So, yesterday, former First Lady Barbara Bush had her aortic valve replaced. She is reportedly feeling fine.
Good for her, and a swift recovery to you, Mrs. Bush.
I've been there, done that.
On Friday, September 7, 2001, I had my aortic valve operation at Hartford Hospital. From what I understand (I was asleep at the time, remember!), it wasn't as easy as Mrs Bush's operation because my valve and the pieces on either end weren't in such good shape, so trying to attach the new human valve (I was too young, I was told, to use a porcine or an artificial one) was problematic, but I came out alright and am doing fine still.
That's not the story, however.
Flash forward to the following Tuesday, September 11, 2001. It's morning, and I am resting comfortably in the Cardiac Step-down Unit of the hospital. On my little t.v. I'm watching, quite by chance, High Society (Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelley, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong), when a nurse comes in and says,
"Why you watching this? Don't you know what's happening?"
She then switches the channel to NBC, and Today with Katie Couric and Matt Lauer.
A plane had just hit one of the Twin Towers, but no one had a clue what was going on.
In hindsight, one can legitimately criticize a nurse in a cardiac unit for making a patient watch tragic events unfold live before his very eyes, but that's not what I was thinking.
In the moment, I was just really peeved that this nurse turned off High Society (!?!) and was forcing me -- even for a short time -- to suffer Katie-and-Matt's conjectures on what might have happened/be happening. Could there be a greater waste of time than that? I think not. (And I LIKE Katie Couric!)
As soon as she left the room, back to High Society I went.
During the weeks of recovery time at home, I avoided 9/11 coverage as much as possible (i.e., I didn't watch television, listen to the radio, or read the newspapers hardly at all. Even Tony Kornheiser on ESPN radio was 9/11 far more often than not).
As a result of my self-imposed sequestration, I missed a defining moment of American history and contemporary culture. Even on my return to campus, having missed the communal experience of 9/11, I was a little out-of-step, and, to this day, remain fairly distant from its impact.
I probably should be more uncomfortable with that distance than I am, but, if I had to do it all over again, I'm not sure that I'd do it any differently.
That may be prudent or simply selfish; I'm still not sure.