother called Tina's mom and asked her to ask me to move back home because my brothers missed me. So I did.

About midway through October of that same year, she kicked me out again. This happened shortly after her noticing that I didn't take the sacrament (body and blood of Christ) one Sunday. This was a personal decision and one that I was meeting with the Bishop about at the time. Because she didn't ask, and I wasn't about to tell, she assumed the worst. She leaned over and "whispered" rather loudly, "Why didn't you take the sacrament? You're not a virgin anymore, are you?" She stood up and left. As in, she stomped out of the quietest part of the Sunday service and went home and left me and my three younger brothers at church. Her voice almost echoed, so I knew everyone heard what she said.

The four of us walked home from church that day because she never came back to pick us up. When I walked in the door she said that I was being a horrible influence on my brothers and asked me to leave. I once again moved in with Tina and her mom.

A few days before Thanksgiving, my mother asked me to move back in so we could be together during the holidays. So I did.

She and I never got along from that point forward. I never forgave her for embarrassing me in front of the entire congregation, and she never apologized. I tried to act like nothing happened, but she had made her mind up about the reasons why I had stayed out that one night in September and she made it very clear that she thought I had lost my virginity to a young man who still went on his mission. It's as though she believed that I single-handedly sent him to hell.

I want to put this out there. Jeremy and I never had sex. Even after he came home early from his mission. Even when I slept in his apartment that September night. Even though I really wanted to and so did he. Not once, not almost, not ever. But it didn't matter. And she never bothered to ask.

A year and a few months passed with me spending most of my time at work and school. I had filled my days to be away from home as much as possible. I worked overnight sleeping at the homes of elderly folk to make sure they had someone with them. If I wasn't in class during the day, I was working at my full time receptionist job. And if I then found myself with time, I was with Tina.

But that didn't stop the inevitable. She picked up the phone line one night in February 2001 and decided to listen to a conversation that I was having with a boy that I had spent many nights speaking with about life, love, dreams, poetry, and sex. Had she picked up the phone 10 minutes earlier she would have heard a conversation about Disneyland. But, of course not, she picked up the phone, quietly, with the intent of listening to a conversation her daughter was having with a boy. And she heard me asking questions about condoms. Because of course she did.

She didn't wait for the conversation to be over and talk to me about things one on one later that night. She didn't call my father for advice on what to do. No, she started yelling into the phone that she wanted me out of her house tonight and I was never welcome back. Terrell stayed on the line, through all of her berating and slut-shaming and name calling to make sure I knew that if I couldn't find anywhere else to go, I could live with him.

So I moved to Georgia a few days later, to live in a dorm, with a boy I had never met in real life, because I felt like I had nowhere else to go.

I packed up my car and drove across country. I called Tina every night to let her know I was safe, but she was the only person who cared.

When the towers fell.

I arrived in Georgia with Terrell in early March 2001. I got a job at Dave and Buster's in April and we moved into a small apartment in July. No one from my family had been in contact with me since I moved out of California.

I was sleeping with the first plane hit the first tower. I often worked late, so Terrell would wake up and go to class at Georgia State University in the morning and many times I would sleep in until 9 a.m.

I was awoken by our phone ringing. We were beyond 'college poor' and had a phone without caller ID. I thought it may be Terrell calling from school as he drove an older Camaro that wasn't without its problems.

It was my mother.

She was in a panic. She was speaking really fast and it didn't make sense to my half asleep brain. She was stumbling over her words as she explained that something was happening and she just wanted to make sure I was alive. She told me to turn on the news. I flipped on the television and saw grey smoke coming out of the first tower.

I explained that I was fine and that I wasn't living in a big city with tall buildings. Then my thoughts went to Terrell, he was in Atlanta at school. I started to panic. He didn't have a cell phone, we couldn't afford one, so there was no way for me to contact him.

After my mother's curiosity and concern had been placated, she went back to working and let me off the phone.

I watched the second plane fly into the second tower and I felt tears start to fall down my face. I didn't know if Terrell was safe, if Atlanta was part of the plan for this horrible event. They were talking about grounding all planes. The news people who didn't know if it was intentional a half hour earlier were now claiming that this all had to have been done with intent.

It seemed like forever waiting for Terrell to get home from school. His parents called a little after my mother got off the phone asking about his safety. I told them when he got home, I would have him call. When he came home we both sat watching the television for most of the afternoon, trying to understand what had truly just happened and how.

I cannot imagine how it felt for those who waited and waited only to find out that their loved one would never come home.

I was scheduled to work from 4 p.m. until midnight. I was working the front door that night checking IDs and maintaining the entry way. When I showed up to work, it was empty. Our manager decided to close early that night. The only people who came in were the family of a girl who had planned to celebrate her 21st birthday that night, but most businesses were already closed.

My mother didn't contact me again during the time I lived in Georgia. My dad would call every so often to check up on me. But I didn't speak to my mother again until May 2003 when I moved back to California.

Imagine No Religion

All religion seems to do is separate us. Someone has to be the heathens or the infidels or the sinners. It paints a group or many groups of people into 'lesser thans' and it gives permission for horrible atrocities to take place.

When we label people as different than ourselves, it makes it easier to no longer see them as people. It makes it easier to hate them for pointless and trivial reasons. It makes it easier for people to fly planes into buildings and for others to refuse to give people marriage licenses.

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