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After the shock, many Americans take stock of their lives and some change
By Donna Tommelleo, Associated Press
NEW SHOREHAM, R.I. — Before Sept. 11, David and Lucinda Morrison were already tiring of the travel and other business obligations that took them away from their two young daughters.
They had restructured their manufacturing business in Glastonbury, Conn., and were in the process of buying a 1825 bed-and-breakfast on Block Island. Then the terrorists attacked -- and they knew there was no turning back.
"Why wait until you're old or maybe until it's too late to do what you want to do with your life?" said Dave Morrison, 43. "If there's stuff you'd like to do with your life, you'd better get on with it."
"It's beautiful here," said Lucinda Morrison, 39, during a busy day at the couple's Old Town Inn. "You're a little bit out of touch with reality. We have our own reality here."
The terrorist attacks had many Americans taking stock of their lives, their goals, their future. The leaps some made were as drastic as changing careers or as subtle as smiling at strangers. But those who made them shared one certainty: Tomorrow is promised to no one.
"Sept. 11 tipped the scales. These were thoughts that people have had (before the attacks), but they hadn't taken them seriously," said Julian Ford, associate professor of psychiatry at the UConn Health Center in Farmington. "I think the journey has begun for many people."
The first step can be simple.
Deborah J. Clifford, a motivational lecturer from Simsbury, Conn., had just begun a four-month program at a New England corporation on Sept. 11. She had planned to talk about inspiration, leadership and courage. Instead, there was shock and much soul-searching.
There were subtle changes during the next session a few weeks later.
Clifford said one of the participants realized that when she traveled by plane she would bury her head in a book from airport to airport. After Sept. 11, she decided to make eye contact and smile at strangers. She told Clifford she struck up a conversation with a woman who makes pins for charitable groups.
"`I'm a better person because I spoke to that woman,"' Clifford recalls the participant telling her. "It's the little things that make the big things. And every day you do the little things. I got to see the transformation."
Within days of Sept. 11, Elizabeth Schumacher, then a civil trial lawyer from Rocky Hill, embarked on a new career as a pastry chef. Baking had always been a passion and the attacks left her with one question: Why wait?
"I was waiting for retirement. I was wishing away too many years," said Schumacher, 46.
She enrolled in the Connecticut Culinary Institute, and is now the pastry chef at the Deacon Timothy Pratt Bed & Breakfast in Old Saybrook.
She still does consulting work for a few law clients. But she doesn't miss the full-court press of a trial.
"I feel more alive. I feel like every day is different and it's not just because I'm working on a new recipe," she said. "You just become so much more aware of life when you make a change to simplify and try something different."
The Morrisons also haven't abandoned their mainland business, which produces plastics for awards, signs and the engraving industry. They've contracted out the production through vendors and have most of the inventory and distribution handled by a firm in Ohio.
That business still pays the bills, and they have no illusions about their island bed-and-breakfast.
"This is never going to be a moneymaking proposition," Dave Morrison says. "It lets us be here and do what we wanted to do, raise our kids in more of a community. That's all we wanted to do."
Daughters Phoebe, 9, and Natalie, 5, are growing up island kids. They set up a lemonade stand outside the inn and, clad in swimsuits, would romp through the gardens and lawn, trailed by the family's faithful yellow Labrador retriever.
"We have a lot of people kind of living their dreams through us because a lot of people won't make that leap," Lucinda Morrison says. "We always leap. I don't think we'll be leaping farther than this."
Comments about changes in America since Sept. 11:
"People are holding on to their families. In my life, it's made me look at things differently. I treasure being with my mom and dad, because you may not be with them the next day." -- Nicholas Moore, 18, Columbia, S.C., warehouse worker.
"People are getting involved. They seem to be more caring toward one another now." -- Selma Simmons, 42, Miami, Fla., patients' financial specialist at a hospital, noting community responses to recent child abductions.
"I don't see any difference. People just go on about their lives, and that's it. Maybe the government is at war, but I'm not." -- Arlie Bybee, 75, Pocatello, Idaho.
"Everybody's talking to everybody now. Everybody gets along with everybody now. People dig in their pockets for everybody else. If they didn't have money, they would still find a way to give." -- Joshua Lathrop, 20, Fremont, Wis., self-employed contractor.
"It was a wake-up call, but people didn't stay awake. They wanted to get close to God, but now they've forgotten about it." -- Helen Adams, 59, Smithton, Mo.
"People are becoming more aware of what's going on. They are more interested in world affairs than they were. Before, we just let other people do it and accepted it and complained. You can't complain if you don't participate." -- Thelma Provencher, 73, Gardner, Mass., retired hospital secretary:
"I hate to say it, but it's kind of what our country needed -- to bring us down to bring us back up." -- Kelley Beaver, 19, Roanoke Rapids, N.C., college student.
"You notice people getting along more -- everybody, neighbors getting along -- you go to the supermarket and people get along in there." -- Jessica Smith, 21, Westville, N.J., convenience store saleswoman.
"What I get tired of hearing about is people blaming things on Sept. 11. The economy is gone bad because of Sept. 11, or we have this problem because of Sept. 11. Some of these were there already. Sept. 11 might have added to the problem, but don't blame your life on Sept. 11." -- Helen O'Meara, 40, Grandview Heights, Ohio, executive director of the Ohio League of Conservation Voters.
"I hate to say a tragedy would make people better, about what they are, who they are and how they think about things, but it makes you think about more than doing your daily thing. It didn't show us how weak we are, it showed us how strong we are as individuals, and as a people." -- Holly Zakharenko, 27, Fort Lee, N.J., homemaker.