Tuesday, September 12, 2006

...eerie calm...

I recently found the MySpace profile of Craig, a 35 year old NYC police officer, who, now prematurely retired, was evacuating the Subway beneath the WTC as the South Tower collapsed above him. He is now retired due to continuing PTSD, and potentially dying from Pulmonary Fibrosis brought on by breathing the air from Ground Zero, as he immediately returned to work to aid the rescue operation. The EPA told them it was “safe” to breathe.

Here is an extract from his account. At this point Craig had, with four other officers had evacuated the Subway station beneath the WTC…

“We all met in front of the token booth, and reported the station clear. We were told to stand by, and that more units were coming. So, nervously, we waited, in the momentary eerie calm.

It is impossible to describe the noise that we heard next. It was deafening. The concourse mall doors, rumbled, then exploded open towards us, and a wind hit me so hard that I actually had to hold onto one of the blue I-beams supporting the station ceiling. Then, as quickly as it started, the saloon style mall doors swung closed. Stunned, I looked to the cop next to me, and began to say, "What the fuck wa..", but never finished my sentence. The mall doors imploded this time, and a stronger wind pulled me off my feet, and sucked me towards the concourse. I skipped like a stone off the white tile floor, through the doors, rolled up two short flights of steps, and came to rest, as I smashed into a cookie stores facade. Everything went black, and I thought about not calling my mother back, as I slipped into unconsciousness.

I don't know how long I was unconscious. When I awoke, I couldn't see, or breathe. I choked, and spat out powdered dry wall, and god only knows what else. I reached for my flashlight, and winced in shock at the pain that shot down the right side of my chest. I checked myself to see if I was bleeding. Satisfied that I wasn't, I clicked the flashlight on. The only bright spot it could create, was directly in front of the beam. The flashlight was completely useless, from all the choking dust in the air. It was pitch black, even with the light, and I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. I shakily rose to my feet, and tried to get my bearings. However, I had no idea where I was. I felt heat to my left, and knew not to go that way. I thought about what had happened, but the last memory I had was being pulled off of my feet, in the direction of the concourse doors. So, I put my right hand on the wall, and started forward. There was so much debris that I tripped over and over again. I could barely keep upright. I felt a stack of newspapers, and knew I was in the newsstand just upstairs from the train station, in the mall entrance. I continued forward, with my right hand on the wall, and blindly staggered through the newsstand's candy and magazines. I finally came to the edge of a tiled wall, and felt my way down the stairs, and back into the subway station. I was wracked by a coughing fit, and wanted water to clear my mouth and nose, as I saw a small beam of light pierce the dust in the air. Coughing, I headed for it. The light was coming from the subway entrance. I climbed the stairs, and in horror, looked at a scene that reminded me of photos of London, during the blitz, in World War II.”

Tour Change - A 9/11 survivor’s story, Craig 9/11.


He goes on to discuss his disabling PTSD, something I know all too well, something which happens when your normal life becomes momentarily horrifically bizarre. That moment won’t fit with the rest of your life, no matter how much you try to force it, and it is literally enough to make you mad. We exchanged messages of encouragement and understanding; I found that largely our emotions are almost identical. I am still in counselling, and would love to say I am doing great, I was, but I feel like I’m going backwards. Yesterday, Monday the 11th, was particularly bad.

On Sunday evening I couldn’t sleep properly. I just felt really uneasy, turns out most of KCU felt the same, and it seems to be some sort of “shared anniversary” symptom. As if 9/11 and 7/7 were chapters in the same book.

This lack of sleep probably contributed to me having an accident at work, I dropped something on my foot and thought I had crushed my toe. So I spent the 11th in A&E at the Royal Liverpool Hospital. I hadn’t broken anything, just the nail at the base. When I got in the back to see the doctor I got the worst flashbacks I have ever experienced, I thought I was going to vomit. Of course, the last time I was in A&E was the 7th last year at Royal London, and the signifiers of hospital, and my own blood, had triggered me to recall much from my visit to hospital last year which I thought I had forgotten.

I am sure none of us will ever really forget.