On September 11, 2001, I was in Private Practice, interacting primarily with clients having disabilities severe enough to have them placed in Group Homes. I had the Today Show on in the background as I was working on billing and Medicare forms. Katie Couric announced a plane flew into one of the towers. I went to the TV in shock, and when I saw the building on fire, I called my friend Michele. It was early in the morning so she wasn’t her most pleasant self. I told her what happened.
Michele: Yeah, okay.
Me: Did you understand me?
Michele: Yes, a plane flew into one of the World Trade Center Towers. What do you want me to do about this, Shelly?
Me: Well, I… I just can’t believe it!
Michele: It’s awful. Okay. Now I have to get to work…
I hung up, thinking I was overreacting. If Michele didn’t think it was a big deal, I needed to calm down. Okay. Then, the other tower was hit, indicating we were being attacked! I called Michele back. She evidently saw my name on caller ID.
Michele: Yeeeeesssss, Shelly? (with sounds of irritation).
Me: THE SECOND TOWER WAS JUST HIT! IT IS INTENTIONAL!!
Michele: Look, I have bigger problems in my life. I am sorry you are upset, but there is nothing I can do about what is happening in New York…
So I hung up, and told myself this wasn’t a big deal. If it was, Michele would be reacting as I was. But it felt like a big deal. Childhood experiences have taught me not to trust my feelings, not to listen to my intuition, so I went about my day as if it was no big deal.
Later that day, I called another friend, Stacy. Now Stacy was freaking out! What if they hit Disney? Of course, they are going to bomb Orlando because so many people are here! I can’t stop watching the news!!! I’m afraid to leave the house!
Now THAT was more like it. I felt reassured with my feelings about the events.
Perspectives were different because life experiences were different. The day before, Michele had found out she was pregnant, which was completely unplanned. She was so much in shock, I had to go with her to buy THREE pregnancy tests as she refused to believe the first two. Michele was going through her own trauma and could not be concerned about anything else. Now, I call her once a year – on September 11th – to tease her about that day and we both crack up laughing as we reflect.
Life is like that. What matters to you may not matter to others, and vice versa. Mental illness stems from experiences, lack of coping strategies, PTSD, etc. The tiniest thing may upset me for a very good reason, yet other people may become confused and defensive at my reaction.
Forgive me for making this post about me. It should be in tribute to the people who were involved in 9-11. Then again, I guess in a way, it is.
God bless America!