Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Thursday, August 17, 2006

An interesting way to confront fears

A helmet that replicates things as terrifying and complex as the events of the towers' collapse on 9/11 is helping those whose post-traumatic stress had crippled them. The helmet, which responds to and simulates motion, allows the user to look up into the flames or down to the ambulances on the streets below, experience the shudder as the buiding collapses, etc.--all within the safety of a doctor's office and where the user has control of how much he or she experiences at a time. This story was written in 2005, so I don't know what improvements may have been made since. But as we go into the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I found it interesting.

Even for those of us who were not actively involved in those events, it's hard to believe that five years have gone by. I find that if I listen to a commercial touting a memorial that lists the sorts of things left at those makeshift memorials, I tear up. Watching images from that day brings back all the emotions of the time--the utter feeling of loss, of danger, of anger, of dashed hopes. In some ways I was protected from the full horror of that day; not only was I safe in a hospital watching on a television while the person next to me, a resident from New York, struggled as he pointed to where relatives lived and tried to contact his fiancee and family--but also I had no idea of the true scale invovled. I've never been to New York City. I had a vague sense of the height of the buildings by comparing them to our largest skyscraper, a mere 30 stories. But fitting three or four of the big blue phallic symbol, as it's known here (or Fifth Third Building, if you want to be official) just didn't cut it. Having evacuated a building about that height on several occasions--albeit with lighting and no actual smoke or damage, I assumed that it would only take a few minutes for people to get out. Nor did I realise--until a month later when someone doing a retrospective mentioned it--that the fire department's staging area was within one of the towers itself. I had assumed those who were killed were collected in the street around operations or up in the tower trying to perform rescues. While people were killed in both areas, the operations area was actually right on Ground Zero.

I can't imagine the emotions of those who actually lost loved ones or survived, scarred emotionally and phsysically. Until 9/11 happened, I thought the worst tragedy I'd witnessed to some extent was the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, something involving only a few deaths but was seen by so many live or repeated over and over without mercy. This was so much wider, so much more indelible, and far easier to experience widely as say, the bombing of Pearl Harbour, the atomic bombs in Japan, the Holocaust, the rape of Nanking--these are all tragedies, some affecting thousands or even millions, but without the broadcast effect on millions around the country and the world.

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