A 9/11 Memory, When Reality Takes Over
"Can't you see it's a movie? It's all fiction. Stop crying.”
In 2001, I was a young resident in psychiatry, and that afternoon of September 11 I was on duty in the Naples hospital ward, tired and hungry.
After finishing their meals, the patients were in the lounge watching television as usual, and I was about to leave. One of them came to me in tears and clung to my arm.
“Dottoré, Dottoré, have you seen how many people have died? They're attacking New York.”
I took a quick glance at the TV and saw skyscrapers on fire. Annoyed, I grabbed the patient: "Can't you see it's a movie? It's all fiction. Stop crying.”
I left him there and went away.
When you can't change the channel
I was busy with various errands, and that afternoon passed like many others, completely unaware of what was happening around me.
I returned home at dinnertime, and remember the moment perfectly. My parents were sitting around the table, and didn't even look at me. They were staring at the television, which was showing the same images I had seen that afternoon.
"That movie again!" I thought, "Don’t they have anything better to show on TV today?!"
Only at that point did they turn toward me, and I found out what had happened. Still, somehow, my mind strayed from the gravity of the facts. My thoughts instead returned immediately to that patient. I thought of the condescension with which I'd addressed him, how I had left him there in tears to process such a devastating event.
And I cried ... because along with the towers, the underlying sense of superiority with which I thought I could approach this work had definitively collapsed.
I had been the crazy one, unable to connect to reality and listen to the pain of others. We are the crazy ones, deluding ourselves into believing that all our certainties can't crumble at any moment.
Learn more about Worldcrunch's exclusive Dottoré! series here.
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