In thinking about the words to write here, I am struck with the vast array of ironies.
I had been writing and presenting talks on issues of terrorism for a while before September 11, 2001. In June 2001, I had submitted a proposal dealing with issues of terrorism for a clinical practice conference in November 2001, and I cannot help but suspect that the proposal could easily have been rejected because of a busy agenda and other competing topics that would have been considered more important to attendees. Instead, the proposal was accepted and it was the largest crowd I have ever addressed. Standing room only, and the only presentation over the course of a three-day conference that was videotaped. Sad, indeed, how some things change. I now often find myself reminding audiences that terrorism existed before September 11, 2001. In fact, that was what my talk was about. Terrorism in Japan, in Lebanon, in Ireland. In the world. In our world. For many of us who are U.S. citizens, the term “our world” now has a new and different meaning.
I have presented and written a fair amount on terrorism, and war, and trauma, and civilian casualties. I’ve worked with children who have been tortured, talked with traumatized refugees, broken bread with former political prisoners, and worked with a center offering pro bono clinical services to refugees who are victims of torture. I’ve seen the aftermath of atrocities—exhumed corpses, mass graves, and murdered infants. I have gone on medical missions to far-off places around the world. I have slides and statistics, bar graphs and citations; I can quote numerous facts and figures. But prior to September 11, 2001, all of that was done with a certain degree of clinical detachment. I would go somewhere else, and then come home. I have not ever been in an active war zone, nor have I been a victim of a terrorist attack. After September 11, I feel a bit different.
More people now know what is meant by a “dirty bomb,” or what anthrax and Cipro are, than knew before September 11. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not. I work in Chicago, the city that again has title to the tallest building in the United States. Who could have ever imagined such an odd occurrence? The