Friday, 23 September 2011

Reflections upon 23 Elul, 5761

It's been 10 years, a decade, since the traumatic events surrounding the destruction of the World Trade Center and the Crash into the Pentagon.
Time tends to heal - for most of us. And for others, the wounds are still fresh, and so PTSD still impacts many of the survivors.
Here I reflect upon my own experience of the aftermath - as I lived it vicariously through the eyes of the survivors. B"H since I personally did not know any of the murdered victims myself nor was I personally near the catastrophe. However, I did know many victims who were traumatised and shared their suffering.


It was a few minutes before 9:00 AM on that Tuesday Morning, primary day in NYC, but just a beautiful day in Teaneck. I had "slept in" and missed Minyan. [Note: I had left my IT job just about 2 months before]
Suddenly, on the radio, John Gambling was alarming us about the unfolding events. Then our family proceeded to watch the TV together. I don't recall those details, but my daughter has since assured me that we were collectively glued to the Television Set...


A buddy of mine had a Yahrzeit that day. He had catered a big tikkun in shul [which I missed] but that date [23 Elul] would now be etched in our collective memories. It was a Tuesday, one week to the Day to the upcoming Rosh Hashanah, 5762.


My immediate frame of reference was the Feb., 1993 WTC bombing - when I was just 2 blocks away as that bomb exploded on an Erev Shabbos. I had to make my way to Washington Heights with a Subway and then shared a taxi with a friend...


Soon the stories flowed in. That Shabbos was a shocker. Rav Gelly of KAJ blessed me just before Shabbos that my prayers should be answered for the upcoming year. [5762]. I lamented that apparently I had not done so well with my prayers during the previous Yamim Noraim - referring to the tragedy. He essentially told me not to go there....


Shabbos morning we had at least 2 people Bensch Gomel in Shul. One was "Yosef" A"H our Down Syndrome minyan man who was a messenger in the building next door.
The other was Jai R [Yair] an EMT for the EMS-FDNY whom I asked to address us with his recollections. His company was in China Town, the 2nd closest fire station in NYC. He saw the aftermath with his own eyes.
3 times he would recite "Sh'ma Yisroel" -
Once when the 2nd plane hit
Twice more, as each tower crashed above his "head".
His epic description was horrific. He barely survived the cascading debris. He was never the same and eventually had to leave EMS work.
My niece survived by running away.. Whilst in flight, a large tire from the jet bounced nearby as she made her way to the Brooklyn Bridge. She never got passed that and soon moved to Florida to avoid downtown Manhattan forevermore.
My cousin survived from the 39th Floor of WTC. He would later bensch Gomeil at the annual family barbecue. To this day, he is quite reticent about the entire incident. Only a few days ago did I find out that his own older brother had witnessed the planes striking the WTC from nearby, while realising that his younger brother was in the very buildings being struck. Whose ordeal was the greater?
S'lichos was said with great trepidation. R"H was intense as was Shabbos Shuvah
That Y"K my dwindling minyan saw an influx of about 20 young people from the Middle East. The Seniors became quite panicky. Yet we couldn't have been safer, because they were all Israeli, likely veterans of Tzahal. They had come just before N'ilah out of solidarity with NYC Jewry. I invited them to return for Sukkos, but we never saw them again.


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