We have all seen movies and read books in which the main character is on vacation or late, or for some reason misses a certain flight or train (think “Three Days of the Condor” and “Bounce”). They end up missing some fatalistic ordeal in which they would have met their demise, but now they’re alive to either deal with what would have killed them, or the aftermath of surviving. While such is the work of fiction, every now and then someone escapes tragedy through sheer circumstance or fate.
This past weekend was the tenth anniversary of “9/11”, in which terrorists wantonly killed about 3000 innocent Americans in an unprovoked attack. All over the country, we are remembering in our own ways. There are also special events, and programming and articles in the various media. knotmove.com has asked its reporters to address the day according to their own area. As a Mental Health Examiner, there are certainly a lot of emotional issues that are involved.
During this past weekend in which 9/11 occurred, my wife and I travelled to Long Island (“Lon Gisland” if you’re a native) for my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah. We had to switch planes in the middle of the trip and my wife and I were joined in our three-seat cluster by a woman who was very quick to make our acquaintances. She seemed very friendly, but also a little preoccupied. As the flight started, we engaged in conversation.
Ten years ago to the day, she took a week-long vacation from her job. She was an accounting specialist and worked for a financial company in—and you may have guessed it—the World Trade Tower. She was thus away from work when the planes hit.
In the years since the attack there have been all sorts of coverage. We have heard stories about some of the people who were killed at work in the attack; we have heard stories about the first responders, both those who survived and those who gave their live; we have heard stories about the families of both. How do think, though, all this affects someone who almost…?
The woman had a lot to say, a lot to vent. She talked about “survivor’s guilt”. She still thinks about the co-workers she lost, people next to whom she worked for years for eight hours a day who she will never see again. She goes through a lot of emotions. She’s been in therapy. As we might imagine, there has been a very long healing process.
We here in Lake Elsinore were on the other side of the country when this happened. We could only watch in horror as the attack was televised. Certainly many of us have traveled in the intervening years and have had to deal with the heightened security in airports, but we were really far removed from it. Of course, we all felt the sadness and anger and all the other things when our fellow Americans died, but again, we weren’t there.
For her, feelings still linger. Many people have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from being in abusive households, the military, or as victims of a crime. We don’t think of PTSD occurring from not being in a traumatic situation, but there it is. She sits and watches each year on the anniversary and many if not all of the feelings still come up. She tries to deal with it and gets some support from friends and family.
Still, while the media tugs at our heart-strings, she has different feelings, maybe things to which the rest of us just can’t relate. She feels resentment at some of the media coverage, like it’s just sensationalism and they’re getting in on the act. She watches with some disdain as some politicians debate security and call for more military action like it was just some insincere way for them to further their political careers and nothing more. She feels sometimes that it’s just too much, like OK you made your point now let’s move on to a comedy or something. And of course, when the mastermind of the heinous crime was killed recently, it was one of the greatest days in her life, an act of complete vindication.
Here she was now, on the weekend of 9/11, traveling back East for her sister’s wedding. Three years after the incident, she left both the company and New York and resettled out West. She had wanted to get far away from her memories and start a new life in a different city, in a different job, in a different climate.
She talked and we listened, my wife and I. We had a few drinks, told a few jokes to liven up the mood a few times, and let her do some venting. In New York we parted company. We wished her well and hoped she a good time with her family and she did the same for us. She will never forget the friends she lost, and that’s OK; tragedy is a part of life and we all have to deal with us at some point. We wish her well in her life and hope she can have happiness.