Tears continue to run down my face after watching the PBS Frontline episode “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero.” I sobbed off and on during the entire two-hour program. I didn’t have time to mourn during the aftermath of that dreadful day. I was too busy working. I had responsibility to support first responders, people directly affected by the disaster, and the families of victims. I didn’t have time to grieve or feel.
I wasn’t numb but I had to tamp down my emotions. It was the only way to survive the experience and still function. I now know that this non-reactive state can lead to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). That is probably why so many first responders and members of the military develop mental health issues. If you don’t deal with the emotion soon after the event/disaster, it will morph into something worse and cause problems.
As a disaster worker, I felt responsible for helping others. I put their needs ahead of my own. Was that wrong? No and yes. No because I knew that I was actually helping. Yes because it caused unintended personal consequences. Vulcans aren’t as vulnerable as humans so I began to revert to emulating Mr. Spock. I had a very difficult time for several years. I sought out counseling in 2003 and it really helped me deal with the delayed emotions.
The program dealt with people's approach to faith after 9-11. I’d like to address the questions posed:
1. Where was God on Sept. 11?
First, you have to believe in a “higher being” of whatever name(s). I don’t know if I believe in a Creator(s). If there is a Source(s), it doesn’t have a gender and may not be singular. Second, if it does exist why would it give humans the capacity to destroy each other? Why create a being that is so self-destructive? I don’t see the logic...
2. What is the nature of evil?
What is the nature of good? If “Evil” is a noun and outside of humans, then so must “Good.” Forces of Good must be equal to the Forces of Evil and we are mere pawns in their game of chess. Not so! Each person is responsible for his or her own choices. We make choices every day to do good or to do evil. No outside Force compels us.
3. Is religion itself to blame, or is it our last refuge?
Religion is to blame only when it is used as a weapon. As one of the program’s spiritual leaders said, we all have blood on our hands; all religions have been manipulated as a reason to harm others. In this instance, Islam was contorted but you cannot blame all Muslims for the actions of a few zealots. You must make certain that your religion is not used to harm others. You have a responsibility to not permit extremists of your faith to use violence.
4. What faith can be salvaged from Ground Zero?
I don’t know. I have been questioning organized religion since I was a child. I know that something exists beyond this mortal coil but exactly what, I don’t know. Each person has to decide for himself or herself how their faith (or non faith) reacts to this horrific day. I’m still working on my answer.
Probably one of the best Frontline programs ever produced. I hope they do a follow up program and re-interview the participants (add in more women and people of diversity, too).
Still doubting faith.