Blessed, Lucky...and Guilty

In the days leading up to the 9-11 attacks, I had such a feeling of dread, misery, and depression hanging over me and had no idea why. Nothing was wrong in my life, nothing was out of the happy norm for my family and friends either. In fact, things were really looking up for me. As a freelance artist and writer, it is always a possibility for me to have some dry spells from work, but I had a few projects on at the time and several promising interviews lined up (some were in NYC). As a teenager, I'd had a chemical imbalance which caused depression for a short while and I began to wonder if this issue with my health was returning. I mean, why should I have been so morose? Why was I not sleeping anymore? Why was I feeling overcome by waves of panic? Why was I being consumed with feelings of profound sadness and bursting into tears for no good reason?

One of my interviews for a new project was in Building II of the World Trade Centre in the morning, on September 11th. It was going to be an in-house project and I was basically told that the job was mine. The interview was really just a formality to meet the other people I'd be working with. I was delighted at the prospect of being so upwardly mobile as to work in the World Trade Centre and, although the pay to commuter fee break-down was going to leave me with quite a bit less than what I was used to earning, I was very interested for all the good exposure the project would lend me. It was set to last for 3 to 4 months and the excitement of it all consumed my every thought for weeks. Then, that sense of dread began to grip me during the week prior to the attacks.

I began to review my life as it stood and all the decisions I was presently making in order to combat what I believed to be a second run-in with severe depression. I was convinced that I'd somehow brought on this madness and that I needed to change something. At the last minute (the night before, really) I'd decided to stay on at the newspaper I was working at and not take the project in New York. After all, I'd have been commuting 2 hours each way and paying for it dearly both in double taxation and in travel costs...who knew being cheap and feeling crazy would save my life. I woke up the next morning and got ready for work at the newspaper while practising the profound apology I needed to give to the hiring director in New York later that morning. That's when I walked by the TV and saw it...the first plane had hit the World Trade Centre. I just stood there dumbfounded, unblinking...I don't believe a single thought had even entered my head then. Then the second plane hit. I was numb, still standing there, unable to move. I remember my dog had come up to me and began licking my hand as if trying to bring me back from that strange, in-between state of reality and blankness I was in. I stumbled over to the phone like a stiff, broken robot and dialed the New York office. No connection, no ringing tones, just a haunting faint static silence and a few clicking noises. I remember walking just outside of my front door and then nothing. I came back to reality having found myself pulled over on the side of the road halfway between my house and the newspaper crying hysterically. I'm still uncertain how I was able to drive a car at all. I still don't really know how to describe what happened to me that morning. Was I in shock? Was I just having a spectacularly delayed reaction? Did I block out those moments immediately following the attacks psychologically? Perhaps I'll never really know, but that night I slept the most peaceful and dreamless sleep I'd ever known. That impending sense of dread and doom that was hanging over me had lifted. I experienced relief...the thing that consumed me in fear and sadness, the thing that was eating away at my insides had arrived and was over. I remember wanting to tell everyone around me this very same thing, that there was no need to panic, the worst was over. Unfortunately, no one would have believed it for a moment and probably would have thought me callous and profane. So I watched as my friends, family and co-workers spiralled into the same fear and dread I'd experienced before hand and did my best to be supportive and "wise" as only my freakishly backward trauma would have allowed.

I've walked guilty about this for a long time. Guilty for surviving, guilty for not truly experiencing the same sense of terror that everyone else did, guilty for being allowed to have a clear mind and insight during the days that followed, guilty for not recognising that I was being given a gift to help others whether beforehand or after. I've made my peace with the 9-11 attacks for the most part, but sometimes I find it still creeps up on's not really a thing that leaves a person, is it?
reddcorn1 reddcorn1
31-35, F
Jul 15, 2010