By Brian Monroe
September 11, 2021
In moments like this, even as a journalist with more than 20 years of experience and making my living as a weaver of words, I feel unable to express my sadness, my sorrow and the still raw emotions I feel on this solemn day.
A day that saw a country wounded, but revealed a spirit that would never be broken.
As I write this, sitting alone in my home with my four-month-old daughter cooing and giggling in her crib, I am crying. She is my first child and at 46, I consider her a blessing beyond all measure.
The attacks also shaped my career, as the 2001 U.S.A. Patriot Act ended up fueling stronger anti-money laundering (AML) rules, just as it worked to better uncover the nuanced financial trails of terror groups, which in many cases have funding sources from legal means used for horrific ends.
After the birth of my daughter, Elyse Renee Monroe, on April 22, 2021 – one day before my birthday – I also shudder at the pain and loss of so many mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, siblings and relatives and the brotherhood and sisterhood of firefighters and first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice, emotional pain still felt to this day.
As I imagine that day, where terrorists used a twisted ideology to justify mass murder, my tears flow more, knowing I would be crushed past all understanding if someone took my beautiful smiling snuggler Elyse away from me.
Having a daughter now myself, and wanting to protect her from anything that would steal her smile, even if just for a moment, that is unimaginable grief.
I also further understand the pain of losing a mother and father.
My father, James, passed away more than a decade ago after a battle with lung cancer, but my amazing mother, Susan Margaret Monroe – a sweet, kind, caring person who sacrificed so much over the years for my brother and I – passed away in January of this year after heroically battling a host of medical issues.
Even with the challenges my mother had, she finally relented – my mom was legendarily stubborn – and let herself be checked in to a hospital, chiefly due to challenges of pain related to prior neck and back surgeries.
My mom had stabilized and was even medically cleared for a major back surgery, that, at 74, was supposed to finally allow her to live a pain-free retirement. So it was shocking to everyone she passed away just days later.
Less than a week after my mom had passed, I learned that my adorable, 10-year-old miniature schnauzer, Khloe, had terminal cancer. She was the smartest, most affectionate, loving, best dog in the whole wide world.
Khloe was my wife’s first pet and formed a bond with our family that made us imagine how we ever lived without her.
She filled a hole in our hearts we didn’t even know we had. Khloe knew the names of 20 or 30 of her toys and, for a treat, would even pick them up and put them away.
She also loved children and I had already begun imagining her snuggling and playing with my daughter.
We did everything we could to fight it and didn’t leave her alone, not even for a second. My wife and I rearranged everything so someone was at her side at all times.
Khloe lived one more week after her diagnosis, and in that short time, barely wanting to eat, she still played with her toys, chased ducks in the back yard and howled when someone got home from work. An irrepressible spirit.
As my brother and his family visited to help me grieve and get my mom’s affairs in order, Khloe passed away in my mom’s house, in me and my wife’s arms, loved until the very end.
So for me, this 9/11, potentially more so than any other, is more painful and poignant as I imagine the grief of the families on that terrible day who lost the ones who meant the most to them – as I still face a darkness and feeling of emptiness not being able to hear my mom’s voice or smell my puppy’s Dorito paws when she rolls on her back at the joy of life.