I remember the day well, as most people do. I remember the sadness, the fear, and frankly the confusion that I felt. It’s a hard concept for a 9-year-old to wrap their mind around, but I understood that it was a horrifying tragedy. Every year on the anniversary of the day I never know how to feel.
I want to jump on the bandwagon and post a status on facebook about today, but I fear that the more “facebook cause” like statuses that get posted, the more this day becomes like the “repost this if you’re against animal cruelty” photos that go around and that does an injustice to this day. I would tweet something about being proud to be an American or how our nation has pulled together because of this, but let’s be honest, our country today is not what it was 11 years ago. So then I turn to think about the day…
As the daughter of a pilot, I am reminded of the civilian tragedy side of 9/11. Families who lost loved ones that were just doing their job or going about their normal lives. And I think of all the families who’s main provider lost their job due to the airline industry falling apart.
As the daughter/granddaughter of veterans and the sister of an army soldier, I am reminded of the war on terrorism. I think of the countless soldiers who gave their lives in service and the families who suffered loss, whether it was a life or just time without their loved one.
But this year, a new side of 9/11 sticks out to me that I want you to think about too. Something else has captured my thoughts. Last year, I was trying to convince myself it didn’t effect me. But this year, as someone living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (and acknowledging it), I find myself thinking of those who struggle with PTSD as result of 9/11.
Over 10,000 people are said to have PTSD as a result of 9/11 and that number does not include the soldiers who have fought in the war on terror. It’s easy to dismiss this, but I want to shed some light on the topic.
Imagine having to relive the worst day of your life over and over in your head. The thoughts just waiting to be freed any second. It could be a smell, the tone of someone’s voice, the face of a stranger that remarkably resembles the woman who was standing next to you at the time, the way a branch scrapes across your skin on your morning walk, a certain set of words, or emotions you feel about a completely unrelated event that can set you off. Suddenly you’re swamped with thoughts. You may be in the middle of the mall, but your mind is back there. You may be in a meeting at work, and your emotions start running wild. You could be sitting in the back of a car out with friends, and your body starts sliding into a panic attack.
It’s scary, it’s embarrassing, and it’s just hard. It’s not something I would wish on anybody, not even my worst enemies.
To think, we’re reminded of the tragedy of 9/11 every now and then, but to those thousands of people 9/11 has become a part of their life. Those firefighters, witnesses, policemen, and survivors. They have lived with 9/11 for 11 years.
Beyond the debilitating nature of the disorder, I especially think of the guilt that comes with it. The “Why did I survive and he didn’t?” guilt. The “I only witnessed it. I wasn’t actually in the midst of it.” guilt. The “My family and friends are tired of me talking about this” guilt. or the “Why can’t I just get over it?” guilt. And piling 11 years on top of it… that’s just torture.
I am beyond thankful for the many counselors and therapists who have helped the 9/11 PTSD victims cope with their symptoms. To be honest, it is debated whether or not PTSD really ever goes away, and I’m sure for a lot of them, being 11 years removed from the event, they can say they no longer struggle with it or that they have come to a place where they find their symptoms quite manageable. At the same time, there are many who struggle with PTSD who see 11 years as nothing compared to how long they’ve dealt with it. Even if they have learned to handle the symptoms, keep in mind that memories like that don’t just go away.
So today, as you remember those who have died, those who have lost loved ones, and those who have fought because of the events that took place on September 11th, don’t forget the PTSD victims in your thoughts and prayers as well.
God bless our nation and God help us all.