It’s been eighteen years since the world was changed on that fateful September day.
I remember, like a lot of people, exactly where I was when I heard the news that international terrorism had hit the shores of NorthAmerica. I remember turning on the television minutes before the news showed the second plane hitting the second tower live. I remember thinking that the world would never be the same.
For me, it hasn’t.
Despite the attack happening in a foreign country, the loss of life pushed me further into my career in EMS. I felt a sense of guilt that I wasn’t able to help down at ground zero, but reality, logic, and reason did triumph as I watched from afar as I settled into my new career.
The terror attacks have never completely let go of their grip over me, though. I pushed myself hard, I trained hard, so that if ever put in that situation I could help to the best of my ability. I set unrealistic and lofty targets for myself because I felt that I had to be the best.
Something I haven’t admitted to many people is that watching the planes hit the towers on 9/11 cut me to my core. Knowing that I had just witnessed however many lives instantly snubbed out live on television deeply unsettled me. Over the weeks and months that followed and the non-stop coverage, my depression took hold, and as driven as I was to succeed in my chosen profession, inside I began to question everything in my life. I questioned my relationships. My career aspirations, my abilities. I questioned everything.
On my exterior I showed a level of bravado and arrogance that did not suit me, on the inside I was fragile, frail, and wanting to cry out for help. I was described as intense.
In time, I sought treatment. I got my emotions in check. I furthered my training, and managed a career in EMS, a career that was unfortunately cut short due to the onset of post traumatic stress. Car accidents. Natural deaths. Murders. The bodies piled up around me, always in the fall.
The helpless feelings returned. The feeling that the world wasn’t a safe place returned with it.
I struggled, even attempting suicide multiple times.
Eighteen years later, I’m finished with my emergency services career. I am on the mend., I’m no longer the broken mess I was when I left the field, but what hasn’t changed is my fear of the world. The fear that something bad is around the corner. Even that feeling is not as consuming as it was, but it is still there.
I wonder though, would I still have been the same mess, would I still have lived the same life if it weren’t for witnessing the events on that tragic day eighteen years ago? Would I have been just as damaged when I left EMS in 2013, or would I have found other ways to damage myself? Or, was I already damaged, and that fateful day opened the wound not unlike picking at scab, unearthing the raw nerves beneath?
I have learned lot’s about myself over the last six years, but I still have questions that I don’t have answers for.
As calm and cool as I am today, as much as I’ve turned myself around, there are parts of me that still struggle with what I have seen. There are images seared in my mind that I will never forget.
Sadly, 9/11 wasn’t my first brush with death, but it was definitely the most memorable, after all, how often does wholesale murder get broadcast live on television?