The faces and voices of the 9/11 victims on this week’s “Sixty Minutes” was the knock-out punch. There had been the week-long trauma of the Boston Marathon attacks, and I had heard first-person accounts of the toll the Iraq and Afghanistan wars continue to take on American veterans. Then the “Sixty Minutes” segment on the 9/11 memorial brought back the shock and horror we all felt a dozen years ago when two planes flew into the World Trade Center, a third hit the Pentagon, and a fourth missed its target thanks to the bravery of its passengers. In New York, D.C., Pennsylvania, Boston, Iraq and Afghanistan, the victims were not just those who were killed or maimed, but the survivors. The people who witnessed the atrocities. Those who experienced the deaths of loved ones or friends. And returning veterans and those who care about them, who are struggling to understand the changes they’ve undergone.
That’s what really haunts me. The shock in the eyes of the survivors. The pain that violence leaves behind. The new “normal” that people in war zones come to accept. Survival comes at a price. For those of us on the fringes, it might be a loss of privacy. For those more intimately affected, it could be alienation, depression, chronic pain. For all of us, it’s a loss of innocence. A piece of ourselves that’s lost forever.