Sunday, September 10, 2006

Burned into my memory.

Sheila Hein & Peggy Neff
Originally uploaded by jesslee23.
I was living in a bubble on 9/11/01. I was newly pregnant after struggling to get that way. Absorbed in getting teenage boy to school on time every day, paying the bills, being with friends and loving my life. The leaves had just started to turn on the big mountain ash tree in my front yard. My favorite season, autumn, was almost upon me. I was happy.

September 11 started out as any other morning. The T.V. was off. Teenage boy (not a teenager then) and I chatted while he got ready for school and I got ready for work. The bus came and picked him up. I continued to get ready. And then the phone rang. My mom was on the other line asking me if T.B. was still there. When I told her that he was not, she told me to turn on the t.v. The Today show came on and I saw that Katie was holding back tears. Something major was happening. No one was sure what was going on yet. I sat on my couch, all alone in my house and stared in disbelief. I watched the towers come down. I saw the smoking Pentagon with the gaping hole. I saw the faces, heard the cries and could swear that I smelled the smoke from Montana. It was a day that changed me forever.

That night, my husband and I sat on the couch all night and watched the reports. We felt so shocked that this had happened. How had this happened? But I still had him. He still had me. We would wake up from the nightmare, we would go on. So many people did not have that opportunity. Their nightmare continues to this day. They have been deprived of someone that they love.

Let me tell you about Sheila Hein. Sheila was a native of Springfield, Mass who joined the Navy right out of high school and was sent to Virginia. She spent 10 years in the service, working as a photographer. After the service, she ventured into a career in computer graphics, working on government contracts.

Sheila and her partner, Peggy Neff were together for 17 years before that horrible day. They purchased a home together that had been labeled a true fixer upper. They transformed the back yard from a "tangle of overgrown bush" to their "own private sanctuary". They put in the flagstone patio themselves, Sheila designed the meticulously kept gardens and Peggy loved to point out the homey benches tucked in quiet corners. "She is what this yard is," Peggy said. "There's a whole lot of love here."

Sheila was a member of a steam train club and she loved to read. They had recently purchased bikes because Sheila had convinced Peggy that they should ride together. They rode 6 times. Why is that so poignant to me? Why is that the part that sprung tears to my eyes? These women, this couple, had plans. And they only got six rides.

Sheila had worked at the Pentagon for the five years previous to the attacks as a visual information specialist for the Army and had only recently changed jobs. She was at the Pentagon that day taking part in an Army internship, studying manpower analysis.

She has been remembered for having a wry, open wit and as being a pleasure to work with and know. Her bright smile and bouncy curls are still missed.

I feel like I know Sheila now after the research that I have done. But that is just a myth. I do not know her. I would have been honored to know her. She was passionate about her friends and her loves, that much is so apparent from the memorials I read.

Sheila Hein, you have made an impact on my life in a way that I did not anticipate. I did not expect to become emotionally involved in this project. But I did. Oh, I did. Your life was cut too short. Thank you for the legacy you left.


Go read other tributes here:


Mel Chickk said...

You did a very nice tribute. I was also given the honor to post about Sheila.

John A. Karr said...

thanks for providing some insights about Sheila. Now she is more than just a name to one more person.