While for some the events of September 11th, 2001 seem a distant memory, many still feel its effects in their daily lives. Whether it’s the tragic loss of a friend or loved one, the loss of a job or a home, or chilling memories of that terrifying Tuesday, “moving on” from those events is not a simple proposition.
I had been living in New York City for less than two weeks when the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists. I had moved to New York to begin graduate training that would eventually lead me to my practice as a psychotherapist. Like many New Yorkers, I walked several miles that day (far less than some), trying to make sense of the senseless. I cried for hours, sometimes alone, and sometime with the new friends I’d just made from school–all of whom quickly became old friends. I volunteered with the Red Cross and later at the Worth Street Disaster Recover Center in Lower Manhattan, just two blocks from my current office.
Our experiences on September 11th, 2001, at once varied and assonant, are loosely packaged by mental health professionals in the broad category of trauma. And while I would be the last to deny the traumatic impact of that day, I think trauma is too small a word. On September 11th, 2001 my life changed. New York City changed. The world changed. What it means to feel safe was transformed. Our understanding of what there was to be afraid of changed. The weeks and months of bomb threats and anthrax scares that followed were both terrifying in themselves and served as a metaphor for just how vulnerable we were and are.
For those of us still living in New York City (or those who’ve moved here since) we’ve clearly made a choice to be here in a city that, because of the events of the past and because of its place in the United States and in the world, must realistically be considered a target. While I in no way support living in fear I do think we all have a great deal of work to do in living with fear–in dealing with the day-to-day reality that we are vulnerable.
Obviously I find psychotherapy has a lot to offer–not just in repairing the damage from the trauma (though there is plenty of work to do there) but in helping us create our lives in this new city, and in this new world that has emerged from the ashes of those buildings. I walk by the World Trade Center nearly every day; my psychotherapy practice in Tribeca is just a few blocks from the site where new towers are being built. I will not live in fear, and I’ve found tremendous ways to be powerful in the face of these new realities. If you’re interested in help with that, be in touch.