I had the pleasure of dining out with my brother two nights ago. We hadn’t done this in many years; it was just us, no wives, and no kids. We both have similar domestic difficulties going on, and our dad passed away on May 1st…and we just needed to catch up as brothers. We haven’t done that in years, mainly because we allow our political views to sway our opinion of the other guy way much more than they should. As we were chatting away , one topic that I never thought would be breached was that of September 11th, 2001. Mainly because that was the most horrible day of my life; I was just going to work on a beautiful late summer Tuesday morning…and the next thing I know I’m in the middle of a terrorist attack. So was my brother.
We both are 9/11 Survivors.
It’s something that we never talk about. For me, it’s uncomfortable because of the previously written about reasons: going slowly crazy and nearly drinking myself to death chief among them. I have one hell of a bad case of PTSD as well. For my brother it was other reasons. He worked for the City of New York and was in a position of responsibility where information was on a “need to know” basis which he took very seriously. So seriously in fact, that he never sought any counseling for years after 9/11. He no longer works for the City and still will not divulge any information. Last night, somewhere in the middle of a sentence…out of the blue…it was dropped in that he had gotten some counseling. Not only that, but he expanded on the topic a bit to include a few philosophical statements, one of which is that no one can possibly understand the impact and the toll that had on humanity and on yourself unless you were there; much like the survivors of Oklahoma City cannot possibly express what they feel. There is this void, this emptiness that comes with the fact of being a survivor. There is the obvious “survivor’s guilt”…and there is this feeling of being forgotten.
While we rightly commend and mourn those brave souls who responded to the attacks, and mourn the almost 3,000 dead; those of us who just merely SURVIVED the event have now become a part of a date in history, rather than being treated as a LIVING part of that awful event. We are not dead. We are quite alive, thank you very much. Some of us have started to become ill from specific types of cancer that can only be caused by radiation. Or we have developed an obscure type of leukemia or another disease that affects the skeletal structure. (Who the hell knew what was in that dust cloud in the days and weeks after 9/11?) Or we have had our alcoholism escalate to new heights like mine was. And a lot of us have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
In short, you have several thousand survivors…LIVING breathing HUMAN BEINGS with families who have suffered with them. My oldest daughter has been affected because her Daddy came back from work one day a very different man than he was when he left that morning. I have a younger daughter who was only a month old when the attacks happened, and as a result she knows nothing of the person I used to be. 9/11 robbed me of a chance to be a better father to her than I was for her older sister. My wife has suffered through all of this and quite frankly, our marriage is being strained by certain things that have resulted from that day. No one gave a damn about how she reacted to watching two buildings be attacked knowing full well that I would be coming up from the PATH trains at the exact moment the first plane hit. No one asked her how she felt…perhaps she would have been better off not having a husband coming home on that day, because there were certainly days over the past nine years I acted as if I might as well have been dead. I was a living and breathing and walking shell of a man…and what woman could (and should) put up with that?
Now let’s think about this for a second: how many THOUSANDS of workers experienced this tragedy, this unraveling of the human spirit and creation of a condition or set of conditions that put these people AND their families through HELL because they were witness and today they live to tell about it? How many children will grow up like mine, and what will happen to their children as a result of being exposed to the behavior of a completely dysfunctional parent created by a dysfunctional family that was anything but prior to 9/11? How many THOUSANDS? HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS?
And why the hell isn’t anyone standing up for us; recognizing what we went through over the past nine years…or later? In my brother’s case, it took him several years to seek therapy; there are thousands in the same situation…and that delay just makes you more damaged as an individual. In my own case, my Psychiatrist said there was a chance of me not getting PTSD as badly as I did had it been addressed within the first six months. I waited 14 months, until a horrible incident provoked me into going because I then knew that there was something not quite functioning well in the brain department. Two years later another incident happened that led to a complete breakdown…but it took years to battle back from that last one, because that was the final straw. That’s when they also found out I was Bi-Polar. Oh, my wife married a real winner, didn’t she? But back then I had a career, I had a life, I had my health…and now all that has been ripped from me, no matter how hard I try; and like my brother said, you really cannot understand unless you were there.
Thanks for the flag waving, and invading a country that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. Thanks for paying MILLIONS of dollars in settlements out to wives, insurance policies, continuing family health coverage…thanks most importantly for even ACKNOWLEDGING that we even exist. We are the forgotten of 9/11; the office workers, the brokers and bankers (like myself) who had to come back for two YEARS working two blocks away from the WTC site of the old ruins South Tower; the cleaning people who were able to see the embers of the glowing pit for months after the disaster. Let me be clear here, I am not looking for compensation in any way…just RECOGNITION that some of us kept the damned economy going as the fires burned and the dead were pulled from the rubble. I want ACKNOWLEDGMENT that we exist, there are those who need to talk to other survivors (like my brother and I did, quite unexpectedly).
And I want an APOLOGY from the United States of America to every single one of its citizens that it let them down that day, that it failed to protect us. It failed to do the most basic rule of government: protect its citizens, and on September 11th, 2001 they did a miserable job…all the while at the old Crawford ranch the report handed to the President for a photo op no less stated “Bin Laden Determined To Strike at U.S.” went unheeded and THOUSANDS of lives were impacted.
I’d like to see “9/11 Survivor’s Centers” set up for both the Pentagon and WTC attacks so that what remains of this generation of survivors, and the next two to be taken care of FULLY at no cost for physical or mental ailments. Just simple places or groups where people can talk and meet one another. The simple connection you feel and make inside your heart when you meet another survivor is indescribable. They’re tracking our health (the Survivor’s who signed up for the annual survey) now, so why not just do the right thing…because it’s the American thing to do it’s the HUMAN thing to do
And FINALLY, I want every Goddamn War Veteran who has fought from 2001 until the day when we pull out of wherever we are and decide to go next (because God only knows where the elusive 7 foot Arab with a dialysis machine is) to get the honor, respect, and outstanding treatment they deserve both physically and mentally.
It’s time you owned up, America…and I’m a Democrat saying this…THIS President should take it upon his own shoulders to do this…because it’s the right thing to do. And the American thing to do. And the Human thing to do.
Or else that damned Constitution isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
“[Power then] devolves to the People, who have a Right to resume their original Liberty, and, by the Establishment of a new Legislative (such as they shall think fit) provide for their own Safety and Security, which is the end for which they are in Society” – John Locke
Pingback: Mental Disorders 101