This is my experience of 9/11, being on the autism spectrum.
As a kid it was suggested that I might have something called "Aspergers", but it was the 80s, and they believed that Aspergers was only a boy illness. Besides I wasn't "retarded" as everyone told me. So years went by, and my autism was untreated. You can guess how I did socially at school or in any big group of people. But still, she persisted.
I remember 9/11. I was waking up to travel to and start my first day at Angell Job Corps. Aaron always set his clock radio to wake us up to Howard Stern. He always had the most vulgar jokes, so I usually rolled over and ignored it.
But this time Howard was playing a very sick prank. It was as if he were broadcasting a 21st century version of "war of the worlds" over the radio. I was getting really mad. How could anyone say such things? Then he started interviewing people, and playing audio from ground zero.
I sat up in the middle of a full blown panic attack and went upstairs to the living room. There, my cereal sat uneaten as I stared blindly at the TV set. It was as if I had disassociated outside myself and had tunnel vision in an echo chamber towards the tv, as hellish images of airplanes smashing themselves into the tallest buildings in the world. Folks jumping out windows. People on the street trying to help, and then running, horrified from columns of ash. And firefighters charging through said columns of ash to rescue people in the towers.
Howard stern was the main journalist on all the channels. He was the only one broadcasting audio.
About 1/2 hour later, I had to grab my duffel bag and be driven downtown to Union Station. I felt like the whole sky was going to collapse on me, and when we reached downtown, I kept checking for airplanes. Don kept assuring me that no one knew about Portland, and beside, the buildings were too small.
I got on that greyhound and headed for my new life at the coast. But I was in untreated psychosis, or, phrased differently, an "Autism Meltdown". I was blacking out all the time and having what I didn't know were panic attacks. I couldn't seem to numb the pain. Even helicopters filled me with horror. Less than 2 months later, I ended up getting expelled from Job Corps because I tried to hang myself.
As I flew home to my my parents' house in California, I got to experience post 9-11 flight. I had an entire jumbo-jet to myself. I took off my shoes and put my feet up. The entire crew kept bringing me snacks and talking to me. It was surreal. It was also a huge part of the healing.
Years have gone by, and though aspergers still rears its ugly head, I've been treated for it, and learned more about my neurological condition. Also, time heals old pain. But I still can't think of 9/11 without this strong piercing headache coming on.
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