The drive to any crime scene is one filled with endless scenarios cascading across a responders mind. It is the practice of the well-trained law enforcement professional.

The who, the what, the when, the where and most assuredly the why. All of these questions filter through the responder’s mind, sequentially, in pursuit of the call.

This kaleidoscope of self-imposed interrogatories is the preceding mindset to any incident. These thoughts portray themselves. Cry out for the appropriate conclusion prior to the arrival on scene. In the time it takes to move from point A to the final destination, a practiced mechanism begins and the silence does fall.

The event with its story, the people, the place and the timing – all merge together in the responder’s mind. The conclusions yet drawn under the practice of it all.

But, what happens to the responder once the investigation is complete? Especially, when the event is of such magnitude like that of 9-11.

In the days following the atrocities of that blue – skied September day, each of us has heard the stories of the fallen heroes who answered their call. The all too many police officers, firefighters, emergency service personnel and the innumerable victims who fell prey to the senseless act of terrorism.

We have listened with heaving hearts and tears in our eyes to the surviving family members as they shared personal insights of their loved ones who perished at the three sites of despair. We have been attentive to those public figures whose rhetoric mirrored our own thoughts following the horrific events and in the times of post recovery.

But, we have seldom heard the stories of those responders who survived. Those who arrived at each of the sites and served in the name of their fellow man.

In the initial moments, these brave men and women tried to rescue those fallen. And, in the prevailing days, weeks and months that came, they worked to recover the fallen with great care and in locating the all important pieces of evidence as well.

Yet, what to the men and women who served and answered the call? Or, of all the thousands who responded and worked in the best interest of us all? What of those who counseled the inconsolable. Or, those who prayed and gave the comfort to the grieving and dying?

Are they ill? Are their minds flooded with tainted memories? Did they leave a piece of themselves on the hallowed grounds of destruction.

For me, there was no significant debriefing to aid or make sense of the scene, or reveal what lay hidden from one and from all. The silence crept in and overcame my entire being. As time passed, the recollections became so congested I could not sift through them all.

So, this blog poses a few questions to those who served on that fateful September day.

Who are you?

Where are you?

And, most importantly, how are you?

Do you suffer any lasting effects?

Do you experience flashbacks?

Are your dreams still haunted by stilled pictures?

If you read this, please share. For, I know I do not stand alone in my sorrow and pain. Which sometimes, still rains down on me in muted refrain.

So, I seek the counsel of others who were affected from their time of response. I ask for the opportunity to listen and hear the words of others who understand all to well. Because my emotions not yet professed, still lie unresolved deep inside of me and remain as part of the silent response.

All continue to overwhelm me. And hinder my recovery. Both then…and yet now.


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Allowing Yourself to Claim the Memory

In the past few days, I have been reading Julia Cameron’s book entitled, “The Vein of Gold.” The book details the importance of opening one’s heart and provides many introspective exercises to help with self analyzing.
In reading the beginning chapters of the book, its message truly resonated with me. As I read some particular words penned, I felt a strange new sensation take hold of me. Especially, when I came across the following words,

Allow yourself to claim the memory at the same level it claims you.

These words pierced my heart and traveled to my mind to process them. Within a brief moment, I began to comprehend their full meaning. And, I found myself overwrought with great emotion and began to cry uncontrollably. It was then and only then a sense of understanding had come to play and I became cognizant as to why I had not been able to recover from the effects of the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Allow yourself to claim the memory. I pondered wasn’t that what I had been doing. Or, was it, I thought. I knew I was allowing myself to remember, but I now believed only to a certain extent. I felt as if I kept running from the emotions of the precise moment of the actual trauma. Despite, the past two years of extensive therapy, I had still not allowed myself permission to heal. And, the following questions raced through my mind like a thoroughbred on its way to winning the Triple Crown. They flowed in rapid succession across the racetrack of my mind.

Was it because I was so traumatized? Was it because I felt helpless? Was it because I had done nothing to help prevent the travesties of 9-11? Was it because I felt some sense of guilt? Or, was it that I had not allowed myself the necessary compassion to claim the memory at the same agonizing level that it had claimed me. All of these questions came charging at me. And, I instinctively knew that somewhere in the midst of all these questions lay the key to my healing.

Yes, I had the painful memories. Each day they popped up and I was reminded of some detail that remained in the present, but belonged in the past. Yes, I had the flashbacks. These glimpses of the traumatic event arose unannounced from the depths of my mind and all too often in the most inopportune moments. It appeared the memories seemed to be prompted by props and events with similarities reminiscent of my days at the Flight 93 crash site. And, I had the aching body as well. The chronic pain was a constant reminder of my illness and my inability to recover from the throws of the anxiety.

In the first brief moments of consideration of these words, I realized I was indeed claiming the memory, but my mind had found no reprieve. For, I was still claiming these impressions at a level of fear and not allowing myself to claim it as a part of my past and not as that of my present.

In claiming the memory of my past, I had perpetuated it for posterity. I had forgotten to allow my mind to fully understand there was no longer a need to be afraid. All of the threats were gone. Although the sights, the sounds and smells of 9-11 had long been left behind, they were still stored in my minds eye and relived on a constant basis. Now, I knew if I was to recover, I had to allow myself permission to walk back through the space of time and relive EACH and EVERY tiny detail of the events and reclaim it in a different way. It was necessary to recognize them as a part of me and not just some memory that haunts me with each recollection.

If I am to heal, I needed to sense it. I needed to breath it. And, I needed to view it in every gory detail both large and small. If I am to move forward on this path of healing, I must allow the memory to permeate my mind and feel the negative response of it all. I have to quit holding it as if I am trying to control the events and the everlasting effects. I must allow the emotions to surface and remove themselves with their fearful reactions of 2001. In doing so, all may dissipate. The memories may travel from my past into my present in hopes of a better future free from the hauntings of that fateful day and this illness known as PTSD.