Wednesday, September 11, 2013



BroodingCynyx Special Commentary

TAGS: September 11, 2013, September 11, 2001, World Trade Center WTC,

Twin Towers, Innocent Victims, Families of Victims, Survivors,


Coping with Grief and Anger, Kubler-Ross Model

(Wednesday September 11, 2013, Freedom Tower, WTC Plaza)  They usually meet once a month out on Long Island where they reside.  Today they made their way west on the Long Island Expressway and into Lower Manhattan for the memorial service held on this site. They were all acquainted with each other but their friendships have grown deeper and more sustaining over the last 12 years.  They were each happily married to a husband who worked for The City – FDNY, NYPD – or The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PAPD) and died here on September 11 001.  Suddenly, shockingly widowed they had little time to grieve sufficiently or to mourn their loss in such a way that they might have reached some acceptance.  But, there were children to raise and nurture, bills to pay, obligations to be met, as well as the hundreds of simple commonplace items and errands parents today must juggle.

Some of these women marked the passing of time not only by this particular date but in the faces of their children many of whom were little more than toddlers 12 years ago.  Amongst themselves their share stories of the post 9-11-01 lives they’ve lead and how they have managed challenges large and small.  It is only after they’ve shared what they had to that they began sharing what they perhaps need to: anger.  They express a feverish anger that has not been squelched with time.

Not many of those directly affected by the tragic events of 12 years ago today speak about their anger but, let there be no mistake, it is present, absolutely present and profoundly potent.  Everyone who lost a spouse, parent, child, lover, cousin, or close friend has the right to be angry just as do those who survived the horrors of that day.  But the anger so many feel is not for public consumption.  The deaths of their loved ones were as dramatically spectacular on live television as they were terrifyingly mind-numbing.  The dramas of that day played out around the globe in hi-def Technicolor.  This was a public event for all to witness aside from the disproportionally few who actually suffered a loss here. 

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Scattered throughout the NYC Metropolitan area are dozens of private clubs whose members are current or former Members of Service (MOS) of the FDNY, NYPD and PAPD.  Some of these establishments have been active for decades; still others are newer locations to visit with colleagues, drink a beer or two, shoot pool and play cards.  From the towns in Nassau County on Long Island up to Orange, Rockland and Westchester counties these private venues thrive since most MOS move as far from NYC as they can afford to.  So there is a large Cop and Fireman population on the periphery of The City. 

There is one club that has been in existence since the mid 1960’s when purchasing a small building in Westchester County was very affordable.  This was before the march of development yielded to suburbia.  This club’s members are all current or retired MOS of FDNY.  There is a nickel and dime poker game every afternoon, satellite TV perpetually tuned to sports, and a  pool table next to a small wet bar.  Some of the members have known each other since childhood; others met on the job.  All of the retired members have cheated death on more than one occasion.  Often their talk is about the health and medical issues they contend with today.  The common etiology for some of their most prominent ailments is the fact that they were Fire Fighters in NYC.  Typically the conversation around the card table and at the tiny bar is about doctors, medications, old injuries and new pains. But not today.

Today for these men is a sacred time where they pay honor to all those who were killed on this day 12 years ago and in particular for the Members of Service of FDNY who perished.  The FDNY is an extremely close-knit community and, active or retired these men regard each other with the deepest respect and call them brothers.  Perhaps it is the nature of urban firefighting, the 24 hour shifts, living, working, eating, and sleeping together in such close quarters as a New York City firehouse is for such long stretches at a time that creates the lifelong bond they share.  That bond was severely tested and tried when 343 MOS from FDNY were killed at the World Trade Center.  For a total force of 11,000 the loss of 343 was not only tragic it was an affront, an assault on their very Department.  There was not to be any card game today; the green felt on the pool table would see no action.    No, not much action there today but a great deal of fury and unabashed anger.

No one really speaks about the anger; whenever it becomes a topic of conversation it has a short life.  The anger is private just as is the grief and mourning although those two elements are better understood.  There was some facsimile of national anger in the days and weeks immediately following the terrorist attacks on our soil.  Often the anger was veiled by a cloak of ready patriotism.  In those days all the flag waving and incessant shouting of “USA…USA…USA” fed off our bumper sticker culture.  With the pseudo-arousal of this cheap brand of collective anger, the families who actually lost someone that day 12 years ago, demonstrated great restrain and resolve; they suffered their loss quietly even when as weeks ran by and they’d yet had any word that the remains of their loved one had been identified. 

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The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the City of New York (OCMENYC) still houses almost 22,000 “biologics”, a nice euphemism for human remains collected after the Twin Towers collapsed into that smoky smoldering man made hell.  Despite on again off again efforts by the OCME to identify these remains via sophisticated DNA analysis, hundreds of the deceased have yet to be positively identified.  The relatives of these unidentified souls are very angry.  They were not granted the opportunity to bury or cremate the remains of their loved ones and thus, although the word sounds too trite, too dismissive, they were not permitted “closure”.

The raw emotion of anger was initially overshadowed by the sheer magnitude of the event, the number of the deceased, as well as by shock, grief, and mourning.  A common sentiment in those last few months of 2001 was that there would be ample to for anger; that in some way the government that had failed us so egregiously, so monstrously, would avenge the losses.  The government did in fact make good on that until it dropped the ball once again and stood by allowing Osama bin Laden to slip into Pakistan after routing his fighters and the Taliban in a matter of weeks.  President Bush and Vice President Cheney along with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had shifted their focus towards waging a war of choice in Iraq.  This angered many across the country but in particular those in the NYC Metro area.  We had unfinished business in Afghanistan and sadly it remains unfinished 12 years on.

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In the late 1960’s the Swedish-American psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kulber-Ross identified what she called The Five Stages of Grief.  According to her clinical and theoretical work she saw patients and non-patients alike who had recently suffered a great loss with her focus on death.  What is now referred to as The Kubler-Ross Model, the five emotional stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  Just as the impact of those two fully fueled 747’s shook the fire resistant foam from the structural steel of the Twin Towers, the order of the Kubler-Ross model was rendered null and void for the survivors and the families of those who’d been killed.  The emotional stages were shuffled and, for families of the missing in the immediate aftermath of the collapse here there was a great deal of denial and bargaining.  Who among us can ever forget the makeshift bulletin boards all over Manhattan filled with the posted photographs of the missing. As 2001 ebbed away depression and acceptance fell upon the City like a heavy wet blanket.

The emotion of anger, placed second in the Kubler-Ross model, was present but simmering, not yet at a full boil.  It would boil over as we learned more and more of the details of how badly our government acted in its primary duty of protecting us from foreign entities.  All the details have been voluminously documented and with each new revelation the anger has intensified.

But what good is anger?  How does it help one to cope with the unimaginable?  Anger can be an insidious invader in our minds, a malignant force that grows unabated infecting us in ways we may not even be aware of.  In the case of those impacted most intimately by September 11, 2001, anger needs to have a voice; it must be vocalized and expelled.  Now is a good time for that.  Now, 12 years on it is all right, perhaps even therapeutic, to let it out in a manner that is not dangerous to one’s self or others. 

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Death no matter its manner or method is often a surprise.  The deaths on 9-11-01 were literally out of the blue; those innocent people were the victims of a menace few, if any, had ever heard of.  Seen as the first casualties of a new war was a hollow platitude.  There was no adequate way to describe the shock and horror especially if you were watching the death of a loved one on live TV.

There has been growing anger among the residents of the WTC neighborhood and those who worked in the recovery efforts.  Apparently the government, this time in the person of the Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Christine Todd Whitman, lied yet again when they proclaimed the air at The Site and surrounding environs was “safe” to breathe.  We have already seen more deaths from malignancies and complications from the toxins people were exposed to on that day and in the months thereafter.  Yes, there is plenty to be angry about, enough blame to go around but, as yet, no one who was in The Bush/Cheney Administration has stepped up, taken responsibility, or been held accountable.  The one effort launched to detail the attacks was the 9-11 Commission Report; a document so full of rubbish and so devoid of important facts that it can be easily dismissed as just another government waste of time, money, and paper.

In a very real sense 9-11-01 is still killing.  In addition to the host of respiratory and exotic malignancies claiming lives every month, there are untold numbers suffering from the silent torment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Suicide rates for retired MOS of FDNY, NYPD, and PAPD who served that dreadful day on this site increased every year after September 11 until tapering off somewhat in 2007.

Perhaps it is wrong to discuss such topics as these on this day.  Maybe some will find it in poor taste, disrespectful or cheap demagoguery.  That is of course the reader’s prerogative.  After 12 years it seemed more than appropriate to have this discussion on this day, particularly on THIS day.

Dealing with anger can be as cathartic and crying is for releasing grief and sorrow.  We just need to be ever mindful about who we are angry with.  The 19 men and their backers who perpetrated the atrocities were not representative of all Muslims just as Timothy McVeigh did not represented all disaffected, gun slinging, angry, young white American males. In our City we have a vibrant and proud Muslim community who reject the concept of Jihad as much as anyone. Our anger can be motivating, productive even, provided its energy is directed in a positive outlet.

Our City and region have moved on from that Tuesday morning 12 years ago but we have not forgotten.  We never will.  The grief we feel, the anger that fumes is ours and ours alone.  We must avoid complacency and not sacrifice security for expediency.

The magnificent tower that occupies a piece of the plot of ground that was the World Trade Center Plaza is a marvel of design, engineering, and construction.  It is a bold statement of pride and perseverance.  The museum below is an understated memorial for all the lives lost. 

Each of us carries our own private set of memories from that day; some we’ve shared, others we have chosen to keep private because to give them voice might somehow lessen their purity and sacred nature.  But let no one refrain from expressing their anger before it becomes too late.


Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2013 © All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, September 10, 2013



(Tuesday September 10, 2013, Wall Street NYC)  It has almost become a cliché to say that September 11, 2001 changed America.  Any changes the public may have endured rapidly came to be perceived as inconveniences.  Yes, we have seen changes in specific aspects of our lives such as the strict screening process that has become a fact of life for those who travel by air but largely life for the majority of Americans has simply gone on. Aside from the immediate survivors who escaped the burning Twin Towers and Pentagon and the families and friends of all those who perished, the members of our Armed Forces and their families have born the great brunt of change.

There are a host of tangential issues that have come to dominate political discourse each of which is touted as part of the government’s efforts to increase security.  In retrospect it is clearly evident that there would be some major enhancements to public safety and security after the perpetration of the attacks on our soil 12 years ago tomorrow. How could there not have been?  This far out from that day and the immediate legislative and military initiatives enacted by the Cheney-Bush Administration some of those measures have taken on a more sinister connotation than ever intended.  But that is beside the point today. Today, 12 years ago today, should be the point of reference by which to assess all that has subsequently transpired.

As it is on any given business day, these streets in Lower Manhattan are a bustle of frenetic activity.  This narrow network of blocks are home to such venerated financial institutions including the Federal Reserve Bank, the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ Stock Market  ("NASDAQ" originally stood for National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations), and the largest banks, brokerage and bond houses, insurers, underwriters, and all manner of associated enterprises. As much as Wall Street is an actual thoroughfare it has come to represent the American economic and financial center.  Thousands work in this crowded neighborhood arriving each morning from ferries, buses, and taxis, subways.  An almost large of a force work here in cafes’, lunch counters, restaurants, bars, sandwich shops, diners and street vendors feed the tens of thousands who work in this congested pocket of Manhattan.

Twelve years ago today this neighborhood was as bustling and busy as it ever is.  If there was a way to travel back in time and ask anyone in this neighborhood, anyone who worked in the World Trade Center plaza or the Twin Towers if they thought that this day would be their last; arguably very few might answer in the affirmative.  The undeniable specter of death is typically not in the forefront of the consciousness of people in good health employed in non-hazardous jobs.  Perhaps it is human nature or some inherent psychological immunity that permits us to live our daily lives not cowering in fear cognizant of the reality of our own death.  For the majority of us we do not recognize daily the existential posed by modern life and, when and if we do, it tends to be a fleeting moment of introspection usually triggered by the death of a loved one or someone we are close to.

There is a tenet in virtually every religion’s holy book extolling the believer to “Live each day as if it is your last”.  An inspiring sentiment, a noble goal but so easily unattainable given the amount of time and energy most of us consume pondering such an ambitious way of life.  We rarely, if ever, contemplate the precarious nature of our lives and the randomness that pervades our day to day existence.  How many of the men and women work walked into the World Trade Center towers 12 years ago tomorrow mused about their death?  How many of the Members of Service from the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY), the New York City Police Department (NYPD, the Port Authority Police (PANYNJ), and other first responders were actually struck by the notion that they might die on that day? 
Outside the confines of hospital wards tending to the most ill patients the thought of impending demise is rare.  Yet death, by whatever metaphor we choose to call it is an omnipresent viewer on the sidelines of all of our lives.  Perhaps, if nothing else, the events here on September 11 2001 have prompted people in the New York City Metropolitan Area to give a few moments thought each day to the fleeting nature of time and the inexorable reality of death.

Tomorrow we will mark the 12 year anniversary of that dreadful day; we will mourn for all who were lost and taken from us and maybe even give some small offering to the cosmos in prayer for understanding and solace.  For some of us it will be yet another bitter day as full of venomous anger as it was 12 years ago tomorrow.  Yes, an atrocity took far too many of us and the heartache of that event will never fade.  It may dissipate somewhat just as a painted surface loses its luster after so many years exposed to the elements.   

On this day 12 years ago none of us could have imagined the horror that pended just a sunrise hence.  Perhaps the true story of that day, of those who perpetrated that series of crimes will never be fully known to the public.  This deficiency of certitude remains that which leaves wounds open, raw, and festering.  All we do know for sure are the faces and the names of those who lived their last full day of life on September 10, 2001 and we should honor their deaths and always consider them to be the first casualties of a war with no end in sight.

May God Bless and Keep all who perished.

Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2013 © All Rights Reserved