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9/11/2011

September 11, 2011

So much has happened since that day.

The next few days presented an emotional roller coaster. It was overwhelming to find out how many people cared - my family, friends, and many people I didn’t even know. I felt so much love and support. I was grateful to be alive, to get another chance at life. I also felt a lot of guilt, watching news reports of those who lost their lives - the people who, like me, had to be there because of their job or some daily obligation, but didn’t make it; but most specially, the selfless individuals - the firemen, the police, and other public servants - who made the ultimate sacrifice to help people like me get out of that harrowing situation. I felt guilty that I survived and they didn’t. I cried when pictures of the rescue workers were shown in the news; I felt grief, guilt, and gratefulness, all at the same time.

My client (I was a consultant) called me back to work about two weeks after. On my first day back, I requested to end my assignment as I wanted to find a job that is much closer to home, as this experience had caused me to reevaluate my priorities. My manager convinced me to stay and see if I can make my decision later when things calm down. I agreed. It was good to find out that the company had taken steps to help everyone slowly get back to normal - they offered counseling, and there was even free catered lunch for a few weeks. I worked for the company for the next few months, until February the next year, but I don’t think I ever got back to normal. For one thing, I always felt paranoid passing the trash cans in the subway; I imagined them to contain a “package” that was ready to cause me harm.

Time has helped heal the wounds of my 9/11 experience; and fortunately for me, the wounds are not very deep. I still have not gotten over the jumpy feeling I get when I hear a fire alarm; yes, hearing them even on fire drills makes me uneasy. I also still find it hard to watch a show about 9/11 (I would usually tune in only for a few seconds, if at all).

Indeed, 9/11 changed my life, but I am very lucky. Every year since, I have two days - a birthday, and a second birthday - to think about life and its meaning. No doubt, 9/11 has become a significant event in my life, but in the years that have passed, there have been, and hopefully will be, many other significant events --- the birth of a daughter, the birth of a son, the passing of a loved one.

I drove home this afternoon with a heavy heart as a ‘what-if’ thought crossed my mind --- What if I lost my life on 9/11? I imagined my wife raising our eldest daughter without me, going to parent-teacher conferences, planning birthdays, graduations, and other events, big and small, all by herself; and there would be no younger daughter to light up the room with her smile and sweet innocence; and there would be no son, animated as can be, to liven up every family situation. I am really, really blessed that the ‘what-if’ is not a ‘what-is’.

I can still remember most of 9/11 like it just happened. I always feel infinitely grateful whenever I reflect upon my experience. I also feel deep sadness for the people who died and the loved ones they left behind. I know that 9/11 is a very meaningful day for many of us, and for our country as a whole. I am hopeful that each day that passes helps us move on, that our 9/11 wounds turn into scars, sooner than later.


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