It’s been nearly twenty years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It simultaneously feels like it happened just a few months ago, if not a lifetime ago. I can still feel the fear, anxiety, sadness, anger, and exhaustion from the incident and the long response.
I spent most of the response in the NY State EOC in Albany. Although disconnected by distance, it was still a traumatic and impactful event for the people there. Everyone has their own personal story of 9/11. I won’t bore you with mine.
With this 20th anniversary, there are a lot of panels, documentaries, and writeups about the attacks, the impacts, the people, the response, and the recovery efforts. For those of you who weren’t yet working in emergency management at the time, or perhaps were even too young to recall much of it, I urge you, if you can, to consider checking out some of the fact-based materials new and old. Among those, I suggest reading the report from the 9/11 Commission. There were an abundance of lessons learned, many of which we have applied, some of which have been unfortunately left to the wayside. Lessons learned from the 9/11 attacks were the catalyst for some significant changes in emergency management, including a newfound and sometimes awkward partnership with homeland security, a concept rarely heard of before then.
I urge everyone to be respectful of those who lived through the event – survivor, responder, or civilian. While some like to tell war stories, others prefer to maintain some emotional distance. A few years ago I stopped attending 9/11 memorials. I’ve come to feel rather overwhelmed by them. I still honor those lost with my own remembrances and in my own way. Do whatever feels appropriate to you: Attend a memorial. Volunteer. Donate blood. Make a charitable donation. Thank a responder.
If you feel a lot of distress on this anniversary, please talk to a friend, family member, or a therapist, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 (this link provides numbers for suicide prevention hotlines in other nations around the world). If you know anyone who struggles with their emotions from 9/11, please do check in on them over the next few days. It can make a world of difference to them, and it may even save their life.