Silence

Cambodia 440

“Doc, I don’t want to check my blood sugars. It hurts too much.”

Airplanes just hit the twin towers. I need to tell my mother to make my father stay home from work today. He is supposed to be in a federal sky scraper. What if there are more targets? Wait. I hate the man. Why am I caring? Do I care? Yes. But I don’t want to care….

“It hurts too much? You are on insulin. You have been hospitalized for diabetic ketoacidosis twice so far this year. If you DON’T check your blood sugar you are going to end up back in ICU. Maybe dead. That is really gonna hurt…”

The towers are burning. Collapsing. All of those people hurting, in pain. And YOU think it is too much of a burden to do a tiny finger prick every day?!?! I want to scream at you.

“This stuffy nose started yesterday. Make it go away.”

Is the red phone in the ER?

“But I can’t make it just go away. It is a viral infection. Your body will have to do that. You are just going to have to treat the symptoms as best you can and let it run its course.”

A stuffy nose? That’s it?!??! Since yesterday? Have you seen what is happening? I want YOU to go away! I need to make phone calls, check on people that I love. I need to cry, to grieve. But there is no time right now…

“Doc, my knee has been bothering me for two years…”

“Two years? Why today? Why is today the day to have it fixed?” 

What is knee pain in the greater scope? It isn’t your fault you came in today, you could not have known when you made this appointment, but still I am angry. I want to be angry with someone. You. You are here. You have a face, a body I can touch. You are real. 

The world shifted then stood still, silent for a fraction of a second, then unfairly continued on.

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58 thoughts on “Silence

  1. Its incredible to think life just goes on when your world has shifted on its axis, does it get easier NO, do you get over it NO, you just learn to live with it,even if you are never the same person again. My thoughts are with everyone who needs a guiding light today x

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I was working in a UK Operations Centre for an American Bank at the time. Everything stopped, and everyone crowded into the social room to watch the TV coverage. No-one said a word. We were all too stunned.
    My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who died 14 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was the first person at WHO to learn the news (via an email from a friend). The whole department crowded around a snowy TV set, barking out the story in French, where the announcers were saying “milles probablement mort” when the towers collapsed — mille being thousand. I thought they were saying millions…

    The first person to say “Elyse, I’m so sorry for what happened to your country,” with tears in her eyes, was Iranian.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Great post. I remember going down to ground zero a few days after it happened. I kept in watching it in TV but didn’t believe it. I had to see it and when I did I still didn’t believe it. I’ve never heard New York City so quiet. People walking around in a daze. Pictures of loved ones hanging everywhere. And then being there surrounded by dust and ash. Crushed vehicles. Firefighters and rescuers still doing their jobs.
    And you’re right, life unfairly went on.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I happened to be in our lunch room (in Ottawa) which had a big screen that stayed on the news, when it happened. I shiver went up my spine and I knew in that moment that the world had changed. I was doing a business course at the time and there were many international students and locals who had ties to those in the World Trade Towers. We had a class the next day and the young Chinese woman (who worked in securities) who sat next to me was very upset. She had a young family in the US and could not fathom the grief of thousands of people dying in one place at one time. She asked me how one processes that kind of grief when even one person dying is overwhelming (I got the impression she had had a recent loss in the family). I just told her that I grieved as much as I could and let the rest pass through to be handled by my faith.

    It would have hit you even harder than us (they were obviously American citizens) – although you guys just happened to be the target – the whole world is the enemy of the terrorists and we stand with you against them. If you would like to borrow our tank or our plane, you are welcome any time. 🙂

    There have been a lot of studies on mass grief and anger Victo (which I am sure you know) and your response of heightened anxiety is perfectly normal. Your response was appropriate and healthy. In general, I trust my gut as I am usually fair and even handed. That said, I do know that in extreme situations my reactions are not trustworthy – or at least they don’t represent what I feel would be fair under any other situation. So, I go by the “rules” our folks and contemporaries and mentors have drummed into us as social constructs – don’t criticize, don’t express any opinions until you have stopped and considered not only your logic but the impact your remarks will have on others, and it is better to say nothing than say the wrong thing. I call it “hunkering down” and it feels like retreating behind an emotional sand bag wall (temporarily) with a helmet on to be safe from flying shrapnel (i.e. the lashing out of others in moments of stress). That is not a healthy emotional place to spend the long term but is a necessary safe zone for me in times of stress. When I can, I come back out and rejoin humanity by trusting my gut again – it really is an amazing judge but can be overly sensitive by times.

    Thanks for the post Victo – it is an important one.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have been reluctant to write about it because it am ashamed that I had those feelings about people but I am not special and if I felt them I am certain hundreds of thousands of other people also did. In the end it was not about me, it was about them, and I was able to hold myself in check fairly well even if all I really wanted to do was run and hide away.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You know, that’s a frame that I often use in times of shared grief and stress Victo – trying to see it through the eyes of others. I find it is very useful and real and helpful and informative. It changes my perception. In 1998 we had a massive ice storm here that lasted for days and the effects lasted months. At the time I was the transportation manager for a large retailer who carried the household goods needed for people to get through – like blankets, batteries, flashlights, food, kerosene (for lamps). It affected our whole area of operation and in some small towns we were the only store in town. Our stores had emergency procedures to remain open – alternate lighting, manual options of cash intake, etc. This storm killed very, very many and cause millions to lose power – in some cases destroying power grids that took months to repair. Many roads were closed and the few that were open were often closed temporarily when trees or power lines fell. And it was my job to get the merchandise needed into the warehouse and then out to our 100 stores. It was the hardest most thankless job I have ever done and I worked 24/7 for two weeks, sleeping at my desk and showering in the employee facilities. And every time I started to feel sorry for my self, I just thought about the 100’s of thousands out there without heat or food or access to supplies and it changed my attitude 180 degrees.

        That’s a very small occurrence compared to 9/11 and i use it just as an example of the power of positive thinking. You did good Victo – people cling to the normalcy of their lives, the people they trust and authority figures- such as their doctors- when times are tough . That puts an extra burden on you when you are dealing with your own emotions simultaneously and yet it does not mean you get to escape the shared angst – you just have to deal with it and calm others, an even greater burden. And I am sure you did that well. Please don’t chastise yourself for feeling angry – it just means you are human like us and that, in the long run, makes you a better doctor.

        Liked by 3 people

  6. Its it true that events like this will be remembered for the moment when it happened for the rest of your life. I remember when JFK got shot….third grade talking to my crying teacher. When 9/11 happened, I was the teacher, with a packed room of people and kids all crammed around the studio monitors we had connected to cable to watch the happenings. I had to be cool and calm…but lost it somewhere in the afternoon in the private teachers office. I cried for my cousin who lived in NYC and I could not get a hold of. I cried for my then husband who was special forces on the police department and I knew he would get called in. And I cried for the kids in my classroom, who had no sense of the reality of what was happening. They were so blasé because they had seen so much violence in movies and games. They only wanted to turn it off or find a different channel. They had No idea what it was all about, no desire to understand.
    This day changed my life forever. It was the catalyst to the end of a crappy marriage. It forced me to learn to survive. And it taught me how precious our lives and freedom is and how easily it can all be taken away. I reconnected with my cousin who was not harmed but was very close to it all. And to this day I mourn for all the helpless victims who for no reason of their own doing, died in a inferno. I still feel the helplessness and not even sure what word to use to describe the horror that I THINK they must have gone threw.
    How did we ever move past this? See what I wrote about the kids….so many people are numb to life.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. There is very little to say about this day. My condolences regardless.

    All I know is that people died and the world changed. Tensions in the Middle-East and armed interventions resulted in a response that slipped through the cracks. It seems Western politicians still have not learnt from history as the aftermath of a war still lingers.

    Peace thus the absence of war depends. The Middle-East is facing new violence.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That morning I was having my glucose test during my first pregnancy. I was at a major medical center, and it was all anyone could talk about. What did it mean? Most of us had heard the news on the radio or via word of mouth. I heard about the second plane hitting the tower as I parked my car. I had to wait for the timed test, and I was invited to watch TV in the lounge. I will never forget being there, watching the towers fall. I was so cold. Maybe your patients just didn’t want to be alone. I sympathize that you felt the day was surreal and horrible. I think we all did.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I remember shopping with a friend on September 11th. Being blind I couldn’t see the television screen, however he told me how the twin towers collapsed as he watched the TV screen in a shop window. We both thought it was a film but soon came to know it was all to real. Kevin

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I was in Scotland with the news on mute writing a research paper for a grant from the Scottish government when I saw footage of the plane going into the first tower. Living with terrorism for much longer in Europe I knew immediately what it was and called everyone to turn on the news. Right now we are having a humanitarian problem of epic proportions are we are still talking about Donald or Hillary’s soundbites. The world has always had awful moments in history of barbarism and war but we didn’t know about it immediately. I loved hearing your perspective of this.

    Liked by 1 person

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  13. Life goes on, We might like to stop time for just a moment and grieve, hold on to the moment and have time to adjust to a new reality, time to examine what we feel and what this means. We are still trying to figure out when it will stop. It just never stops hurting, and we don’t know what to do about it. I went home by myself, blocked out the world, and cried alone. That was no good either. The reality is nothing helps and we all share the same hurt.

    Liked by 1 person

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