11 September 2011

Ten years later

I struggle with a certain amount of PTSD during September. 9/11/01 was a very pivotal time for me and my life, as well as for that of the US.
On that day, I was working for a Big 4, on an assignment in Chicago. My boyfriend (now husband), at a different Big 4, was on assignment in Texas. I was running out the door to the client when my mom called to tell me that a plane had hit the Twin Towers. I told her it had to be an accident and then I turned the TV on and watched in disbelief. Just as in NY, it was a glorious day with a perfect sky: Indian summer.
In a daze, I drove to the client. I don't think I could think of what else to do. Once there, I joined all the other people watching monitors and dripped tears until I went back to my hotel room.
Like very many other people, I and the German were trapped: planes did not fly again for days and then the stack up effect was horrendous. My co-workers were not from NY and so I took my rented car and drove back alone, through states I barely recognized. Not to our apartment on the Upper West Side, with the access routes to the city circumscribed and talk of shortages, but home to upstate NY. The German drove with some of his co-workers through, dropping them off and then meeting me at my house upstate. It may be forgotten, but it was extremely difficult to move around the US in those days, as rental cars moved out of position and were basically unavailable.

Rosh Hashonah was September 17 in 2001 and Yom Kippur was the 27th and frankly I can't remember what I did during that period- how long I stayed upstate and when we went back: our offices were closed for some time as so many people were displaced and NY was reeking with the smell of burning (as it did for months). Neither of us lost friends in the attack, although we had friends who had close calls. We lost acquaintances and my brother lost good friends— when we moved to Westchester my neighbor had lost her husband.

The German's office was closed for months (very close to the WTC) and I transferred offices. Within a month, I and over 15% of my division had been laid off. As we sat at our outplacement seminar at DBM (with IBM, Marriott and other impacted industry executives), we seemed to detect a common link of being salary outliers;-). My firm in particular seemed to have chosen to lay off those within 4 months of our 5 year vesting period: strangely apposite considering a recent news story about how underfunded our pension plan was. A very bad time to be job hunting in NYC.

But a time which made my friend decide that not losing me to a different job and city was important and we became engaged in January. I found a new job (one that required 0% as opposed to 100% travel) and we started life together as a married unit. A process which two children later and a few years led us here to Berlin.

The world changed on 9/11/01. The US started doing things with which I was unhappy, and which we did in fear and in shock. We were traumatized and I find the ambushes that the media played this month to be wrong: I watched no TV and found myself weeping when the BBC would throw another surprise interview out.

I missed being in the WTC during both attacks simply by chance— I commuted through the PATH station regularly, took classes at Windows on the World... I think of how people who live in war torn areas feel, I think of how Jews in Berlin in the 1930s and in Israel in 1967 and in Mumbai in 2008 felt and I just admire people who sprang back, who don't have waves of memory.... I am glad that the man who ordered those attacks is gone and I am glad that I don't need to think of the event as unclosed going forward.

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