Monday, September 11, 2006

Lacrimae rerum

Today is a weird day. New York on 9/11/01 was not my city, not my tragedy, but it is affecting me far more today than it did at the time. There is a strange pull of empathy that I can physically feel, in my chest, in my stomach, a disturbing connection. Maybe it is the endless media images of the blazing towers, which is making me smell again my own smoke, my own fear of death by burning, or suffocation by dust and ash and smoke, or crushing under collapsing rubble. The aftershock of other people's bombs, the horrors of strangers. I am pulled once again to any news, any documentary about September 11th, as I was, as I still am, about 7/7. I am re-experiencing the sense of barely suppressed fear, and something else, something new and different, something which feels close to despair. I don't want to feel like this, it is making me afraid of myself. It also makes me feel guilty and ashamed; this is not my tragedy, so why am I feeling like this?

Right now, I have a headache; my stomach feels nauseous and my gut is upset, and I keep wanting to cry. Not cry for myself, or maybe a bit for myself, but because I am reading and thinking of all the poor people, all over the world, who have died in bombs since this day five years ago. For innocent ones in benighted Afghanistan, bloodied and maddened Iraq, suffering Palestine, Lebanon, the Philipines, Egypt, Bali, Turkey, Israel, India, Pakistan, Kashmir, Madrid, London…

For all the ordinary people caught up in world events, who went to work or who went out to spend time with friends and family, and who never came home. For all those that mourn them. It is overwhelmingly sad, and I don't know what to do.

This is not my tragedy, but I am feeling pulled into its slipsteam, haunted by its ghosts. Can someone else's anniversary make you re-experience your own devastating event? Can media coverage of terrorism reawaken the echoes of PTSD? Is this selfish, is this just temporary? I don’t know, but I wasn't expecting this. These held-back prickling, inappropriate, useless, hopeless tears as I sit at my desk , feeling exposed and uncomfortable in an open-plan office, blogging in my lunchbreak; this heart-sickness, soul-ache, for the sadness of things.

sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangun

Remembering, in silence and in words.


Anonymous Maureen said...

My heart goes out to you Rachel. I can understand how today's sad anniversary of those events five years ago in America would remind you of the attacks in London and your own horrific experience. It's bound to trigger memories so it's no wonder you feel the way you do. My thoughts and heartfelt sympathy to you.

September 11, 2006 2:53 pm  
Anonymous Chris KIng said...


If one has a good imagination, or, God forbid, has suffered in such an event, as you have, then it is very hard NOT to be affected. The images and the descriptions of 9/11 are compelling, and its hard to stop looking and listening. The descriptions of it as the pornography of terror are quite correct.

I've got a good imagination, and 9/11 gave me a deep sense of dread that lasted for months. For precisely that reason, I have quite conciously decided not to watch any of the 5th anniversary films.

So the best I can offer is to say try and wean yourself off it. You've come such a long way in the last year - remember that. Get a hug from J and those that love you, stop watching the TV, and go and sit in the garden with a glass of wine.



September 11, 2006 3:15 pm  
Blogger Leighton Cooke said...

The more empathy we feel with others the more it is a sign of our own spiritual and ethical sensitivity. Healing takes time and the more we see negative stimuli the harder it is. That's why I believe television distorts the truth by endlessly showing a biased view. You have become an activist and turned your experience into a positive force. Sometimes, though, a walk in the park is the best medicine. We can only take so much.

September 11, 2006 3:23 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Thanks so much for the lovely comments.

I checked with Holly Finch from KCU, and she is the same; we think it is blowback, and media overload, and yeah, empathy. But too much is too much sometimes. I am going to try and have a long swim after work, that always makes me feel better.

September 11, 2006 3:55 pm  
Anonymous seth said...

hi rachel,

i agree..its media overload too here in ny. i was at work today,and i feel somber. i cant believe that 5 years has passed since that horrible day.

as i may have mentioned previously i lost two acquaintances on 9/11- i found out 6-8 months later. i feel bad that i didnt try and renew our friendships as we had pretty much lost touch in the 5 years prior.both moved on to new jobs,one got moves at a very fast pace these days..oh well.

anyway i will be heading to a park in brooklyn,high on a hill with panoramic views overlooking ny harbor and downtown manhattan. i will light a memorial candle and watch the sunset and try and remember my former friends.

ciao for now,
seth :)

September 11, 2006 11:24 pm  
Anonymous Maria said...

I live in Oregon, about as far away from New York as you can get, and most of the time I feel pretty safe. But last summer I flew to Utah to visit my brother. I hadn't been on a plane in years, and I was struck by sudden terror! It took two over-priced glasses of wine to make my hands stop shaking. Nothing bad happened. Other than my suitcase was thrashed by the baggage handlers. But these events have affected EVERYONE in the world, even a Brit who now lives in wild Oregon... Last night I was watching a TV dramatization of the Towers 5 years ago, and I suddenly realized I had tears streaming down my face. I didn't know anyone who died. It's just human empathy.

September 12, 2006 6:43 pm  
Blogger Emily said...

Yes, anniversaries can make you relive your own experiences. As an abuse survivor who reads abuse blogs, reading other people's experiences can bring your own back to you. While it is upsetting, I find it useful. Mainly because the mind is powerful at burying detail and emotion. Reading other people's stuff can make memories reappear. I can then deal with them and let them go. I find this healthier than keep them under 20 tonnes of memory concrete. It is less effort to supress than to deal and let go.

But then I am talking about events that happened two decades ago. Sadly, the process of letting go is a long journey. Just stay strong.

September 12, 2006 10:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then again, sometimes let it lie. Some people need to let it out, others are better off just getting on with life.

One size doesn't fit all.

September 16, 2006 9:54 pm  

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