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Edward D. Reuss
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The World Trade Center Disaster and its Global Aftermath
Reflections and Meditations

John Jay College / FEMA Conference on Urban Hazards
Charles B. Strozier
January 22, 2002

I am saddened that my friend and colleague, Robert Jay Lifton, is unable to be here today. We kept the possibility of his coming open up to the last minute, but he just returned from several weeks in the hospital with a raging infection that they did finally get under control.  He is also in Boston. But he and I have been completing each other's thoughts for the last 16 years at our Center on Violence and Human Survival here at the College, and I believe I can at least step into my own shoes, if not fill his.

I want to begin by talking some about the psychological interview study of the WTC disaster I have been conducting with Lifton and other colleagues, including Michael Flynn, Letty Eisenhauer, and Katie Gentile, since the end of the first week, trying to figure out how this tragic event works in the minds of survivors and witnesses (categories which are collapsed in this disaster). I also want to connect some of these meanings of this disaster with terrorism more generally in the world, a subject I have been researching, writing, and teaching about for many years here at John Jay.  As in all my work, I draw on my background as a historian and a psychoanalyst.  My goal is this lead-off talk is to introduce some of the themes that will be reverberating throughout the terrorism "track" of this conference.

The Event
The disaster created a number of quite different zones of sadness.1  The most intense was inside the fiery buildings. Virtually all those people above the floors where the planes hit perished in the flames. Thousands in the floor below, however, were evacuated in that precious hour or so before the collapse of the buildings themselves. Into the fiery buildings rushed the first responders, especially the thousands of firemen, 343 of whom lost their lives (over 100 firefighters and police who were alumni or students here at the college). An inpromptu triage center was set up inside the lobby of the north tower, which was the first tower hit but the second to collapse. When the south tower collapsed and the entire complex was covered with debris, it was clear to the building engineers, the firemen, and other first responders who were in the lobby had to be cleared out.  It was not immediately clear, however, where to go or how to get there. So many people were jumping by that point that the rain of bodies made it dangerous to leave. 

Such a scene of carnage and chaos forces the self into a radically altered state.  One's immediate psychological response is a numbing, or a nearly complete closing down of feeling. The body still works and many sensations, especially those of fight and flight, remain effective. That focus in the moment of crisis can be highly adaptive, even though trauma forces the self into a dissociated state that is a kind of symbolic death. It is a mistake, however, to think the trauma was restricted to the first responders.  In the next immediate zone of sadness, extending for several blocks around the WTC complex, were those direct witnesses of the event. The testimony of three witnesses is instructive. Tom DeSanctis,2 who works at Merrill Lynch, was walking to his office from the Fulton Street subway stop and was on the WTC Plaza to the north of the north tower when it was hit by the first plane.  The sound of the explosion was muffled for him (perhaps because it was so out of context), but very quickly he heard the clanging of falling debris banging against the building.  Chaos reigned all around him. Someone was shouting to get out of the way, so he and some others flattened themselves against the wall of the U.S. Customs Building opposite the tower under an awning.  He looked out from under what he realized was flimsy cover and saw huge pieces from the plane and from the facade of the tower itself collapsing on him. He is an athletic man and decided without any reflection that he would run toward the Hudson River and jump into it if necessary.  At the end of the block, to his astonishment, he saw a man on fire in West Street and looked back to see the plaza filled with people on fire.  The fire ball on the outside of the building had fallen to the street and onto some of those he had been with, but as learned later on the inside it went like lightening bolt down 90 floors of the elevator shaft and shot out to engulf those standing around waiting to catch the elevator to get to work.  Those victims had rushed out of the building in a frantic (and futile) effort as self-preservation.

Three blocks to the south of the south tower Henry B. was walking to work on Rector Street when the first plane hit the north tower. He heard noise and an explosion but could see nothing and was quite confused.  Suddenly at his feet was a human head hurtling down the street and other body parts around him (he later learned there were bodies on the roof of the building where he worked and presumably on other rooftops in that area; the force of the plane hitting the north face of the north tower around the 90th floor, in other words, and the holes it punctured on all sides threw bodies three to four blocks in the air).  To his utter amazement there was also a huge jet airplane wheel next to a light post that had been bent weirdly. It occurred to him he had almost just died.  In a daze he walked toward West Street and saw cars driving south that had just passed the carnage. Several were covered with blood and small pieces of bodies.  One kept turning on the windshield wipers but without much effect.  Henry B. walked back to where he had been, trying to figure out what to do, when he heard a roar and looked up to see the second plane passing directly overhead. It was already going 500 mph (as he learned later) but he heard it gunning its engines to maximum speed as it crashed into the south tower.

Dierdre L. had a day job catering meetings with a business in 7 World Trade Center just to the north of the towers (that would itself collapse at 5:20 p.m. that day). She was in a room on the 39th floor (of 50) when the first plane hit the north tower but had almost no idea of the magnitude of what was happening. In a few minutes, however, she and the others were told to evacuate the building.  The long walk down the stairs without windows or knowledge of the terror outside was eerie, though mostly peaceful.  The one moment of dread came when the second plane hit the south tower and the whole building she was in shook. No one knew what was happening but there was collective terror.  When Dierdre finally reached the street and relative safety, she stood for a few minutes to watch the burning buildings. A man hung from a sheet or table cloth outside a window some 90 stories up, then gave up the struggle and fell back with his arms outstretched. He seemed to fall in slow motion.  Crying now, Dierdre sensed the terrible danger of the scene and felt she had to escape.  With a friend she walked quickly up West Broadway to Greenwich Street, fleeing north. On the way her progress was slowed by crowds going toward the burning buildings, including three women with babies, two in strollers and one with an infant so young it was in her arms.  Dierdre shook that woman by the shoulders and said she shouldn't be going that way, that it was dangerous and she was going the wrong way, that she should turn around.  The woman ignored her and pushed on.  For weeks afterwards Dierdre had nightmares of these women with their children getting buried by the collapsing buildings. 

Ramona L. was a student at the community college on Chambers Street, though she was in the new classroom building just a block north of the towers. She came out from class with hundreds of fellow students onto the scene of destruction.  She watched in horror for the next hour as scores, perhaps hundreds, of people jumped to escape the scorching heat in the upper floors.3  Each fell in a unique way. Some couples held hands on the way down. Men were still in business suits and their ties fluttered in the air.  Some came head first. Many had scarred feet, suggesting they waited to jump until the fire had virtually engulfed them.4 A gasp went up in the crowd with each jumper.  On the streets and sidewalks where they fell blood ran thick. It is an image that was later completely lost after the buildings collapsed and covered it all over with ash and debris. It seemed like something out of the book of Revelation.

In these first two zones of sadness it is clear the survivors/witnesses (and this disaster blurs that distinction) had their worlds fundamentally altered. Certain traumatic responses, some of which are physiological, seem to be generalizable, as Bessel van der Kolk (1987, 1996) and others (Herman, 1992, Caruth, 1995; cp. Strozier and Flynn, 1996) have clarified, just as there are aspects of the experience of the survivor that appear in otherwise very different historical settings (Lifton, 1969). The human costs of traumatic events, it can be said, are enormous. They call into question basic relationships. They breach the attachments of family, friendship, love, and community. They shatter the construction of self that is formed and sustained in relation to others. They violate the victim's faith in a natural or divine order and cast the victim into a state of existential crisis. Traumatic events destroy the victim's assumptions about the safety of the world, the positive self, and the meaningful order of creation.5

It made a huge difference, however, what one saw and experienced that day. In the next zone of sadness, from about Chambers Street to 14th Street, a typical witness was able to watch directly the fire and devastation but was just beyond sight of those jumping. Jennifer W. heard the commotion around 9:00 a.m. on September 11 on 14th Street which she lives near on the far west side. An alert young writer between jobs, Jennifer at first turned on her TV to find out what was happening, then went out onto the street where she was in a direct line of vision of the now-burning towers, which she could see in great detail but was just far enough away not to be able to discern jumpers or any of the immediate images of death. She had to imagine the horror on the inside of the buildings, conjure it up and fit it into the dramatic scene in front of her eyes. That act of imagination protected her from traumatic collapse but not from closing down.  She became hyper-rational.  She lost track of time. She watched the buildings collapse without quite knowing what she had seen.  She decided she should vote (September 11 was election in New York City, though by then the voting had been canceled) and asked someone nearby where the closest polling station was. 

In the final zone, from the 20s north, one could no longer see the towers (with exceptions, of course, as in the southern exposures of tall buildings), but the day was filled with chaos, buildings evacuated, huge throngs fleeing across the bridges into Brooklyn and Queens, and a general sense of panic. In this zone the nature and degree of trauma tended to blend with the much more distant and vicarious experience of those who watched the event on television. And yet in an important respect the New York experience of the disaster, even in geographically more remote zone of sadness, blended traumas.  That has to do with the smell, which united all.  The gigantic cloud that seemed to some mushroom in shape at first got blown into Brooklyn by a strong westerly wind and into the lower east side and over most of the lower Village and TriBeCa by later in the day. By Wednesday, the winds spread the smoke over much more of Manhattan, even reaching the upper west side. After that it all depended on the weather conditions.  For at least six weeks the smell was everywhere below Chambers St. The thousands of workers at Ground Zero and those who returned to work in the area lived with it on a daily basis. Other New Yorkers in Greenwich Village and in Brooklyn Heights (given prevailing westerly winds) would suddenly have it descend, unpredictably and depending entirely on weather conditions.  It was everywhere and nowhere, like death.  Within the smell, of course, from the collapse of 220 floors, each about an acre, were all the incinerated computers and rugs and drapes and doors and mountains of cement and some asbestos and a lot of chemicals but also the bodies of thousands of people.  The reason not many bodies have been found is that, with the exception of firemen in their protective gear, or some caught in unusual pockets, or those who jumped and were buried but not crushed, most do not exist in any corporeal form. They were not just burned but incinerated. At best, a body part remained. The rest floated into the air in that cloud and smoke. New Yorkers literally took them into their lungs and bodies and impacted them into their souls. The smell creates echoes of Auschwitz.

I would like now to turn to some of the larger issues of terrorism of which the WTC is such a dramatic part.  The buildings were still burning but standing when commentators began to draw the parallel between the WTC and Pearl Harbor, two days of infamy in American history, the two huge and unsuspecting attacks both of which we were unprepared for, had many killed, and of course both of which led to war.  In historical comparisons, however, the most sophisticated and nuanced points to make are not the similarities but the differences. It is really quite obvious how Pearl Harbor and the WTC are alike. What distinguishes them is that Pearl Harbor occurred in a world without nuclear weapons. In that difference lies the main conceptual point I want to make.

Let me begin by distinguishing, perhaps unduly sharply for reasons of explanation but reasonably, between the old terrorism and the new violence.  The old terrorism in the form of assassinating kings and tsars and such leaders for personal or political gain has a lineage that goes back to the beginning of culture but really began to emerge in his present form during and just after the French Revolution.  In Italy, especially, in the 18teens, some opponents of Napoleon and his cohorts worked out the theory that representatives of the emperor-local governors, tax collectors, etc-were legitimate targets in the struggle against French tyranny. In the middle of that century, an elaborate theory of "propaganda by the deed" (that is, acts of terrorism to inspire others to act accordingly) connected with the new Marxist theory of the essentials evils of capitalism.  Actors in this field wore their identity badges of terrorism with great pride.  The representatives of the corrupt and violent state that perpetrated great violence on its people through its profound inequities, it was felt, were just targets of terrorism carried out by small and secret groups.

Not a lot changed in the theory of this old terrorism in the next century (especially the concept of propaganda by the deed), except that in the last half century its purpose morphed from a struggle against the state and capitalism in and of itself into a form of warfare by those with aspirations for national identity when the so-called freedom fighters face well armed and equipped modern armies.  Thus do the Palestinians take on Israel and the IRA fight against the British army.  The goals in both these longstanding struggles is to create a new form of sovereignty, and through terrorism to become so incredibly annoying that some form of accommodation is eventually made. [As an aside, it is worth noting the way in which the WTC has so profoundly altered these two struggles, essentially solving that in northern Ireland for American financial and moral support for the IRA dried up over night after 9/11, while it intensified the problems in the Middle East by setting loose extreme Sharonism].  Terrorism in this mode occurs in the name of a quite concrete politics.  Despicable killing of completely innocent civilians is part of a larger purpose in which those formulating the goals of the movement have specific things in mind: Get the British out and, in Israel, create a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. To accomplish those goals would be to realize the purpose of the struggle and serve as a basis for ending the terrorism. 

The new terrorism, on the other hand, is apocalyptic, or world-ending. If the old terrorism is political, the new is religious.  If the old is rational, the new is mystical and often mystifying. If the old is located within history, the new is outside of time and space and makes sense only in terms of some perverted notion of God's purposes in the world. If the old has clearly identified goals, the new is concerned with redemption and salvation.  We can fight the old with familiar police tactics. The new presents baffling challenges.

People have thought about the end of the world since its beginning.  The image of collective death has long been, in fact, an important cultural task assigned to three groups: religious mystics, artists, and psychotics.  Human culture, I dare say, required psychologically an image of its demise in order to properly create its sources of vitality and hope.  Some of humanity's greatest and most important stories and songs and religious myths, for example, have centered on this idea of the world ending.  Religion especially has to answer those great questions of beginnings and endings. There are many humane and loving ways of doing that, but there have always been at the edges of culture the dominant apocalyptic narrative that the world will end in some great violence before the redemption and that all evil ones will be destroyed in the process.

Now there are many historical sources of the contemporary expression of apocalyptic thinking.  Islamist in the Middle East talk of the Crusades as though they were yesterday.  The mere size and intensity of modern life-and the state-totalizes the imagination (which, of course, becomes even more extreme on the margins). Vast and increasing inequities in wealth and the global north/south gap generates apocalyptic rage, especially among intellectuals.  And, finally, apocalypticism feeds on itself, so that the more extreme and otherwise quite odd groups exist, the more they legitimate the rise of other such groups.

But what is critical, I think, is that until nuclear weapons came into the world, human imagination in making up its end time stories required God to carry out apocalyptic destruction.  The book of Revelation, for example, depicts an angry god indeed. The new power of the bomb changed that psychologically for humans.  We don't need God any longer to end it all. The power is entirely within us and in our arsenals.  We alone possess it. 

This new psychology of weapons of mass destruction (and of course one now has to include biological and chemical weapons) was not that apparent for the first few decades of the nuclear age-except for lone voices like that of Lifton who began writing along these lines in the 1960s-because it seemed only states could possess the weapons. Technology has altered that limitation, and in retrospect it seems the 1990s is the hugely significant turning point. The end of the cold war, in this regard, is not the key event (except that it set loose vast stores of unguarded plutonium in the former Soviet Union).  What matters more is the continuing scientific "advances," which I advisedly put in quotation marks, that have simplified design of such weapons and increasingly made them available to groups below the level of the state.  You can't quite make a nuclear bomb in your bathtub yet, but nor do you need the mobilization of resources that was represented by, say, the Manhattan Project to imagine having the ability to kill not just hundred, or thousands, but millions.

There is no question that it is a huge threat apocalyptic groups may well very soon, if they don't already, have access to weapons of mass destruction. But I want to stress the other and more psychological side of this point, namely that the mere existence of the weapons themselves play what is perhaps the central role in evoking the new violence, just as they have had a profoundly significant impact on what can only be called a global epidemic of fundamentalism in all religions of the world. Nuclear weapons totalize politics, religion, indeed the self.  One might say that apocalypse is the totalism of death.6  They open up new possibilities for violence, new opportunities that in the past required God to carry out. The agency shifts. Humans can control their own destiny, which in the hands of the responsible is wonderfully empowering.  In the hands of the paranoid, that power is terrifying. 

The paranoid style in politics, as Richard Hofstadter noted toward the beginning of the nuclear age, joins the overheated, the oversuspicious, the overaggressive, and the grandiose with the apocalyptic.  Delusions of persecution, one might say, are the necessary flip side of an exhalted sense of oneself.  And such grandiosity is so diseased it often, if not usually, assumes the form of imagining that the purposes of the self and of God are one. Hofstadter noted some rather extraordinarily prescient aspects of the paranoid style (and this was 1962):
--The paranoid sees conspiracy as the motive force in history and once that conspiracy is set in motion by demonic forces only a crusade can defeat it;
-The struggle is titanic, or apocalyptic, with salvation and redemption at stake;
time is forever running out, as we are at the end of history;
-The paranoid has a special insight into the nature of the evil in the world and therefore a special responsibility to act;
-And, finally, the enemy the paranoid sees is the perfect model of malice (sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving).

Because paranoia is essentially at the border of psychosis, when it enters politics its forms can be sometimes quite amusing. The John Birchers of the 1950s, for example, were terribly worried about Communism but their most immediate policy issue in the country was the eminently sensible public health move to flouridate the water. The movie, Dr. Strangelove, from the late 1960s makes funny parody of this is fear in the mad general who rants about the commies trying to get at our precious bodily fluids.

But paranoia in politics is no laughing matter.  Our wake-up call was, of course, McVeigh's bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. The most important question to ask about McVeigh is what he hoped to accomplish by his act of terrorism.  Just because actions are apocalyptic does not mean they are without meaning, crazy and nuts and should simply be dismissed. I would say we have to keep our moral sights in focus and never stop condemning such violence but that we will never figure how to make ourselves safe if we don't enter into the mind of the terrorist.  It is thus almost certainly the case that McVeigh was a disturbed young man. But he also fit into an ideological movement that had been taking shape since the end of the Vietnam War, a movement that saw the government as uniquely malicious (and FEMA, for them, were the direct agents of the ZOG or Zionist Occupied Government, flying the black helicopters that took the true patriots to the hidden concentration camps, etc.), and which drew particular energy from the tragedy at Waco.

That movement also had its sacred texts in two novels, The Turner Diaries that McVeigh slept with under his pillow, and to a lesser degree, Hunter.  I would conclude that McVeigh, because he was basically working with only one other person, only had access to the most primitive of bombs but that his goals were apocalyptic.  Thankfully, his means of his destruction failed to match the extraordinary reach of his aspirations, which were entirely apocalyptic.

We also had another wake-up call in the 1990s that we mostly slept through in the wildly apocalyptic cult in Japan, Aum Shinrikyo, led by Shoko Asaharo.  In Lifton's book on Aum, "Destroying the World to Save it" he shows in great detail how really peculiar Asaharo was (sold his bath water to followers and rented out at $10,000 a month a device you wore on your head to coordinate your brain waves with those of the guru) but much more interestingly how Aum explicitly wanted to create Armageddon. That is why they were manufacturing sarin gas and bocullism in their secret factory outside of Tokyo and why, most terrifyingly, they were negotiating with some of their 20,000 Russian followers to import plutonium. In the end, their plans were rushed because the police were closing in on them so they only managed a basically botched release of sarin gas in the subway system on March 22, 1995. Their goal, however, with their full array of weapons of mass destruction they either had or actively sought was to kill many millions of Japanese, who would then assume the Americans had attacked which would spark a Japanese bombing of America that would in turn lead to an American nuclear attack, once again, on Japan. Out of this armageddon, this vast blood-letting and destruction, the followers of Aum would magically survive and remake the world in their own image.

And of course I end this sequence with Osama bin Laden, this malevolent and mysterious figure who has wreaked such havoc in our city and made our world such an unsafe place.  At some level we understood completely the apocalyptic dangers he represented.  Many of my respondents saw in their mind's eye the cloud from the collapsing towers as mushroom in shape and, most tellingly, the name of the disaster site spontaneously became ground zero, the once technical term for the exact point a nuclear bomb hits with the explosive violence radiating out in concentric circles of gradually decreasing levels of radiation. In the first few days, we feared all kinds of further attacks, including nuclear ones. Then came the panic over anthrax that seemed to broaden the scope of the danger to include biological weapons until we figured out it almost certainly was domestic anti-abortion fanatics.  At that moment (that I have charted to the day and time) the fear about anthrax was no longer apocalyptic, and the story moved off the front page.

But who is this Osama bin Laden? And what does he want? On the personal side, he is (assuming he is still alive) all the more dangerous because he is not as schizoid as McVeigh or as openly psychotic as Asaharo. He does warmly embrace the apocalyptic.  As it has been said, he is like the president of terrorism university, a charismatic figure with money who can inspire others to act. He does not lead a cult but rather a movement.  Though he issues fatwas, which he has no right to, he is not a cleric.  He is instead a curious blend of political and religious leader and plays an important role vitalizing Islamists who see the downfall of their faith and their lands the result of outside western corrupting influences. Bin Laden has wrapped himself around the Palestinian cause, mainly for pragmatic reasons in his effort to gain support in Arab lands and unify the struggle, but he hardly cares about the PLO or Israel. What he does care about is the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia during and after the Gulf War, which he sees as a desecration, an affront to his faith, the presence of the evil other in holy land. Here I would note that the difference between his pragmatic appropriation of PLO goals and his real feelings about American infidels in Saudi Arabia is exactly the difference between the old and new terrorism. Bin Laden was moving toward radical action in the late 1980s, but his Al Qaeda organization came in the wake of the gulf war and was its direct consequence.

So what does he want?  He wants to destroy America and its culture, and out of such a victory make a purified Islam.  It seems the attack on our majestic towers in his eyes was both real and symbolic and succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. He has made his fight a jihad, which puts God on his side. There is an urgency to the struggle and has to happen now, as time is running out. The end is at hand which is both fateful but offers the powerful appeal of transformation and redemption.  Furthermore, the malice Americans create in the world is the motive force in history.  He has special knowledge of that evil, which lends him the right to act by bending the rules about issuing fatwas, organize terrorist training camps, carry out actions that have ranged from the first bombing of the WTC (which he seems to have had some relation to), to the Embassy bombings in 1998, to the Cole, and of course the attacks on 9/11. 

Now I don't know all that because I have any special knowledge of Osama bin Laden that the FBI lacks, or have access to information that is not in the public realm or has not appeared in the New York Times or occasionally in video broadcasts coming out of the Middle East. But I think it is basically on target because what I do know is something about the apocalyptic.

This new malevolence in our world, which we have all felt keenly since 9/11, was described with extraordinary accuracy by the wonderful writer E.B. White in essay on New York in 1949.

The sublest change in New York is something people don't speak much about but that is in everyone's mind.  The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible.  A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now: in the sound of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition.

All dwellers in cities must live with the stubborn fact of annihilation; in New York the fact is somewhat more concentrated because of the concentration of the city itself, and because, of all targets, New York has a certain clear priority.  In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer might loose the lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm.7

Charm indeed!  E. B. White captures the malevolence and hope in one brilliant passage. It is always that way. I really do think we can insure a human future.  We need to think differently about some key issues in law enforcement that I don't have time to get into here, but we can protect ourselves against those who would destroy us. 

Let me end with the story of Grace.

Mr. and Mrs. L. lived on Liberty Street just to the south of the WTC on the 15th floor of an apartment that faced north.  The WTC was so prominently displayed in their living room window that it seemed to be their guest. When the first plane struck the northern tower, the sudden explosion made no sense, nor did the sudden shower of paper over their building and certainly not the body parts that came flying out of the sky to land on their veranda. Mrs. L, then nine months pregnant and due, immediately went into labor.  They then looked up in horror at the burning tower before rushing to the television and calling relatives, when out of nowhere the second plane hit the tower that was much closer to them and spread fire and destruction all over their building. They quickly picked up a few things and rushed to the elevator, which was still working, and into the basement of their building where there was vault from the days when the building had been a bank.  Mrs. L. remained in labor for the next hour, feeling unsafe but sensing it was too dangerous to leave. Then they heard a huge boom, which the building super reported was the first tower collapsing. Both the L.'s decided they had to leave, as she could simply not give birth in such a dangerous setting.  They left their apartment building and began walking quickly south, though they were inevitably moving slowly.  At the collapse of the second tower, they were near a subway entrance and were able to find cover as the cloud passed over them. They emerged basically unscathed into the horror and began to walk up Broadway, stopping whenever Mrs. L. had a contraction, until they spotted an ambulance as they neared the site of the disaster.  Mr. L. waved it down and they were taken in. The ambulance took them to Beth Israel, where the attending doctor said cheerfully that Mrs. L. seemed in fine shape and she should try to relax while the labor continued.  Early the next morning she delivered a beautiful and perfectly healthy baby girl.  They named the baby "Grace." Amazing Grace.

May Grace be on you all.

Charles B. Strozier is professor of history at John Jay College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, and a practicing psychoanalyst in the city. He is the author of Apocalypse: On the Psychology of Fundamentalism in America (1994), co-editor of The Year 2000:  Essays on the End (1997), and several other books and scores of articles. He is currently conducting psychological interviews of survivors and witnesses of the World Trade Center Disaster.


Copyright © 2002  Charles B. Strozier

  1. The image of "zones of suffering" is from Michael Flynn, personal communication, October 9, 2001.
  2. The names of respondents have been changed and other fictitious but irrelevant information about their background introduced for disguise.  DeSanctis, however, specifically requested that his real name be used.
  3. The number of people who jumped to their death remains unclear, in part because of the mostly self-imposed blackout on media coverage.
  4. This detail is from a witness interviewed by Katie Gentile.
  5. These specific ideas emerged out of a conversation with Robert Jay Lifton, September 16, 2002, and are more generally grounded in his work over half a century.
  6. This very interesting idea is that of Robert Lifton that he has shared with me in many conversations.
  7. E. B. White, Here is New York (NY: The Little Bookroom, 1999 [1949]).



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