Jacqui (jacqui) wrote,

9/11 Property Recovery and Survivor's Guilt

With the launch of a jewelry recovery database for the family members of victims of the World Trade Center disaster, I can't help but feel all of those torn up hurting feelings again. I only wish I'd been able to fly to New York and help with the clean up or done some kind of volunteer work during the aftermath of the tragedy but I was stuck here in LA, about as far away from New York or Washington DC, (short of Hawaii or Alaska), as a person could be and still be in the US. But I still felt ripped to pieces and I still feel torn up whenever I see images from that day and the days immediately following the tragedy, I still cry when I read first person accounts and interviews of survivors and family members.

I think I feel the way my Mother feels about the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the death of President Kennedy, only with this the experience is so much more visceral and immediate, or at least I think it is. I bought every magazine, newspaper, book and DVD I could find, immersing myself in them until it became clear to me that I was torturing myself and prolonging a kind of depressive survivor's guilt syndrome that I have worked to overcome. I threw or gave everything away and stopped watching videos and documentaries about that day but each year on the anniversary of the attacks I still feel sick and kind of paralyzed with a sadness that I don't understand why everyone around me doesn't share.

When we shot the documentary about Halloween here at my house I felt like I sounded like a kind of stuck-in-the-past nut case when I explained why I won't decorate the yard using gruesome body parts any more. That first Halloween was so surreal. It happened so fast, one minute we were waving flags from our car antennas and the next minute we were buying costumes and worrying about terrorists dressing as Sponge Bob or whatever character was popular at that time. I remember taking all of our creepy decorations, that had become increasingly grisly with each passing year, (Beau liked all the gore and our yard haunt had gotten progressively creepier as Beau got older,) out of their storage boxes and deciding that there was absolutely no way I was going to scatter these severed limbs and heads all over our yard and driveway -- no way I would put out the electronic wiggling hands and the bits of red rubber flesh that we had once hung from branches and put in the mouths of our many fake black birds and vultures.

In one of the episodes of Dennis Leary's New York fire fighter series, Rescue Me (which I thought was terrific,) there was a scene where one of his firefighting brothers has been writing poetry to help deal with all of the feelings of loss he is experiencing. He is invited to come read some of his poetry at a support group. When he discovers that none of the members of this post traumatic stress disorder support group were in lower Manhattan, or even greater Manhattan, and that none of them had lost so much as an acquaintance, he takes them to task for wringing their hearts and hands over this when there are people out there who experienced the tragedy first hand.

While I understood the motive behind writing a scene like this, I disagreed with the premise -- that people who weren't there can't have trouble dealing with the feelings they have had in reaction to it, can't have them, shouldn't have them, are manufacturing them for the attention this may bring them. Yes, absolutely, anyone who actually ran from one of those buildings, or ran into one of them in order to save people, anyone who saw a plane hit the towers or a body fall, anyone who ran for their lives, who huddled in that dust choked aftermath, or who were part of the mass exodus of lower Manhattan, anyone who was in New York, or Washington DC, (I really don't mean to leave out Washington or the plane that crashed in that field,) or lost a loved one, has a greater claim to a bigger piece of the pain and suffering pie, but that doesn't mean the rest of us don't still feel and suffer along with them. I imagine that, aside from Dennis Leary, (who is definitely a good and well meaning guy), anyone who experienced the tragedy of that day in a more first hand kind of way, wouldn't fault or deny the rest of us this empathic pain, because it only means that we care, that we are with them, or with you, in spirit.

The absolute rock bottom truth here, for me anyway, is that we are all connected. I am you, you are me, we are all united despite our physical distance and whatever happens to someone else, no matter where it happens, ripples out like a stone in a pond and affects all of us. I just felt the need to say all of this, it's been bubbling up for a while.

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