As we approach the 10 –year anniversary of the September 9-11 attacks, many of us will be struggling with unwanted and uncomfortable feelings.What we need to remember is that this is normal.
Just today as I was checking my email inbox, I found a good article on Anniversary Reactions, from the National Center for PTSD. Here are some highlights:
Why do people have anniversary reactions?
- The anniversary date itself may trigger a memory. For example, in a case such as the September11th,2001, attacks, the date serves as a strong reminder
- Anniversary reactions may occur because of the way a traumatic experience is saved in memory.
- Memories of trauma contain information about the danger that the trauma involved.
- The trauma memory gives information that may help us stay safe.
As I read the article, I was taken back to my own memory of 9-11. I was taking a Global History class in college at the time. That evening we were scheduled to take our mid-term exam.
In the morning, I was relaxing in front of the tv, drinking my morning up of coffee when the news flash came across the screen and wathced theTwin Towers fall. At first, I thought it was some kind of cruel joke.
But as it slowly began to sink in, that this was real and horrendous, I felt myself “zoning out.” I suppose I was going into a mild state of shock.
For some reason, my mind slipped back to the mid- sixties, when my Marine boyfriend was stationed at Da Nang, Vietnam. I had a flashback of watching the nightly news; seeing helicopters rescuing downed and wounded Marines. I’d watch anxiously, searching for his face. Other nights, when my nerves couldn’t handle it, I’d leave the room when the news came on.
The rest of the afternoon I just felt numb, and realized I was in no shape to drive to the campus, much less have my wits about me enough to take an exam. Plus, I felt sure, in light of the events of the day, class would be cancelled.
I did decide to call my professor. I was shocked (again) when he informed me that there would be class, as planned.
Looking back at all this, I think it shows the many different ways that people handle trauma. Many students showed up the night of 9-11 to take the exam. I just couldn’t handle being one of them.
I believe my previous experiences with traumatic events compounded my distress upon learning about the attacks on our country and fellow citizens. For I’d personally known the heartache and terror of having a loved one in a war zone.
I also knew that our war didn’t really end when my boyfriend came home.
PTSD has a long shelf life.
To read the whole article on PTSD and Anniversary Reactions, go to: