Over my heart is a set of scars, lines in my flesh spelling, “PAIN.” It’s been there since the second week of September, 2001. I wish I could say that it was carved there for the thousands who died during the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, but I can’t.
At approximately 8a.m. on the morning of September 10, 2001, I stepped out of the shower, sat down on the toilet, and picked up a used razor. I snapped the cartidge in half, exposing the blade’s sharp edge. I then carved that word over my heart to signify the pain I felt because of an event out of ordinary life. A girl I thought I was in love with had told me that she didn’t want to talk to me anymore. That was a major blow, and I alone felt pain from that.
I suffer from schizoaffective disorder, which is characterized by manic depression. When something that would be perceived as saddening occurs in everyday life, the emotional pain seems magnified tenfold to a manic-depressive. When my heart was broken, I didn’t just want to cry, which I did; I also wanted to bleed. And so, I did that also.
The next morning, September 11, I woke up to the sound of the phone ringing. It was my dad, telling me to turn on the news, that someone had flown a plane into the World Trade Center. I did so and could not believe what I heard. The sorrow I heard was unreal and too much to bear. As I said before, the heartbreak of love lost is an individual event found in ordinary life, but this was not ordinary life. This was something entirely new and far too unpleasant to be given a name.
President Bush called it an act of war, and a week later, troops were being organized to go to the Middle East. My patriotic duty as well as basic humanity urged me to join in, to fight for those lives lost in the terrorist attacks… but I couldn’t.
My then-psychiatrist said that mine was the most difficult case he had ever seen. During a manic fit in late March, 2000, I jumped from a second-story balcony while visiting a friend at Auburn University, which resulted in my leg breaking. On August 15, 2001, I had surgery to have a steel rod removed from my leg, putting me back on crutches. So in addition to being schizoaffective, I had a bad leg as well. My doctor suggested that I apply for disability, and I have since been approved. But that was before “ordinary life” ceased to exist.
On September 21, 2001, Hollywood held a tribute telethon for the fallen brothers and sisters of America. At that event, Neil Young sang John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which, under the circumstances, was everyone’s favorite song at the time. It was also September 21 when I realized that more than anything I wanted to fight in the war on terrorism. But being disabled, I knew there was no way I could.
People in the military are discharged if they attempt suicide, and I had done so several times. With a background like that, I highly doubted the Army recruiters would leap at the opportunity to recruit me. I hated myself for it. In fact, I was a walking ball of hate. That attack had filled me with so much rage that I barely knew how to control it.
I hated so much that I felt it was bad for the rest of the planet if I were to remain on it, so I decided to rid the Earth of my presence once and for all. On the morning of September 27, 2001, I gulped down two handfuls of pills, including Lithium and Demerol. I slept for 16 hours straight, then woke up dizzy and disoriented, which alerted my parents that something was wrong. A dear friend of mine who had read my emailed suicide note called 911, sending police and an ambulance to my aid.
It was too late for them to pump my stomach, so there wasn’t much that they could do. They hooked me up to an electrocardiogram machine and my parents watched in horror as my heart rate bounced back and forth from 80 to 120 and back again. Afterwards, I knew that killing myself wasn’t the answer, that God must have stepped in for some reason. So I thought that maybe He shared my rage, and wanted it to live on.
That next Wednesday, I felt the need to go to church because I felt I needed the wrath of God on my side. I wanted God to do the things that I wished I could do, and because He had spared my life, I assumed He would be willing to do so.
But through the New Testament, I learned that hate is not the way; love is. America’s love for the people who died in the 9/11 attacks is going to save our nation and bring about justice; just as God’s love had saved me, and my love for God, America, and my family is going to keep me going.
9/11/01 was a day of great pain and suffering. Is it why I have the word “PAIN” carved into my chest? No. But do I regret putting it there? No. Do I willingly wear it for those who died? I can’t imagine a better reason for having it there.