Upon graduating from college. I looked at the money that I was given as gifts, and thought about what I really wanted to do with it. My decision was easy; I wanted to go to Ireland. I wanted to see the place that I felt homesick for, despite having never stepped upon its ground. The island home of my maternal ancestors, and the location whose blood pulsates through my body.
Upon hearing about my idea, my Mom decided that she wanted to come along. My godfather gifted us his guide books and maps from his recent sojourn to our motherland. We went through the books and decided where we wanted to go. The only constant location, being a visit to Navan, in County Meath, the town my great-grandparents were from.
Our guide books spoke about two places in Royal Meath (as my Nana, whom I never met would say) that were musts. One was Newgrange, the second was The Hill of Tara.
Newgrange is a more recently discovered Neolithic site that is older than the Egyptian pyramids. Massive stones were brought from miles away, carved, and placed in a circular position where the narrow entrance would only allow sunlight to enter into the open cavern twice a year, on the Winter and Summer Soltices.
The Hill of Tara is where the High King was chosen. The Stone of Destiny or Lia Fáil on the top would let out a scream when the true High King touched it.
My great-grandmother grew up in an Ireland where the English rule was punishing. It was illegal for them to speak the native language, yet, they learned. I heard stories from my mother and grandmother about how the kids would sneak away to the country side to learn Gaelic and visit the fairy hills on holidays to leave food.
As my Mom and I read about these two sites, we wondered if they were known as fairy lands, because they were energy points, places where you can feel a shift. Our ancestors were very intuned to the pulses of nature and most ancient sites rest upon where energy grids connect, creating a strong force. (You may have noticed these in Sedona, Hawaii, LA.)
Walking around Newgrange and its lesser counter-part, Knowth, my Mom and I felt connected to our past. It was magical.
Then the world changed.
As we were walking and talking, a tour guide heard our accents and asked if we were Americans. "Yes", we said. "Did you hear about the attack?" We had not. "Planes crashed into the World Trade Center Towers today."
As we sat in the shuttle on the way back to the visitor center, we began to hear about the travesty that was affecting our home. Everyone sat in silence and listened to the radio.
Later that day, we finally saw the video image making the situation more of a reality. When we called home, we discovered that everyone was worried about us. We were safely tucked away in a Bed & Breakfast in Navan, they were near where the planes were hijacked. My brother had tanks stationed on his daily commute.
Knowing there was little we could do, we continued our plans. We visited the church my family went to and hiked on the Hill of Tara.
The day before we were supposed to fly home, we headed over toward the Shannon airport. Flights to and from the US were still grounded, with no idea when they would resume. My grandfather had retired as the Director of Operations at Logan Airport. He pulled rank to acquire updates, so we had more current information than Aer Lingus.
We booked seats on another flight a week after we were supposed to fly home. We thought about staying put near Limerick to see if we could get out earlier, but we knew there were many others who were desperately trying to get home. Waiting would be more stress-inducing. So we extended our rental car contract and set out to explore more of the island.
Everywhere we went, sympathies were offered for our country.
Flights were back up and running several days after our initial ticket, meaning our new ones were ready to go. The airport feel was different. My Mom was stopped and had her bags searched at every random search.
Upon arriving home to Boston, we could feel the grief weighing heavy in the air. Lines visibly relaxed from our family members' faces as we received some of the tightest and longest hugs ever. We were all together and safe.
The next few weeks and months were interesting for me. I was starting new jobs and it was clear that everyone was starting to put their shock aside to let business return to normal. Having seen very little of the footage, just bits and pieces here and there, I don't feel like 9/11 fully happened to me.
In the years since, I called New York City home. I met and had significant conversations with people who were nearby, who lost a loved one, who volunteered, and more.
Lately, I've been thinking about my experience again.
Not being in the country had me realize that everyone has a different experience to events. Ten people can be at the same gathering and each will have been impacted differently. Knowing this has helped me think of different perspectives and validate feelings. No one is wrong for feeling or thinking a certain way. By being more inclusive, we can better love each other.
More information is coming out in the movement world about how the nervous system is the king of our bodies. When we've gone through traumatic experiences, the nervous system controls the tension that we have creating a physical experience. There can be lingering affects for everyone from 9/11 and the aftermath that are completely unconscious that show up as tight hips, low back pain, and more.
I'm also reading The Celtic Way of Seeing by Frank MacEowen, which has been on my bookshelf for years. In the book, he discussed the Irish Spirit Wheel. At the Center is the holistic perspective to deepen our connection to ourselves to be "ruled by grace rather than fear." The physical location for this is the Hill of Tara, where The Stone of Destiny sits and where the sovereignty of country and of the self become entwined.
The latter has been tieing so much of everything together. How fitting that I was on the Hill of Tara, the day after 9/11. Unknowingly, it was most likely a healing visit.
Our experiences can mold us, but they don't have to control us.
Too often we hold onto the fear, the hurt, and negative emotions. But we can change our mindset of them, let them go, and become a better version of ourself.
It's taken me 17 years to recognize more about a single day of my life. I feel stronger now because of my reflection. I will be a better teacher and guide.
Kate Hamm combines her 15+ years of experience in the fitness industry and high-end resort program development into sought after wellness coaching and adventures at AnamBliss. Visit www.anambliss.com for more information on coaching services and future retreat dates and locations.