Sunday, September 16, 2001
Steamboat Springs Life is precious. We all were reminded of this simple fact last Tuesday. Suddenly, everything we took for granted had changed. We grieved for those who were directly affected by the attack. But we also felt so fortunate to have our families, our friends and our health.
Every activity other than breathing and being with other people seemed trivial. Families and friends clustered together, or called each other if they were separated by distance. The first feeling of shock and helplessness was soon replaced by a tremendous outpouring of support for New York and Washington. Everywhere, people wanted to give blood and thereby give life.
That morning I was in San Diego attending a conference with 1,100 hospital communicators and planners from around the nation. The woman sitting next to me was trying in vain to call her Washington, D.C., hospital, which is located near the Pentagon. "I've worked there for 21 years," she said, wiping away her tears.
A Florida woman collapsed in the arms of a Colorado friend when she at last reached her son by phone. He had been scheduled to attend a meeting in the World Trade Center that morning, but he was safe. A seminar speaker whose father works at the Pentagon gave special urgency to his presentation on crisis communications.
Back home in Steamboat Springs, a friend quit smoking. He decided that he wanted to be able to breathe for a long time to come. It was 9 a.m. Tuesday, on his son's unforgettable 19th birthday.
All over the country, parents and teachers were talking to children, trying to comfort while they struggled to understand this new reality themselves. A comment made by a friend's 8-year-old daughter keeps running through my mind. "Mom," she said, "I wish this had happened before I was born."
On television and radio and in newspapers everywhere, mental health professionals were explaining the grieving process and providing advice on how to deal with fear and anxiety. I found some solace in one simple comment: "Remember, at the root of fear is love."
The self-preservation instinct is also a powerful component of fear. Like George Bailey in "It's A Wonderful Life," we want to live. And like my friend who quit smoking, we can choose how we live.
Your health is important not only to you, but to many people who care about you. If you've been putting off that pap smear, mammogram or prostate exam, call your doctor today. If you gravitate toward high-fat foods, challenge yourself to substitute crisp, crunchy vegetables and delicious fruits for just one week.
Chances are you and your taste buds will want to make a permanent adjustment after that seven-day trial.
If you prefer watching TV or reading a book to exercising, make a vow to get up and get walking three times a week for just 30 minutes at a time.
Strolling through your neighborhood or striding down a walking path wakes up your muscles and gives you time to think or plan.
If we truly want to have an impact on the health of our nation, we show our appreciation to each other as we move through our lives in the coming weeks, months and years. Some of us will give blood on Oct. 2 and at future blood drives. Others may choose to volunteer for worthy causes.
Many may be moved to get in touch with long-lost friends or forgive relatives for past hurts. I hope the tailgaters of the world will back off a few feet.
Life is precious.
Christine McKelvie is public relations director of Yampa Valley Medical Center.