102 Minutes of Helplessness

What shocked was how rapidly the attacks unfolded, the coordination with which they were carried out, and how America and the world changed in less time than it takes to watch a movie.


As Mike & I watched the news coverage that day and the days that followed, a feeling of helplessness settled over us.  We are both first responders in our own right.  I am trained in Critical Stress Management & Debriefings, plus my early career centered on triage work.  I was often the first response after the paramedics or police had stabilized a situation and brought someone into an Emergency Room.  Mike, as a first responder and graduate level social worker, knew he too had a lot of skills to offer.  Our hearts kept pulling us towards NYC.  We wanted to jump in our car and “just go” and drive to a scene of destruction to lend a hand.  But we also knew we were needed at home, at our jobs, to serve our own communities that were feeling every bit as helpless, not to mention terrified, of what this new world meant for them and their country. 

You remember the days, weeks, and months following 9/11; how emotional equilibrium was off for so many people, how anxiety translated into increased (and increasingly peculiar) calls for service, and even how peoples’ appreciation of law enforcement went up.  Things changed.  How we understood the world, America’s role in it, and our perceived security, as a nation and as individuals, all changed. 

It took just 102 minutes – less time than it takes to watch most feature films, really – to shatter the worlds of the families and friends of 2,977 innocent people, to undermine the sense of safety of a great city and a great nation, and to rewrite the longstanding rules we’d all been living under.  It took just 102 minutes to transform the political, economic, and social landscape of our country and the world.

Helplessness eventually gave way to renewed purpose.  Shock fell away to anger, and then focus.  Fear yielded to faith.  Service is what we do, and it was all we could do in the face of those 102 minutes.

 

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