It was 2 PM and I awoke screaming
It was ten years ago today, September 12th, 2001 that after being baptized into the new world by a cold fire hose the previous day (in order to get rid of any WTC dust on me), I now entered reality after what would be the first of ever increasing flashbacks and nightmares of 9/11.
FLASHBACK 14 HOURS (insert wavy lines and blurry TV screen here)…
We had gotten home late from the hospital where my doctor sent me to get checked out shortly after my excruciating ordeal, mainly because they had no idea what was in the WTC dust cloud. To make matters worse, our car broke down on the way home, but I was lucky enough to flag down a police officer who pulled us into a local parking lot, told me to get the car out of there by 5 pm the next day, and gave us a ride home. Now that I’m thinking about it, it was just so typical that my car would go belly up on this day of all days. But I’m sure there were thousand of other families who gladly would have had their loved ones being returned to them in a Police Car.
The Emergency Room at Monmouth Medical Center had a section cordoned off just for survivors as they were clearly expecting huge amounts of casualties filling up their wards. Instead, there were only about 10 of us in a room that looked like it could handle well over 200 injured survivors. The staff was nervous; you could see it in their eyes. There was a sense of fear. I knew it from the moment that I arrived and my Doctor had pre-admitted me, so when I got there (or ANY survivor from Lower Manhattan) we were whisked away very quickly from the rest of the population and immediately hooked up to sensors, had blood drawn, and put on an IV drip.
I was asked about what happened, where I was, how much dust was on me, did I smoke…everything but what age did I lose my virginity at (17 if you’re interested). My wife and kids were allowed to stay with me because there were so few people in that special ER. Things quickly began to catch up with me. Besides, if I had anything like the plague or whatever, they were already exposed and would at least be in isolation themselves. That was the problem: no one knew what to expect that night, but these guys expected and were prepared for the worst.
I had thrown away all of my clothing from that day a few hours earlier and in a bit of shock had stripped naked in front of my house. It went into a plastic bag and into the garbage bin in front of my garage (so my neighbors and everyone else that used my street as a short cut got a bit of full frontal; it was purely unintentional). Nothing was clicking right inside my head, NOTHING. I just very casually got undressed to my birthday suit and walked inside like nothing was wrong.
I took a long shower and washed and scrubbed like a madman…I even thought about shaving my head (good thing I didn’t as they took and needed a hair sample later). The adrenaline was leaving as was the fight or flight feeling and I was drinking scotch and beer like a madman. I was shaking and hoped that it would stop that, and it didn’t (and I still shake; tremors in my right hand to this day when stressed enough). I just started to get a bit of a buzz on when we were told to get to the hospital ASAP. I couldn’t wash away that burning smell, the smell of all of that jet fuel and burning bodies from my nostrils and in fact it would be months before that could happen (I worked for another two years from the ruins of the South Tower). After they got me behind a curtained off area I was listening to a woman behind me who obviously was in the Towers. She had discussed that there was “some sort of accident…but I have to get back to my desk now”. At which point I did a double take. The woman was in complete and total denial about what had happened a few short hours earlier;
After being hooked up to about a dozen machines, having my breathing, heart, lungs…everything picked and prodded they sent in the psychiatrist. There were several of them on call that day and mine was a young and very compassionate woman. I found myself breaking down uncontrollably and crying my eyes out recounting my story while my wife watched in horror. One of the hospital employees brought my oldest daughter over to a play area they had set up for the children, a few of whom were there to keep my oldest daughter company while Tess held on to the baby). It felt good to recount it and get it off my chest, but I knew there were some details that were sketchy and couldn’t remember a lot. They gave me some pills to calm down (I suspect it was Xanax because they wrote me a prescription for the stuff before I went tome to last for a few days) .
Once they were satisfied that I was not carrying the Andromeda Strain or the Satan Bug, they released me into the quivering arms of my wife. We got to the parking lot and the car started giving us trouble: it didn’t start and then it did but appeared to be dying (it was only 4 years old at this point and we still own it and it runs fine) as we went along on the 3 mile drive home…it died about ¼ mile from the house and that’s when we flagged down the cop who called the Bank to make sure my car wasn’t towed until the agreed upon time to have it removed, whereupon West Lon Branch’s Finest gave us a ride home. In the car ride he mentioned that a lot of the guys were up there already helping out and he was going to work on “the Pile” the following day. More than likely that man is dead or dying….
After waking up screaming, Tess had listed a pile of names that had called to see how we were, if I was OK, what happened…the usual. I spent the next several hours recalling the story to everyone until about 8 PM when I had had it; interestingly enough, the last caller on the list got the most detail because I started to remember more. I was popping those happy pills along the way, because quite frankly, I was a nervous wreck. Tess went down to get the car and my medicine, and I also took a break to bask in the sunshine…all except for the whisper of that awful cloud passing by. And that smell…it couldn’t escape me, or the visions of the jumpers, nor the second plane crash, and fireball of the South Tower. And every time I went into the shower I broke down, because I couldn’t get the smell off of me…all I smelled was brining bodies…
After I was finished making phone calls for the day, I started watching the replay of what I had experienced with horror…how in God’s name could I have survived that…THAT? It really started to sink in now, and watching the jumpers caused me to scream and relive it. It was like someone recorded everything I said and then more…but what I noticed in the forthcoming days was that the footage became more streamlined and homogenized and that everyone was getting on the same page for something.
America had saved the world several time, and now the world wanted to pay us back.. But instead of putting our arms around these “little brother nations” while the “big brother nation: just got its ass kicked’ accepting them into the fold to fight terrorism but also unite as one common people, one human race…and they were ready for it. They were practically begging fo it…THE WORLD WAS BEHIND IT. What did we do?
We put our little brothers in strangle holds, and punched them in the face; all the while saying “thank you for your support”. We took away liberties under the guise of the PATRIOT acct (we’ll make any acronym fit, trust us) and acts we weren’t even made privy to. And instead of angels ready to soar together to make this world a better place, we became concrete angels with clipped wings rooted in the expansion of empire, bile, hate and revenge. And we decided to remodel the world in our new image…
(To be continued tomorrow…)
“Wisdom and deep intelligence require an honest appreciation of mystery” – St. Thomas Moore.