Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Do you remember where you were when you heard about the terrorist attacks on Tuesday September 9th, 2001? Oh boy do I remember it as if it was yesterday. I was in a total state of shock. I was at work and could not believe the reports. Communication through cell phones were off making it impossible to get in touch with my family and friends. The rumors quickly spread to imply that there were sleeper cells who may be walking around the city to create further destruction. I became extremely concerned and all I thought of is leaving the job immediately and getting my children. I needed to get to my children and huddle to a safe zone - our home.
Once we were all accounted for, I made phone calls to my family and friends from the land line (home phone) to check in and let them know that we were okay. I was glued to the television, clicking through the channels to get everyone's view. It was an emotionally intense period. I cried every time I saw a replay of the towers being hit by the planes; each time a family or friend held up a picture of their loved one and spoke of the search for them; the first responders driving to the ground zero site with the West Side Highway lined with people clapping and cheering for them; the volunteers from near and far coming out to assist in providing support where needed; the gathering of the religious leaders of all faiths/religions at Yankee Stadium was a profound moment; the support of entertainers coming together to raise funds for the families and share in our grief and so many more scenarios - the tears could not stop flowing. However, the sound of the fighter jets flying over the house every 20-30 minutes was definitely the moment where I felt completely different about life. It was all surreal, as if I was on the movie set of in the middle of a war scene. I wondered if this would be the way we would live from now on. I even considered moving to the Caribbean to escape the chaos. I just could not imagine living in New York. Life would not be the same, how could it? I cannot tell you how many times I avoided the Metro North to the city if I spotted someone who I considered a possible terrorist, it was crazy. I prayed like a monk whenever I had to travel pleading with God not to allow any terrorists on the plane. Believe you me, I was borderline insane :-)
With all that I experienced, I could not imagine the impact that this had on those who worked, attended school, had a business or even more importantly, lived in the area. My husband and I participated in the Museum Mile Race in October 2001 which was at the upper West Side of Manhattan and we found ourselves coughing. I immediately noticed that we were not alone. There were others coughing but no one spoke openly. I pointed it out to my husband and we both acknowledged that it could be due to 9/11. Needless to say, those who worked in the area daily were exposed to the toxins and their health would be compromised greatly. We now see the growth of those with respiratory related illnesses and cancer are remarkably high with the first responders.

Furthermore, according to the studies reported by Dr. Thomas Farley Commissioner of the New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, post traumatic stress symptoms are the most common health effect of 9/11. Almost one in five (19%) adults enrolled in the Health Department's World Trade Center Health Registry reported post-traumatic stress symptoms 5 to 6 years after 9/11, roughly 4 times the rate typically found in the general population.
Ten years later, I still love my city but things have not yet felt quite the same to pre-9/11. Although I have traveled internationally and domestically since then, I still get a bit concerned whenever the orange alert announcements repeatedly announced at the airport. What am I supposed to do? Call my family in advance and tell them that there is an orange alert and I may not make it home? I just want them to find the terrorist/s and take them away quietly. Making the announcement will not intimidate the terrorist, keep in mind, they are willing to die and they are volunteering us to go with them.
However, with all the reflecting, I think of the families left behind to raise their children without a parent - some who never even had a chance to meet. I think of the first responders and volunteers who rushed to the site to assist with the search and rescue, to help provide food and clothing and all other supplies to the workers, without thinking for a moment that they too may endanger their lives. They just wanted to be there - selflessly.

On Saturday September 10th, I attended a back to school Health Fair where I spoke with some firemen who were a part of 9/11. Listening to their recounts of that time was extremely moving. They also shared that they were not invited to attend the ceremony to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11. I found it to be impossible to understand. How could these men and women who responded to a call that risked their lives not be invited to attend the ceremony? Some of these men and women are now fighting to survive. It is my opinion that all first responders should be on the priority list of attending the ceremonies even before the politicians and other invited dignitaries. With all due respect, the ones who made the difference are those who rescued, searched and worked tirelessly at ground zero have more rights to attend than those who watched and were briefed from the safety of their homes/offices.

I salute all of you who responded to the site at ground zero - NYPD, FDNY, Volunteers, Health Care Professionals, etc. I hope that you will receive all the financial support and mental services with your health and wellness concerns. As you reflect on the 9/11 anniversary, what comes to mind?

1 comment:

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