9/11, by the numbers
: I got the call last night, as expected, from the World Trade Center Health Registry. I’m now one of a few hundred thousand people who were there that day or who worked at the site afterwards and whose health is being tracked for the next 20 years.
This was the call to collect data about me: where I was, what happened to me that day, what happened afterwards. It’s all data now.
They did a very good job with the script the woman from North Carolina read to me. Some of these questions may be upsetting, she said; you can quit anytime and come back later. If you want to talk to somebody, they’ll give me a name. If you don’t want to answer any of the questions, you don’t have to. She has a tough job. I stayed as cheery as I could.
We went through all the basics: age, address, all that.
They asked about my health following 9/11. Coughing? Yes. Shortness of breath? Yes. Wheezing? Yes. Skin irritation? Yes. Eye irritation? Yes. Changes in hearing? Yes. Diagnosed conditions? Pneumonia… Arrhythmia… Tinnitus…
They asked about my mood. Nightmares? No. Depression? Well, of course. Trouble concentrating? Yes….
And then came the questions about that day. Their simplicity, their evenness, their scripted rhythm of question and response turned this into an odd poetry of tragedy.
Did you witness a plane hitting the World Trade Center? Yes.
Did you witness people running away from the World Trade Center? Yes.
Did you witness one of the towers collapse? Yes.
Did you witness people dying or falling? [Long pause] Uh-huh.