That Ol’ 9/11 Feeling

Last night, watching the news come in from Paris, I once again experienced what I have come to call “That 9/11 Feeling.” This allowed me to spend some time dissecting the sensation.

The two principal spiritual aspects (or psychological, depending on how one likes to describe these things) are:

-a sense of distant horror. It’s akin to standing on a beach, watching a boat sink offshore, hearing the hands screaming and being unable to do anything. However, there is a difference in that one is witnessing human evil. It’s different from receiving news of a great natural disaster. There’s the pervasive awareness that this abomination is being performed voluntarily, by one’s fellow humans.

-a sense of foreboding history. Dave Barry once wrote of the Kennedy assassination: “we were getting our first strong dose of the craziness, the sense of events whirling out of control, that was going to be with us, stronger and stronger, through the rest of the Sixties.” When these events happen, it is both a shock and completely expected. The political and social forces that we know slide unseen beneath the crust of society burst forth, like a volcanic eruption. Rage coalesces into blood. And we can’t know where it’s going, but it doesn’t seem anywhere good. The pistons have exploded out of the engine; the plane is spiraling down.

Physically, the “9/11 feeling” creates a dry, empty sensation at the back of throat, similar to what I’ve felt when my children are very sick. It’s accompanied by a need to move around, but a difficulty in doing so, and an urge to talk, whether in person or online, to say anything, even gibberish.

Three occasions so far, I have felt this: on 9/11 itself, during the Boston Marathon Bombing, and now. I do not look forward to further opportunities to explore the feeling.

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