Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Three Strikes and You're Out

Picture taken from cellphone, making rounds on the internet, of a place a lot farther away than I was.

Three guesses where I work. Yup, there. I was on the phone arranging for a computer lab for my class when the lights flickered. I heard a low rumbling, thought I felt it, but rationalized it as a co-workers radio. Then I hear him ask, “Why is everyone running?” I ask what he means. “Outside, they’re all running away.”

No alarms went off. No sirens, no evacuation instructions. People were running around seeing who was still at work – because the earlier storms had knocked out some train services many had left early – but I was still there because of a late night class. We ran down the stairs to smoke billowing into the sky, or what was left of the sky. Not everyone was walking in the opposite direction, as some were taking photos or video with their phones.

I was with two women – one a manager of another group and one another ‘worker bee’ like myself. My first thoughts were, ‘will this trigger me? What’s going on, what’s going to happen, will I get home? How will this affect my PTSD, my emotions? How do I feel now?”’ The manager asked how I was doing, I told her I don’t know I just hope my PTSD doesn’t flare. Then I began to berate myself for telling her that. “Will she try to use it against me?” I thought, “What will she do with that info. Even worse, am I defining myself through this too much? Why am I thinking about my PTSD now and not about the other people? But, wait, the therapist wants you to focus on triggers, is this not a trigger? You’re security threatened?” It was an exhausting inner dialogue going on. So much so that neither my manager nor I noticed that we had lost the other woman.

She was leaning against a building in complete shock. She was shaking and her eyes glassy and vacant. That is when I started to freak out and almost cry. My hairs stood on end. I’d seen that look before – on the faces of people at 9/11. She didn’t know where she was, and when we asked how she was she repeated ‘three strikes.’ Then she told us that someone in her family had told her that having lived through the Trade Center attacks and the blackout it would be three strikes you’re out. She was out of it.

After getting her up and moving about we ended up splitting as we each live in different directions. My emotions were still all jumbled with fear, anger, the need to cry, and just that need to get home. The manager gave me 50$ in case I could find a cab. I had called my friend in New Jersey – she hadn’t heard about what happened – it wasn’t even on CNN yet so there was no word about transportation.

I just kept walking, convinced ‘up and over’ to the Westside would bring some transportation home. Along the way I ran into another boss who lived three blocks up and meekly asked to use her bathroom. This is a big stress thing- I’ll admit it. The more stressed I become the more I have to pee- heck, I can go three times in a five minute span. She invited me with open arms, gave me some granola bars and water, and told me to stay as long as I wanted. She also let me leave my heavy books there from school.

With that I went off, still wanting to cry but not sure how. The thought had crossed my mind about calling my therapist, but I felt I only wanted to because I thought I should, not because I really wanted to. The site of billows of smoke and other stuff shooting into the sky isn’t an ordinary one, and would rock anyone. It did rock most people down there, some more so than I. Did some shock kick in? Probably, my main idea was ‘away’ but is that a bad thing? Not really. Am I shaking? I have shivers. Let’s see the other things in the checklist – anxiety level is elevated. I’m fatigued and agitated at the same time. Flashbacks? Don’t think so. I can’t say other memories from 9/11 aren’t surfacing, but my breathing is getting back to normal.

*sigh* I feel like I’m running a virus check on the computer. I’m not even going to double check this, let me see how I really thought tomorrow. From my brain to my fingertips to the computer. Huhmm, fear is still there though. I’m jumpy again. I hate that.


awannabe said...

Amazing. You're lucky!

Amel's Realm said...

Ouch!!! That must've been so traumatic. Glad you're still safe. Hopefully your internal condition'll be getting better as well as time goes by.

Take care, Vic, and don't be too hard on yourself, OK?


Chewy said...

You were the second person I thought of when I heard about the explosion on the news.

Victorya said...

Thanks guys. It's a tough day here today, no one's sure about what is going on. *sigh*

Shrink Wrapped Scream said...

What explosion?? What the hell has happened to you? Oh, I'm so glad you made it through, and I'm so sorry I knew nothing about it. ((hugs))

Victorya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Victorya said...

Oh my Shrink, am I limited in my international scope. Since it's all the rage here and front page Google US, huhmmm, lol. I need to rethink my thinking.

The official word is that a steam-pipe exploded, there is a huge crater.

Here is a link

Scary stuff.

david mcmahon said...

I was at work when we heard the news. Thought of all the many friends I have in that amazing city.

Bless you