09/11/2012 04:12 pm ET Updated Nov 11, 2012

Talking To My Daughter About 9/11 And Dreams

September 11 is a day that will forever be marked on the calendar for so many of us.

The day that was supposed to be the first of a brand new chapter for me.

I moved to New York on September 10, 2001.

I had given it all up on the ground floor in Montreal to pursue my dreams of working in a building in the sky in Manhattan. My journalism degree would finally be put to use as I dreamed of a gig - any gig, really - at a magazine in the city. I had left behind friends, family, my skater hubs (who was then skater boyfriend), to "make it there" like millions before me.

And then those two planes hit those towers.

My parents were frantic. Get on a bus and get out of there. My job leads dried up in a matter of moments. Even skater hubs, my biggest supporter, had to admit that heading back home to the safety net of Montreal might not be such a terrible idea. I wandered the city streets aimlessly and watched complete strangers weeping into their coffee cups. I passed by police stations adorned with thousands of flowers and candles, makeshift shrines to the memories that had been made behind their swinging doors. I may have been an impostor, but I stood alongside true New Yorkers one afternoon in Central Park as a fire truck drove by and everyone throughout the entire park, one at a time, got to their feet, applauding and cheering for the heroes sitting inside.

I was searching Craig's List for sublets, only committing to a month at a time because I had no stability, and couch-surfed among strangers everywhere from the Upper East Side to Astoria (have to admit, I preferred the UES though Queens is lovely). I folded clothes at Zara. I had my own moments weeping on the street corners of Soho. Mainly for the devastation that surrounded me, but partially because I had waited my whole life to make this move, and it was falling apart before my very eyes, and I knew it meant absolutely nothing compared to what the city around me was going through.

And so, three months later, I packed it up and went home.

New York didn't need me crying on its streets. It didn't need me searching for a job while thousands of its own lost theirs. It didn't need me to make it there, after all. More than ten years later, my path has taken many different turns since then, most of them good ones, but one of the few regrets I have in life is that I didn't stay. I didn't try harder. I didn't couch surf a little longer until opportunity knocked on my door, until I climbed my way to that dream job in the sky.

So as today's anniversary loomed upon us, I, like so many other mothers, tried to think what I could possibly tell my daughter to have any of it make sense to her. What could a five-year-old possibly learn from all this sadness? What could she possibly gain from all the heartache? What about this moment in history could actually have a positive impact on her little life?

And I found it.

I didn't talk to her about terrorism or memorials or the fatherless children being paraded around by the press.

I told her about dreams.

I told her about having them, and making them big.

And most importantly, I told her about not giving up on them.

A version of this post originally ran last year on What Would Gwyneth Do.