One of the things I’m learning working at Polaris Project is that everyone processes trauma irrationally. One of the signs that someone is processing trauma is that they stick on funny bits of their experience. I think I am, and to some extent we all are, still processing 9/11. There’s still funny bits which stick out to me:
- Hearing Polynesia from Doctor Dolittle‘s voice telling me “I believe it twas a Tuesday” over and over as I tried to deal with so much hurt coming into my living room through our swiftly re-connected TV screen. It was a Tuesday, but that hardly mattered.
- Breaking the antenna of my boombox as I ran it down the hall from my room so we could listen to NPR, before we got the TV re-connected.
- Shaking my head and clenching my fists as I had no idea what I was supposed to be feeling.
- Someone on the news saying something about a search for “Arab-looking people” on the streets of New York; the feeling that those people were being detained. (I’ve had a lot of people tell me that this could not have happened and did not happen and would not have happened, and maybe it’s a flutter of my upset mind. But I remember it.)
- Anger at my President for taking death and turning it into grandstanding, pulling out a bullhorn and a pose when all I wanted was an assurance of peace soon.
I share some of the same glitchy, horror memories as many other Americans and people around the world. Images of planes crashing; of flames; of the tower falling, and then the other one; specs that were too small to be people falling, but which were people, jumping; smoke and screaming and chaos and so much fear.
I don’t know how people who live with daily terrorism monitor their capacity for fear and horror. I imagine much the same way we in America meter out our horror at gun deaths and teen suicides and, yes, human trafficking. But I don’t know. There’s something so back-of-the-spine-crunching awful about anonymized mass killings. There’s something so focused on removing the human.
It hurts to think of 9/11, today, 11 years later.
It hurts, thinking of the women and men who died. Who died later in our wars. Who will die, here or abroad, this year, or next, in the same flames and fire and guilt.
It hurts and I haven’t dealt with it. I don’t think I should.
“Harper: In your experience of the world. How do people change?
“Mormon Mother: Well it has something to do with God so it’s not very nice. God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can’t even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn. It’s up to you to do the stitching.
“Harper: And then get up. And walk around.
“Mormon Mother: Just mangled guts pretending.”–Angels in America, Tony Kushner