Friday, September 12, 2014

On 9/11 and PTSD

A major legacy of 9/11, for me in the past seven (!) years of living in New York City, is survivor stories. A resilient community, formed from a crucible of crisis.

Just like the legacy of my own little exilic hell at City College of New York, morbidly drawn to Holocaust Studies, to survivor lit.

Tell me your secrets, and you will tell me my story.
Tell me your sorrow, and I will tell you my hope.

Where did it come from, your will to live, that lunatic hope?
How did you make it, against all odds? 
And WHAT. is this joy, this foreign lightness,
that surprised you when it showed up to stay?
What treasure did your tragedy bestow?

Surely, if you can survive, you can learn to live. One can hope.

Anniversary grief of any kind is a curious thing. Hard.

to any suffering friends, i pray that in these days,
in the cycle of seasons, in the recurrence and repetition,
welcome or not:

in these days, may you return not only to your hurt,

your ever-present Help.
oh my friend, you are not alone.
let not your pain crush your heart.

i know you want a map of the wilderness, the mutilated world,
but traveling friends and His guiding presence,
that's all we are given.

oh, and and perishable bread for today
(but enough for a Sabbath)
and promises...

it will be okay soon.


at first, the stories are about surviving trauma.

then, they are about surviving Post-Trauma.

the latter is the more difficult task, I think.

the former, your body does for you, on total out-of-body auto-pilot.


and then, you have to get back into your skin, saggy and ill-fitting and scraped now.

when it comes to Post-Trauma, you are warring against your self, and against your seemingly self-annihilating mind. you are fighting for the present, and for your right to stay there.

Living in the day-to-day, after you have met the extremes––dull. Dull, dim, dark.

Dull like your pain. Dull unlike your flashbacks.

But, oh God, those flashbacks, they are searing. Blinding.
Shocking. stunning. Unlike real-time, which is dull like paralysis.
They demand that you attend to your pain.

They say, heal. Arise. Go. onward.
They say, you are forgiven. What? is that what I really need?

Survivor stories are travelogues of traveling friends. Witnesses who have gone before. Who have found themselves ejected from the life they once knew, in a blur, and then have wandered the wilderness. Some make it out.

Thank you friends, for sharing your stories. The moment you start telling your story, you have survived the prison of your secrecy. When you were unknowable and alone after being dehumanized, it was such extremely narrow confinement.

oh, it is NOT good for man to be alone.

Thank you for your will to live.

Where others had stayed in slavery
When others had perished in the wilderness...

 Each of us cries with thankful heart, "Lord why was I a guest?"

What is there to say, but Thank You.


At first it is terribly dark and cold and grey. They try to fumble their way back to a lost world. lost life. lost garden. Safety was back there. Simple was back there. Plans were back there.

But it is lost. Life can only be ahead. They float on through.

Sometimes they fight.
All the rhythms that were once parasympathetic, all that was for granted, now you must fight for it.
Now you must gasp for air.
Now you must fight for joy.
Now you must wrestle in worship.
Now you must fight to live.

Don't run from the tension.

And suddenly, light. The tears have filled all the secret silent spaces, and they are refracting all the debris of your life from the tunnel's end, into a kaleidoscope.

Life is bursting into full color.

The sun has risen.
A new day has dawned.
It is Easter.

Just like He promised. I will find you. I have never forsaken you.
I descended to the dead. On the third day, I ascended into heaven.
I am seated at the right hand of our Father, where I am your strong and perfect plea.
I came that you might have life––and have it abundantly.
If you are faithless, I will remain faithful.
I will bring you safely home.

We sing a new song:

Oh, if it had not been for the Lord, we would have been swallowed in the sea.
We were so near to death. If it had not been for the Lord, let Israel now say.
You have led us well. You have saved us and safekept us.

Do you know, you can do more than survive?
You can live again.

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