Random Brain Dumping

Musings and observations about life

The mind of a child on 9/11

Drawing by MIKE LUCKOVICH of the Statue of Liberty weeping. Ten years ago, I heard a psychologist say that every time a child saw a newscast of a plane crashing into the Twin Tower, that child likely thought every building in the world was being attacked.

 Children probably didn’t realize that what they saw was a rebroadcast of the planes hitting the buildings or the buildings falling down, the psychologist said. I’m not a child, but I can’t watch the footage of the planes hitting the buildings or the buildings collapsing. Each time I see the footage, I’m terrified all over again. I’m angry. I’m flabbergasted. I’m sad.

Mostly, I’m terrified. Not that we will be attacked again, even though that does scare me. I’m terrified that someone could have been so sinister as to hijack a plane and crash it into a building.

A plane.

I hated flying before 9/11. Now, I’m terrified to fly.

Yes, I’ve flown since then, but each time, I’ve been terrified.

I hate bouncing around the sky. I hate that someone I don’t know is in control of the plane. Now, I hate the thought that the plane could be hijacked and flown into a building.

Ten years ago, I was in my office, with the television on NBC’s “Today,” watching Bryant Gumbel do a segment with Martha Stewart, when the first plane hit. I remember walking into my boss’ office and telling her the news and suggesting she turn on her TV. She’s a New Yorker and knew the towers well.

I remember that federal workers were given the option of leaving or staying in the office. We both stayed but were both dumbfounded as the morning went on. I’m sure no work was done by anyone anywhere in this country that day. A month later, my boss and others in my Army Reserve unit were on active military duty.

In November that year, I was to attend a work-related conference in Washington, 11 hours away. I drove a rental vehicle, refusing to fly. I recall sitting in my hotel one evening and seeing what appeared to be a dilapidated building in the distance. As I focused, I realized I was seeing the side of the Pentagon that a plane had flown into.

When I left the area a few days later, I wanted to take a picture of the Pentagon as I drove by. I couldn’t bring myself to look that way, let alone stop.

Last year, I did go to the Ground Zero Museum in New York’s Meatpacking District on West 14th Street. I can’t write about the experience, but I didn’t go alone. The stories, images and remnants stir raw emotions.

Go there. Experience it. Take someone you love with you.

When I fly now, I’m careful to pack only things that the Transportation Security Agency says are OK to carry on. I’m conscientious, but the type of person who would use a plane as a weapon or who would put a bomb in his underwear or his shoe doesn’t think that way.

Logic tells me that if someone is devious enough to hijack a plane or put a bomb in hidden places, they may try different tactics next time.

I wonder how carefully passenger luggage is screened. I wonder how carefully airline workers are screened. I wonder how carefully pilots are screened. I wonder if the screeners know what they are supposed to be looking for.

I also wonder how those who survived the collapse of the Twin Towers fared emotionally and psychologically. I wonder about the family members of those who didn’t survive. I wonder about the New York firefighter I interviewed who lost co-workers at ground zero, and who may have lost his own life but for being off that Tuesday. I wonder how those born on Sept. 11 celebrate their birthdays on this day so tied to terror. I wonder how long enemies will go tit for tat before the wars end.

Mostly, I wonder if I will ever feel safe flying again, or if I’ll continue to have the mind of a child and forever see that plane hitting the first building as if all buildings in the world were being struck by hijacked planes.

It’s been 10 years, and I’m still terrified.

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September 12, 2011 - Posted by | Random Brain Dumping | , ,

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