September 25, 2002
September 11, 2011
It’s only in the past two years that I started pulling my life together again. I went to culinary school. I moved to New Jersey. I’m now engaged to a wonderful man. But today is the tenth anniversary, and as I sit at home with the flu, what happened 10 years ago is still close to my thoughts.
In those 10 years I taught college for a while; I ended up teaching emergency and disaster management at one point, as well as a class on the anthropology of terror. I can now watch movies with big explosions, but it’s still difficult for me to accept realistic looking random violence in films. For me, every single extra who gets killed has a history and a family. I mostly watch comedies now.
What I didn’t say in the video was that for about 3 years, i saw ghosts everywhere. It seemed like I kept feeling the dead. Most of them were lost or didn’t know they were dead. It was horrible. I kept seeing dead people from that day, and from other eras, too- all of southern Manhattan seemed to be haunted. and they would talk to me. I’ve met other people who had the same experience.
I now keep a go bag in my house just in case of emergencies. I make a point of looking for building exits wherever I go- it’s not even conscious anymore. It took about 3 years after this video was made for me to be able to go outside on a day with weather conditions like that one without crying at some point. I now realize that I was suffering from severe PTSD.
About once a week I pass through the WTC area. I avoided it for ages. I started going because I love St. Paul’s Chapel. Before the bombing I used to go there for a sense of quietude. Now I go there to feel the few remaining ghosts and to ease their souls as much as possible. It’s hard going down there, because of the tourists. I try to ignore them but occasionally I have to fight a desire to punch one in the face. I find the American tourists with no real connections to the bombing are the worst.
For the most part I’m a happy person who is just going about life, but when I see a police officer or firefighter or EMT or a member of the National Guard, I thank him or her for just, well, existing. I never did that before. When I see a fire truck with insignia showing that its company was there that fateful day, i always lower my head in remembrance.
One more thing. I find that I still can’t stand the smell of barbecued meat. My breathing will never be the same; I think my lungs were damaged. There are times when I monitor my drinking. My fiancé understands; he was in Chad during a period of unrest. Neither one of us talks about what we saw. In the back of my mind i wonder if it will be the asbestos in my lungs that will kill me, or just the memories, but i’m hoping that the new and happy memories since then will sustain me, and I think they will. Reading and watching films about the good that people have done during wartime, those who have acted with righteousness, has given me hope and has made me more willing to help my neighbors. But I do ask that anyone who watches this stop coming to New York to look for ‘Ground Zero’. Look instead for the new World Trade Center, or for St. Paul’s or for the 9/11 Memorial. Or even better, seek out a person who was in Shanksville, the Pentagon, or NYC that day, and talk to that person. Buy that person a drink. Ask that person how life has been since then. The greatest memorial we have is in the hearts of the people.who survived. That’s what I learned years ago by seeing numbers on peoples’ arms.
- Michele A Buchanan