Suzanne Fields

The grief that drew us together after Sept. 11 was a galvanizing force that dispatched men and arms to the Middle East. Our men and women in uniform bear the burden so that we can feel safer at home. Two years and counting after Sept. 11 there has been no terrorist attack on our soil.

A poll of 976 adults conducted for the New York Times suggests that more New Yorkers feel queasy and jittery on 9/11 this year than last year, but such polls tell us nothing about why that should be.

We risk trivializing trauma as a diagnosis for perfectly normal reactions to sudden violence in a scary world. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, carelessly applied to symptoms of shell shock for soldiers returning from Vietnam, is now being used by mental health professionals, often at the coaxing of lawyers in search of someone to sue, to diagnosis predictable human reactions to life's unexpected tragedies.

The Rand Corp. found that 44 percent of Americans experienced "substantial symptoms of stress" after the Sept. 11 attacks. The good news is that the 44 percent was not 100 percent. You would have to be crazy not to feel "substantial stress." We diminish the confrontation with death when we medicalize and attempt to mathematically calibrate human reaction to loss.

"No man is an island," John Donne wrote, but each of us grieves in a different way. As we contemplate a solemn moment of silence for those thousands who died on that bright blue September morning, we can pay them tribute by taking pleasure in what they left behind for us to enjoy, whether the pleasures of food and drink, of opening a window to the light, or just walking dully along. We must not allow evil men to weaken the resolve of good men to fight back.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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