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Why I Don't Have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Post 9-11

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There is a study I heard reported this morning on NPR that explored the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on New Yorkers and then on the rest of the nation.

The most interesting aspect of the report was that the citizens of Greater Washington don't seem to be exhibiting any signs of PTSD. There were a few theories, but I believe I know why from my experience living in the District for the last 14-years.

I was listening to NPR this morning while prepping for work and I heard a news story that discussed the following:

Doctors expected to see high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder in the months following the September 11th attacks. But a new study shows that while stress disorders have risen for those living in the New York City area, national levels haven't changed much. NPR's Joseph Shapiro reports.

Apparently, Washington, DC, is the least effected by PTSD in the entire nation, despite our obvious vulnerability and the unpopularity of the current administration abroad. Why is this? Well, I think I know the answer. Its in me.

When I arrived in DC in 1988 to become a Freshman at GW, I didn't think about much at all. Over time, it began to become apparent to me, especially in Cold War America, that Washington, DC, was in fact Nuclear Ground Zero.

The truth of our impending doom, the actualized nature of self resulting, was certainly something that I had to struggle with, but that was a long time ago. I was more than done with my resignation to nuclear anihilation by 1991, when I had left DC to study in the UK, and then had to decide if I wanted to come back.

Of course I did. And of course I did, and I am still here. But I was not surprised at all by what happened on September 11, 2001; in fact, I was grateful that it wasn't worse. I was grateful -- and still am -- that there hasn't been a follow-up, that the Pentagon was the only successful target, and that the attack was conventional.

I think that the reason why so many people don't like Washington, and don't like Washingtonians, is that we are a little hardened. We are in a lot of ways war-weary, and we have seen a hell of a lot worse than this, by-in-large.

In the article sited on NPR, it was suggested that the number of people "in the business" had a lot to do with our insoucience regarding 9-11. Why yes, in so many ways. We are certainly in denial about a lot of things here. Certainly dating and the opposite sex and how to me Mr. or Miss Right, but there are a few things we understand.

We understand that we are a certain target, and we have known this from the days of the Cold War, when the little kiosk at the center of the Pentagon's courtyard was known as Ground Zero; we understand that we are the Soldiers, we are the Secret Service, we are the Military, we are the Spies, we are the State Department, we are the Consultants, we are the Foreign Aid Consultants, we are the Specialists, we are the Travelers, and we are the Diplomats. There is quite a weight, a dignity, a seriousness, and a Professionalism in Washington that cannot really be replicated anywhere else.

We have seen worse; I have seen worse; I can conceive of much much worse. So, instead of becoming even remotely scared by the events of 9-11, I returned to much of what I had learned when I was a younger man: we Washingtonians are a juicy target for obvious reasons and anything less than Thermonuclear War and Scorched Earth is a blessing that I am quite Grateful for.

I have chosen to live here and despite what anyone believes to the contrary, we are brothers-in-arms with New York city, instead of sisters, in this instance, because in many ways, we have always been co-icons for everything that America represents -- to the Soviet Union in 1988 and to the Axis of Evil in 2002.

I think that maybe we thought about it more; I think we could think about it more; I think that by being less pretty and glamorous than New York, in general, we had more time to come to terms with the pro's and con's of living, breathing, breeding, loving, and thriving in a Rome of sorts. Some day -- and I hope this will never happen -- Rome will burn. Will I run to the hills as a direct result? No. Will I get married and have a couple kids? Hell yes!

Do I have hope that we will be able to weather this international storm unscathed? I am sorry, but to be honest, I am prepared to need to lash myself to the mast, but I am quite certain we will never sink.

And that is why I believe my city, Washington, DC, and I are not suffering undue stress post-911; that and New Yorkers are a Neurotic Mess by default. We might be dull and unfashionable here in the Nation's Capitol, but we also are not even remotely as nuts.


Aug 07, 2002 08:10 AM