I remember 9/11.
I can see it as clearly as if I were standing in the newsroom with my students– on the phone with my husband telling me to turn the channel to MSNBC because something had happened at the Twin Towers. I can relive every moment as my class watched in horror as the second plane crashed intentionally into the second tower. We didn’t stop watching.
When I got home, I kept the TV on. I didn’t turn the TV off for a week. Not for a second. Every night I tried to sleep, but the news was on. Always.
As I prayed and asked God for a miracle.
That someone would be alive.
I didn’t know a single person in New York or D.C. that day, but it felt like every person interviewed was a neighbor. I watched, stunned, as day after day after day people who lost loved ones were interviewed.
When the news started playing the voice mails left behind by people who never made it home, I cried.
About three months after 9/11, I stopped sleeping through the night.
I’d fall asleep and then wake up catching my breath, sure something horrible had happened to my daughter. I’d have to walk into her room and make sure she was okay.
Once she stayed the night with my parents and I had to call at 2 a.m. to make sure she was alive. My mom laughed and told me of course things were fine. I laughed, too. But inside, I wondered if I was going crazy.
Finally, at a doctor’s appointment in January, I told my family practitioner what was going on. I whispered the words because it took everything in me to make myself speak. I was terrified of what was wrong with me.
The doctor listened to me and then asked me about my 9/11 experience. I brushed her question off quickly.
9/11 experience? I didn’t have a 9/11 experience. The people with loved ones in New York and D.C., with family members in the military, with friends who served as police and firefighters…THEY had a 9/11 experience. I was a passive bystander in every way other than the night we went to church and prayed.
I explained this to the doctor and she didn’t say anything while I talked. When I was done, she asked if I watched the events on TV. I’m addicted to the news. I not only watched it on TV, I accessed it online. It consumed my life outside of work for several days. I wasn’t alone. Everyone I knew stayed glued to the news those first weeks after.
My doctor nodded and then explained that I was suffering from panic attacks. That the panic attacks could be from a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by my non-stop news viewing. She prescribed an anti-depressant, told me to take it until I felt I could try to go without.
I took the medicine for a few months. It worked. I got better.
I thought it was over. Until this anniversary of the day that changed our lives in so many ways. The news is covering the horrors of that day again and again. You can’t flip channels without seeing the Towers fall. I want to watch Toddlers and Tiaras and Housewives and What Not to Wear and Food Network. Anything to NOT see a replay of those days. And THAT makes me feel even worse. I can sink into mindless TV and ignore a day that shouldn’t be ignored and so very many people can’t because while my problem was caused by non-stop news, they lost people they loved and cherished.
I feel unpatriotic. I say the Pledge every day at school. I support the troops and say prayers for those in harm’s way. I don’t want us to forget what happened because if we do, it will happen again and again and again, and God knows, we need to do everything in our power to keep that from happening.
But I don’t want to watch the horrors of those days replayed again and again on cable news networks with ridiculous headlines like WHAT IF IT HADN’T HAPPENED? New flash. There is no what if. IT HAPPENED.
So while this is the decade anniversary of the most horrifying day in my memory, I won’t be watching the news. I don’t need to see it, hear it, read it. I don’t need to because if I’m not careful, when I close my eyes, I can’t make it go away.