September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document
Story:I was in Trenton, NJ just coming out of an interview when I heard about the news of the planes having crashed into the World Trade Center. It seemed unreal and I remember thinking "this must be a mistake....they can't mean the World Trade Center...how could a plane crash into the World Trade Center?" As I made my way back to Bergen County, I was deverted from the New Jersey Turnpike by the police. It was errie to see the highway ahead of me completely empty as I turned onto the Garden State Parkway which was almost equally as disserted.
I could not believe that this atrocity could be true, but it was becoming more real with each news report describing the evacuation and rescue efforts.
My instincts were telling me to get to the scene to help, but I knew there would be chaos and likely too many people in the area. I focused on getting to the hospital where I was working at the time thinking they would need all available help to address those survivors who might come in, injured and traumatized.
No one anticipated such an extensive loss of human lives...the pain of hoping to find a missing loved one. In the Outpatient clinic, we began counseling those who had family members working in the Towers who were unable to locate them after the collapse of the buildings. Into the evening and night shifts we began to see people who escaped from the horrors and those who were panicking with their fear of loss.
I never imagined at that time that I would come to lead New York State's federally funded mental health response, Project Liberty. I received a call to join this effort just a few weeks into the disaster. I did't even think of saying "no." It felt mission driven and I responded positively.
At Christmas, 2001, I apologized to my family for being unavailable the previous weeks and told them I would not be seeing much of them for the next 2 years. They agreed the work was necessary and were extremely supportive. For the next twenty-four months I was consumed by the effort.
Memory:Every time I saw the images of the Twin Towers being hit and collapsing on television, I just kept remembering how I noticed the beauty of the morning of September 11th and that I had looked towards the Twin Towers and saw the sun glistening off the Hudson River...I had noted what a memorable scene it was because it was so beautiful.
To this day, I can see the picture in my mind...the glistening water, the Twin Towers, the sun. It helps to keep the destructive images out of my mind. It will be how I always remember the World Trade Center.
Affects:Now, twenty-six months later, I am overwhelmed to see the incredible work that thousands of people were able to accomplish in defeating the psychological terror and pain imbued upon New Yorkers and this country. While the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001 will be with us always and our grief over the losses ever present, I believe we are a stronger community on all levels having shown that we can come together and do what needs to be done to adapt to what life forces us to bear.
I hope it has raised our awareness of the effects we have internationally and the responsibility each of us has to be involved in excercising our voices in this great democracy, to be heard and to make sure that our opinions mean something.