Tuesday, May 28, 2002

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (A work in progress)

I didn't cry on September 11.

At least, I don't remember doing so. I don't remember crying the day after. Nor the week after. I'm sure that I cried at least twice since it happened, but despite being constantly exposed to the aftermath of that day (the Missing posters, the flowers, the foul air, etc.), I don't think I was overtly emotional much of the time.

I have now become somewhat unglued twice this week. But I'm not so sure that's a bad thing.

As you probably know by now, HBO ran a fairly gritty documentary on 9/11 in New York this week. This first day that it aired I resolved not to watch it. I told myself that it was exploitative, disgusting, and all in all unhealthy to watch so soon after it happened.

Naturally, I watched it tonight. About two minutes into it I had serious thoughts about turning it off -- and all they had showed at that point is the well-known footage of the initial impact. And there were some points where I clicked it over to VH1 for a minute or two until I felt sure that the troublesome part in question had passed. It was very difficult to watch, because it basically forced me to see everything I saw that day all over again. Surprisingly, I found I was glad that I did.

I remember very clearly the things that I saw when it happened. It's not like it was a blur or that I blocked it out. But I remember regarding it all with a sense of detachment, even bemusement. Well, this is certainly odd. Which sounds terrible. I knew I was supposed to be sad, but I couldn't force myself. When I went to Ground Zero two months later, I felt sick, but not sad. But seeing those images on TV tonight-- seeing the park outside my dorm covered with memorials, the viewpoints from my neighborhood of the Towers -- let me feel what I think I wanted to feel that day, just eight months later.

Like I said, the documentary is extremely difficult to watch no matter where you were on September 11. I wouldn't blame anybody for refusing to watch it, or turning it off in the middle. There's a couple moments that are, in my opinion, pretty gratuitous. But you may try looking at it, even if it's five years down the road. I was sure that if I watched it, I would be blubbering, spouting obscenities, screaming at the wall, or engaging in some other similar anti-social behavior by the end of it. But I'm not. I'm typing this instead, and reading the Onion. Dare I say it, I actually feel a little better. I'm sure I'm not "over it." I don't really think I will be, but I think that's okay. It's part of who I am now, and I can live with that.

Thanks for listening. I promise next time I'll write about puffins or cheesy poofs or Care Bears or sumpin' like that.