Monday, September 10, 2012

Stupid calendar

So I was fine. Being out of work I had lost track of time and the calendar. It wasn't until September 8th that I realized just how close to September 11th it was. It snuck up on me so quickly that I didn't have time to let any anxiety build and get me down. I think everyone knows my association to the event. Even after 11 years it's still quite hard for me at times. So much so, that a friend of mine who is named Thomas, the same as my late uncle, is also a firefighter and each year he changes his profile picture on Facebook to that of my uncle. It is so jarring to see my uncle's face paired with the same first name, that my friend lets me know ahead of time. Part of it is the loss of my FDNY uncle, but the rest are me own demons from surviving that day - barely at times. The loss hurts, but I could live with that. It's the fact that I am the only World Trade Center survivor walking around down here that gets to me and really hurts. It's a struggle to see those images and snippets in my memory. Moreover, it is the sounds that I'll never forget. 110 stories of crumbling, twisting, burning steel makes a noise you don't easily forget. If you're new to me or the blog and you don't know the story there are many blogs here about it

List of 9/11 related blogs:

  1. It's September and time to remember
  2. Anniversary Anxiety
  3. September Blues
  4. 10 is just a number like 9
  5. 10 years later I'm changed

Once a couple of people reminded me by asking how I was feeling, it started to set in a little bit. But still I was ok overall. It is now the day before and I was going on about my business without much worry. I had some paperwork items to accomplish at work that were time sensitive and, consequently, had my attention. On the way out I grabbed a navy blue t-shirt. Given how few shirts of that color I have and the amount of FDNY t-shirts I have, the odds are that if it's that color it has an FDNY reference on it. Sure enough it did. Again, I thought nothing of it.

Next thing I know, I'm on a common office at work, discussing some paperwork and convalescent leave items with a boss. As luck would have it, someone I know VERY well and was once incredibly close with comes over to shake my hand and say hello. I said hello back and continued my conversation. When it was over he came back. Remember... it's September 10th, I'm wearing an FDNY T-shirt. Ok, got the image? What does this person say when he walks over for the second time? "Nice beard, you look like a terrorist!" and proceeds to look at someone else and say, "Doesn't he?" while waiting for a response from them.

Contrary to your expectations of my reaction, I just sat there in disbelief. I did not address it. I knew there was no middle ground. I could have either sat in silence like I did or I would have gone off the deep end and ended up in tears. I also do not think there was any malicious intent. This person just thought he was real fucking funny and didn't have the situational awareness, social ability or plain common sense to think about his words before they flew out of his mouth. If he was dumb enough to not know how offensive that was, he doesn't deserve my attention, even to correct him.

Unfortunately that comment brought the levees to max capacity. When I got home and told a friend and my girlfriend about it I felt the swells beginning to overtop them. Then I sat down to tell everyone about my progress this year and that was it. That did the trick. Recounting the story to my readers is just more than I could bear. It has come around in full swing and I now dread tomorrow.

Facebook doesn't make it easier either. While I appreciate how many people want to keep the memory and patriotism alive, the barrage of "so and so updated their profile picture" updates in my newsfeed to see pictures of the firefighters raising the American flag at ground zero or the beams of light or the buildings themselves only brings the horror to the forefront of my memory. The TV footage of that day and the commemoration at Ground Zero with the reading of the names is a brutal assault on my emotions. I can never fully recover from it, but I get a little closer to having a scar instead of a live wound each year. I just wish the anniversary didn't rip off the scab every September and I could complete my process. Maybe once I'm home with family I can take the final steps of grief and come to a terminus in my healing.

I don't know. Clearly, this isn't my year though.

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