My world changed forever
March 11, 2002 6:06 AM   Subscribe

My world changed forever 'The Observer' talks to people from all walks of life about how they feel six months later...
posted by feelinglistless (19 comments total)
One of my first thoughts, and I think I shared this with a lot of people, was "This changes everything." But six months later, it doesn't feel like it has really changed much. Maybe the relentless milking of it for sentiment has taken away some of the moral power. Maybe that's good. I don't know.
posted by rodii at 6:12 AM on March 11, 2002

Following the model on the page:

ColdChef is a slacker living in Austin, Texas

My birthday is September 12. Needless to say, we weren't feeling in a festive mood, but my coworkers brought the standard cake and ice cream. I told my boss that if anyone tried to sing "Happy Birthday", I was going to weep.

I was upset because my younger brother was getting ready to be sent to New York as a member of the Disaster Mortuary team. FEMA had called him on 9/11 at around noon. I didn't want him going up there. I knew that people needed his help, but I couldn't help feeling that he should have refused the assignment. Remember that this was the day after and we didn't know what might be coming next.

Halfway through my "party" I got a call from my brother telling me that he would be at ground zero by that evening and it may be a few days before I'd hear from him again. Then, he asked me not to say anything upsetting, because he didn't want to cry in front of the other guys on his "team." And I laughed for the first time.

Later that day, he called me and asked me how my birthday was going. "Good as can be expected." I said. Well, he told me, I've got a little present for you.

He had been traded with some more senior members of the team and he wouldn't go to New York until the next week. And I cried. I know it sounds selfish, but I didn't want him up there.

As soon as I got off work that night, I got in my car and drove 9 hours to my home town in Louisiana, just to make sure I got to see him before he left.

It all seems like so long ago.
posted by ColdChef at 6:26 AM on March 11, 2002

I'm used to the nightmares now. Almost.
posted by alumshubby at 6:38 AM on March 11, 2002

At what intervals will we have to endure these retrospectives? 1 month, 2 months, 100 days, 6 months, 10 months, 1 year, 16 months, 500 days, etc. That network broadcast documentary took the cake.
posted by fleener at 6:47 AM on March 11, 2002

I'm used to the nightmares now. Almost.

posted by rodii at 6:57 AM on March 11, 2002

You might just link to that whole Observer section, it was all excellent. This piece was something else however, and gave a real flavour of how it must feel to be a resident of New York.
There was also a really good piece in the Sunday Times, written or ghost written by a fire chief who was actually in the north tower when it collapsed.Terrifying stuff and it helps one ease up on the cynicism.This is the link, but you will have to register to read it.
posted by Fat Buddha at 7:00 AM on March 11, 2002

Life is far more back to normal six months later than I thought it would be on the afternoon of September 11th.
posted by brucec at 7:07 AM on March 11, 2002

How long must we mourn? From the first twenty-four hours to six months ago, we still scratch at the wound refusing to let it scab over.

Following the model on the page:

Zach Garland is a divorced, unemployed, thirty-four year old ex-technical support representative in Dallas, Texas.

I was unemployed before it happened. Hundreds of resumes and "don't call us we'll call you"s later, I'm still unemployed. I've used up all my savings hoping the recession would rebound or I could find a new vocation. I'm staring at what might very well be the scariest future of my entire life. I could opt to step over the edge, or wait for the wolves to push me over. I cannot blame this on Nine Eleven. I can't look to Afghanistan and shake my fist and wail at the oncoming storm. Ultimately my petty downfall is my own damned fault.

Yet despite my personal fear and inevitable downward spiral, just when I thought I couldn't get any lower, my loss and life upheaval pales in comparison to anyone who had been walking those streets that morning, looked up to see the unthinkable, ran from that cloud of smoke, lost loved ones and neighbors in an instant, and faced that grey day with a maelstrom of emotions and responsibilities I'll never comprehend.

I would rather comfort their lives than fruitlessly continue to fix my own. I find myself compelled to hear their stories. Watch the footage. Hear the latest news and hope for them. My heart would have exploded from my ribcage had I found myself in their shoes, but at least I would have known what to do. I would prefer to have an enemy to my own happiness and satisfaction which I didn't see when I looked in the mirror. I want to blame terrorism for all that's wrong in the world, but it had nothing to do with what is wrong with me. I didn't work hard enough. I haven't looked in the right place for a job or said the right thing on an interview. I didn't appease my ex-wife enough to keep her here. Somewhere, somehow, I could have done something to fix what is wrong with my life if only I had known what that was. I took what was right for granted. I failed myself, and have no enemy to blame.

I envy them.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:08 AM on March 11, 2002

I'm with rodii here. Things haven't changed all that much. Between TV's incessant flag-waving and Bush's "Let's Roll", the reality has been sucked right out of the whole thing.

One thing I have noticed, and its especially apparent around Metafilter, is the increased "factioning" (?) of the US. Pro-war vs. anti-war. Increased security vs. vigilance for protecting civil liberties. It's a jungle out there (and in here) and, personally, I'm sick it. It makes me want to move to Saskatchewan or some other (relatively) safe place and open a fishing tackle store.

I'm also with fleener, except that I wouldn't have the 'nads to say it, for fear of being bludgeoned by a self-righteous mob.

I'm used to the nightmares now. Almost.

I'm not trying to snark here, but that's something I just don't get. Maybe if I lived still lived in NYC or had a family member die that would make sense to me, but from my perspective that just sounds...bogus. We're all required to be very sombre now and act very reverential whenever the subject comes up. Homey don't play dat, and I think it's counterproductive. If we all sit around being terrorized, then (say it with me) the terrorists have won.
posted by jpoulos at 7:08 AM on March 11, 2002

I'm used to the nightmares now. Almost.

I know you guys aren't being snarky; you're just perplexed. Yep, I have nightmares where those people are clinging to the outside of the towers and leaping, or letting go at any rate, to fall to their deaths...and I've heard the sound of them hitting over the recorded radio transmissions.

I once was a little too nearby when a despondent student fell eighteen floors to the sidewalk from a high-rise dormitory. That was over twenty years ago, and I thought I was over it, but maybe I'm not. It's funny ("odd" not "haha") how things come back to you all mixed up in dreams.
posted by alumshubby at 7:19 AM on March 11, 2002

I was jarred for a couple of days. Then I was worried for a few weeks, waiting for the inevitable American military response and fearing a general draft. I'm affected much more by the way Americans have responded than by the crashes themselves. The damage done to civil liberties by government response to the attack outweighs and will outlast any that could have been inflicted by fear.

I find that I care about New York's disaster as much as I would about a mudslide in El Salvador or an earthquake in India. Thousands of people are dead in a far-away place; it's sad, and I feel sorry for their families when I stop to think about it, but that isn't often.

posted by Mars Saxman at 7:36 AM on March 11, 2002

Six months out - all cynicism aside, this does seem to have some sort of meaning. In some ways things have healed a bit. In other ways, there is still a lot of internal digestion going on.

I do wind up living with it on a day to day basis - was in the World Financial Center, with my wife, when it happened, ran down 35 flights of stairs, and through falling debris and bodies to get home, three blocks away, got evacuated as the 2nd tower was falling. Lost one of my closest colleagues, and many Cantor friends. Still living downtown - ground zero is my neighborhood. My business division is moving back to the WFC at the end of this month (we had moved to midtown) - and my office window is going to be staring down at the dirt lot that used to be the WTC's. So it's all kind of in my face.

I have noticed that processing the event seems to happen in waves. Will go through entire days, almost weeks at a time now when I just don't think about the entire thing - kind of odd, I mean, in just walking out of my building it is impossible not to see the scene ... but it's almost now just normal - the eyes don't register it as something remarkable. Other times though, a wave kind of comes, and the smallest thing brings back a flood of memories.

I also think these anniversary dates are good. Yes, there may be a bit of hype and overdone media ... but so what. At least for people here, I know it is not just me, but many of my friends and co-workers that lived through this that are processing the same way I am ... quietly, sometimes ignoring it, sometimes chewing on it, but mostly doing it in private. These anniversary dates are the times when the emotional material of the event is invited back out of the interior place of personal silence, and into the public space. Our whole office stopped this morning and watched the little program going on at ground zero. I noticed men just kind of looking down with their eyes closed. A couple of secretaries standing against a wall, holding hands. We didn't talk about it too much (multinationals generally aren't group hug sorts of places, and very little can be said anyway), but there was a powerful sense of shared experience in the office. And during the moment of silence there was a genuine sense of reflection on what we had all experienced - what we had lost, and what we had discovered about ourselves.

I also have come to understand what the "war on terror" is ... at least a little. Terrorism is warfare, but the battleground is primarily the geography of the soul. Physical acts - as huge as they get, are still minor compared to other sorts of war. The hugest impact is at the internal level. The Bin Laden's of the world can strip away the beauty and excitement of life without ever invading a country if they are permitted to invade the emotional realm. My own response to him - I suppose - has come down to this: I will not avoid doing a single damn thing out of fear or worry. I'll keep living here. I'll move back to the WFC, and if they build a new WTC, I'll gladly work in the top floor. I'll continue traveling the world, and continue doing business even in Arab nations. I cannot stop evil men from plotting to unleash weaponry on this city. But I can support my government in it's effort to stop them from succeeding, and I can control my own heart - and will not permit the Bin Ladens of the world to steal any joy, or lust for life out of my life.
posted by MidasMulligan at 8:30 AM on March 11, 2002

It's interesting to look back at the way our community responded that day, six months ago. Wow. I'm still not able to let it all sink in.
posted by ColdChef at 8:41 AM on March 11, 2002

Ah, the nightmares. I have them too, but it's never of the World Trade Center, it's of walking through an airport and hearing a loudspeaker saying that there's another attack, or of jumping from a moving Metro train that's been taken over by box-cutter-wielding madmen.

Don't need a Freud to tell me that I'm afraid that Sept. 11 or something like it will happen again, and that I'm afraid that next time, D.C. won't be as lucky. Waking life feels ordinary and normal now but my subconscious isn't so easily distracted.

jpoulous, do you think any of us want to be afraid, or to have nightmares? That we're doing it on purpose, so that we can be all *reverential* about it? Fear and nightmares are involuntary. They don't mean *the terrorists have won*, they are just proof that we're human.

I don't expect you intended to admonish people for healing more slowly than you apparently have, or for harboring lingering fears to which you are apparently immune, but that's what your comment sounded like to me---"hurry up and get over it already"---speaking of *counterproductive.*

If that makes me *self-righteous*, so be it.
posted by Sapphireblue at 8:56 AM on March 11, 2002

If that makes me *self-righteous*, so be it.

No, it makes you accurate. Took the words out of my mouth.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:35 AM on March 11, 2002

From the photographer dude: It's the American way to take something and exploit the hell out of it. The irony is thick...
posted by afx114 at 9:41 AM on March 11, 2002

Yes it is ironic perhaps but it's also just how Americans deal. And it works for us. So...

I think we need these anniversary things if nothing more than to help support the survivors and those who lost loved ones, but it's starting to act like it's scratching at an itching wound. Soon we need to put a bandaid on it and leave the wound alone for awhile so it can heal properly. I'm not sure if America's able to do that. We tend to like picking at our scabs. We also like showing off our scars.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:02 AM on March 11, 2002

Stuart Ian Burns is a twenty-seven year old call centre advisor living in Liverpool, England.

September 11th was the first day off sick I'd had in months, getting over a cold. I'd spent the morning in bed watching the video of 'Bullett' and had moved to the couch for 'Ever After' which I turned off for a bathroom break as the second plane hit the building. I remember swearing loudly and like everyone else who saw it I suppose just kept watching as the footage was played over and over.

I was divorced from what was happening. I wasn't really thinking about the human cost -- all I kept thinking and saying was that the buildings couldn't continue to stand. I suppose the part of me which cared was shut off somehow, like it didn't want to think about the people inside, what was happening in the building. But I clung onto the speculation. 5000 dead. 6000 dead. 7000 dead.

It was only the next day, on my train into work as I sat reading my newspaper, the tableau photography of the site of the disaster that it began to sink in. As the train passed through Warrington Central I began to weep. I began to think of the people, how I would have felt if I'd been them. I worry about the future a lot, how I'll feel when the people I know are no longer there, and these thoughts overwhelmed me. These people I need to talk to sometimes when it hurts. What happens when they are gone. And self-indulgently I suppose I thought about how I had reacted whilst it was happening. Why was I crying now, the next day? For the first time in a long while I felt like an ugly person.

So, even though I wasn't there, I was so far away from what happened I felt the pain. Like everyone I just felt numb, unable to talk about much else. I'd see people I hadn't seen for a while and I'd still feel the need to talk about it even though they hadn't brought it up. Where where you when? What happened? How did you feel? And I knew it brought down the conversation and that it ruined the night (or day) but it felt like it had to be talked about.

Have I changed? I think so. I saw the end of 'Ever After'.
I'm more tollerant with people than before, expecially strangers. But I was always a reasonably calm person before -- I already felt the urge to see beauty in everything. I think the most significant thing is how I am with people in general. I try and make the most of the time I spend with them, and feel bad when I don't spend as many moments as I could. I get annoyed with others who I know should and could be more giving, but their personal survival instinct stops them.

And there is one other thing. Before I never said goodbye to people. I would be acquanted with someone and I knew I might never see them again when they left the country or left my company. And I would always say 'until next time' or 'I'll see you soon...' Now I just say two words, but they are always heartfelt, and I always mean them, even if they seem a bit false sometimes.

Take care.
posted by feelinglistless at 11:12 AM on March 11, 2002

jpoulous, do you think any of us want to be afraid, or to have nightmares? That we're doing it on purpose, so that we can be all *reverential* about it?

Sapphireblue: I meant no disrespect to anyone who's having nightmares over this. I can see that that's how I came off and I apologize. Of course I understand how much of an impact this had on people. My sister lives in New Jersey and watched it all happen from across the river. She's still shaken up by it, and I don't blame her.

Having said that, I think some people are allowing themselves to get caught up in this as if it were a TV miniseries. Some people are allowing themselves are eating up all the sentimental tripe and melodramatic patriotism like

Someone might say "that's how they deal with it", and I guess that's fine. Personally, I think some people treat it like a good horror movie, or an episode of "Fear Factor". They get a rush out of feeling bad about it. Or they're finding some meaning in life from other people's suffering, which IMO is wrong.

I don't expect you intended to admonish people for healing more slowly than you apparently have, or for harboring lingering fears to which you are apparently immune

To be frank, I've more or less "healed". I certainly am not immune to the fears or the pain of it all. I bawled my eyes out more than once over this thing--something I've never done for anything that didn't impact me directly. I was a little fearful in the weeks following the attacks, but I've since managed to put it in perspective. More attacks may well happen, but I won't let it get in my way. I've got other far more trivial :-) things to worry about than whether there's a car bomb in front of my office building.

Plus, consider this. I recall very clearly in the weeks after the attacks, all the experts on post-traumatic stress talking about how it's normal to be upset over something like this, but if it goes on for months and months, something may seriously be wrong. Read: PTSD or depression. If people are still literally having nightmares about 9/11, I would urge them to find counseling. And I hope they find solace. Living in fear, IMO, is barely living at all.
posted by jpoulos at 2:41 PM on March 11, 2002

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