Today, I’ve been rather silent on the topic on social media. I’ve been avoiding the tributes and news replays for several reasons. The biggest one is that I have no trouble remembering the fear, shock, and sadness of that day. It was traumatic, even watching from a distance, here from Texas. I don’t think I had ever cried so much until that day. Of course, for me, 2014 is my Year of Hell, so that wasn’t the end of it, but at that point in my life, I had never experienced so much grief for people I had never known and would never get to know.
The next day, I was in a serious car accident. I still remember how the incident replayed in my mind, wondering how I could have avoided it. I wasn’t seriously hurt, but I was unable to drive for two weeks. When I returned to work, I thought I was fine. I thought I just needed to go back to my routine. But a year later, the trauma caught up with me. There were nightmares and night terrors every night. I was terrified to sleep. Sometimes, I would drive and I would suddenly forget where I was or what I was doing there. It would look completely unfamiliar. I jokingly called them “Memento” moments, but it was serious. One day, I almost drove through an intersection. It felt like I was watching a movie. I was completely disassociated from my body. I kept thinking, “Why isn’t the car stopping?” without realizing that I had to do something to make that happen. When I came to, I was halfway out, the light glaringly red. I braked hard and returned to the office immediately. I told my boss I wanted to take my two weeks of vacation starting the next day. Initially, she was reluctant, but when I told her what had happened, she was supportive.
I began the employee assistance program. Through several sessions of therapy, they thought I had delayed-onset of PTSD. It turned out to be the beginning of several years of therapy and medications and more. Luckily, I am doing better, but I can’t forget something like that. The emotions were so intense. I don’t need the video footage. I can’t get the images out of my head if I wanted to.
I agree that those who died on that day need to be remembered. I agree that we need to honor the first responders, the passengers on Flight 93, everyone who worked to get the survivors to safety, everyone who worked in the coming days to rebuild and help the families of those affected. There are unfortunately too many to name here. But everyone in the towers, the planes, and the Pentagon that survived will remember without needing any video. I fear that watching the footage myself will bring back the nightmares and night terrors. I’m better, but not to the point that I don’t still get them.
Even with something like the recent “Snowpocalypse” last winter in Texas, I was plagued with night terrors every night. It was terrifying and exhausting. I can’t say I’m strong enough to handle things like that right now. I’m just not. Maybe 20 years is a long time since 9/11. But the events from that day are fresh in my mind. I can’t forget it and never will. The victims and families deserve more than just remembrance and prayers, though. Please donate to an appropriate charity if you are able. Kiss your family members good night. Tell them you love them every chance you get.
And, please, take care of each other.