Posts Tagged ‘trauma’

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911. A defining moment for our generation. We all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing. I was living with my two British roommates, Maggie and Ali, in Brookline, Massachusetts. I was 26 years old. We were watching the Today Show and drinking tea as part of our morning before-work routine. We watched the first plane hit live and I remember everyone thinking it was just a small Cessna that had somehow had an accident. Maggie’s sister was visiting from the UK and had been in NYC and UP in the towers the day before, so we were commenting on how surreal that was- but the worst of it was yet to come.

I had to leave early that day to head into downtown Boston to sign the renewal of my apartment lease (how antiquated that that had to be done in person back then). When I left, my ex Bill called me to tell me “It fell.” I remember asking, “What fell?” At that time, it hadn’t yet occurred to us that either of the towers would/could fall. Then it all came crashing down.

I rushed to work, knowing that our travel business would never be the same, and we all huddled into the tiny conference room on the top floor of our brownstone at 19 Bay State Road, watching the horror unfold on TV. We were all stupefied as I know was true for all of you were who lived thru this. We waited for the phones to explode and had to grapple with how to handle that unprecedented situation (sadly, at the time we thought that was the worst the travel biz would ever see, which is surreal as the industry has now been brought to its knees by a global pandemic).

I remember the horror of watching poor souls having to make the impossible choice to leap to their deaths, rather than be burned alive. And we all watched live as one after the other leapt to their unfathomable fate in the rubble. I remember holding a tiny piece of gratitude that they at least had colleagues to hold hands with, because what an impossible moment. And the poor families who had to wonder if any of those souls were their loved ones. The trauma of that is horrific.

And then came the stories of the near misses… by this point it was that much more surreal that Maggie’s sister had been up in the tower the day before and of course these are the defining moments that make one question it all, the meaning of life, God, etc. The guy who survived because he went to get a bagel so missed it by moments. The person who was late for work, or stayed home sick that day. So many near misses and complex feelings of relief mixed with survivor’s guilt. My uncle worked in the Pentagon and happened to be sick that day! We all have or know someone who has these stories. And I am certain that there are friends in my feed who lost loved ones that day. My heart goes out to all of you.

Then there were the first-responders and the selfless citizens who came to help, what I believe any decent human would do in a tragedy like this. It is our most innate human nature, to help one another. We forget that and tragic moments like these, as horrific as they are, hold the silver lining of that reminder. All the brave souls who raced into the towers that day, up the stairs knowing that their lives were at risk, and so many who wouldn’t make it home that day, including our canine friends. And those who did survive, only to be plagued with decades of lung disease and eventual death for too many, and a government system that did not do nearly enough to care for them.

So much tragedy out of that day. So much trauma, so much pain. But with it so much unity, togetherness and love. The light and the shadow of being human. The yin and the yang.

Years later, while living in DC, I had a client in West Hollywood, California. His brother had been one of the pilots who perished at the towers that day. I still look back and think how surreal it is that I was one degree removed from one of those brave pilots. He had his brother’s pilot’s uniform framed in a shrine on his wall. Sadly, that client of mine has since passed from cancer and I’ve always felt that that day his brother died was the beginning of his own slow decline. I am given peace with the thought that they are somewhere reunited together.

And that turns me to all of the brave souls on those planes, crew and civilians, who fought tooth and nail to overcome those terrorists, to divert those planes away from their targets. And the ones who succeeded in that lonely field in Pennsylvania. These are the moments that define souls, the true bravery and strength of the human spirit.

I am sending love and peace to all of the families suffering today, who lost loved ones that day, or in the years that followed as a direct result. And I hope we can all take away the beauty, fortitude, bravery, kindness, humanity and brotherhood that is at the very core of the human spirit. These are the moments that define mankind and show us that we are all connected.

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