I’m teary this weekend. It’s hard to watch the news because my mind pivots to the many clients who spoke of their losses the days, months, and years post-9/11. As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, those of us who remember can clearly recall the exact circumstances when we witnessed or heard of the attacks. I am one of the fortunate who worked downtown, but I had taken the day off to attend a seminar. I never worked in the World Trade Center, but our social service center had a direct view. There were so many other stories like that of those who for unforetold circumstances were not in the towers when they fell.
I was out of social work school for three years when the planes crashed. Having had training in trauma, but not much experience, I was asked to work with employees in companies who were downtown. It was a quick, intensive training on mental health first response. I had the privilege of listening to individual stories in a new chapter in tragically disrupted lives. Each person I heard had so much courage. They came from all walks of life surviving while countless loved ones, coworkers, colleagues, and others did not make it.
I recall the kindness and caring that New Yorkers shared. There was a common grace for others. Sadly, I also remember the fear from Muslim friends and those from the Middle East who were harshly judged, misunderstood, or seen as the enemy. Their love of our shared country unacknowledged. On the one hand there were so many acts of kindness. On the other hand, there was so much blame going around.
So much sadness, so much anxiety. Both defined the days and months that followed.