9/11: Days after

When New York’s Upper West Side runs out of bread you can feel alone (but with the continued baking of bagels from our local providers and the calls and emails from around the world, we are not an isolated island). We are however two cities—as the aftershocks pulse through the town and the adrenaline rushes turn to deepening realizations of what has occurred here, there are several camps that emerge: Those that have lost, those that are waiting to hear, those that are “only” one step removed from a personal horror, those that live below 14th Street, and those that live uptown.

Over the last few days, we have found out that children in our children’s classes have lost their parents, colleagues their offices, and some friends their homes. Downtown, the refrigerator trucks are lined up to take the bodies, the construction vehicles are carting the debris, and our friends who came to stay with us cannot get into their home because the army is parked outside their door. Yet uptown, we have people playing Frisbee in the park, eating at outdoor cafes and only when the wind blows north do we smell that awful odor of burning rubber (?), paper, bodies?

It feels sadder and more real each day. Today my first four patients were interrupted with cell phone calls and in every case it was their offices telling them not to come to work; first at Times Square, then Grand Central Station, then Penn Station.  I guess the copycat terrorists are enjoying playing Ping-Pong with the New York Police.  I finally “relaxed” into a non-crisis debriefing phone session with a patient who was calling from London only to have my session interrupted with a call from my son. His school had a bomb scare and they were evacuating.  Everyone was fine and all was handled well.  However my daughter (who was also evacuated and meant to start middle school this week) has not had a day in class yet.  The school decided to cancel classes until Monday.

I think the kids, like the adults are trying to metabolize the tragedies and everyone wants “to do something.” Many children are bringing food to the firemen to be passed on to the rescue workers. I have had patients say they will pay for their therapy sessions but I should use the time not for them, but for those in need. The Red Cross is now asking for mental health volunteers and I report to the pilot’s lounge for American Airlines tomorrow.  Until now, there have been more doctors than patients, but as the physical seeps into the psychological, our work is mounting.

One thing is clear—New Yorkers are all still banding together, wearing orange and blue ties (the state colors), the phones are free on the street and downtown you can enjoy a movie without paying.

I am sure there is more to come but right now everyone is doing their best and staying close in touch.