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May 22nd, 2002

why, oh why (on PTSD)

There was a thing on TV tonight, "World Trade Center: Anatomy of the Collapse". I shouldn't have watched it, really I shouldn't have, but I did. I couldn't help myself.

Mostly, it was interesting. Good discussions of the materials science and engineering that went into the unique construction of the buildings, and how that made the rental space so attractive, and the buildings inexpensive to put together. I guess it was that very efficiency that doomed them, because there was not a lot of redundancy built into the structures.

But of course they showed the goddamn planes crashing into them, over, and over and OVER again, and it brought everything back to me, the fear and vigilance and hatred, and I wound up crying quite a lot.

Worst of all were the interview segments with the senior structural engineer. He was very somber, and you could see it in his eyes, all that guilt and shame. I'm the world's only skyscraper designer whose creation failed.

"Do I feel a sense of responsibility for what happened? Guilt?" Then a barely perceptible nod, and he averted his eyes.

And later: "People talk about the 'twin towers' but they really are constructed quite differently. They aren't twins at all, and I don't think of them as twins." Then a sour expression of self-flagellation. "Damn, I keep getting my tense confused. WERE. They WEREN'T twin towers. ...Weren't."

Engineers have a propensity for being perfectionists, myself included, so I can identify only too well with his wanting to bear the weight of the disaster on his shoulders. I do the same thing myself whenever my network crashes. But all that death? All that carnage? I can't begin to imagine how he must feel.

"Come on, let yourself off the hook, honey!" Kate often tells me earnestly. I hope that gentleman has found a way. God bless you, sir.



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