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October 20, 2016
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Too Painful

There's a reason I don't watch 9/11 memorials and retrospectives. I spent too many months breathing in the remains of the never-identified mixed with burning concrete, steel, and asbestos. For too many months, my previously-direct route into work was disrupted and made roundabout. For too many months, the scaffolding, National Guardsmen, barricaded streets, and ubiquitous grey dust left us worried of another attack that might complete the destruction that the attacks on the World Trade Center left half-done. I spent too many months wondering about what my religious responsibilities were to the families of those I never knew, whose loved ones' remains would remain as a body burden in my lungs, and too many months worrying about latent effects that might not show up until ten, twenty, or even thirty years after my exposure to that environment.


While I wanted and vowed never to forget, it's something that's normally packed away in the back of my mind. While I will not forget, it's something that -- under most circumstances -- is too painful to remember.


This is not to say that I've shied away from the conspiracy theories, the analyses debunking the conspiracy theories, and the analyses debunking the debunkers. It's an endlessly-iterative series, like viewing yourself in two parallel mirrors at the same time. That the incidents were capitalized upon by those who would abrogate our civil liberties is not in question -- just read some of the horror stories of children, the ailing, and the elderly being assaulted and terrorized by the agents who were supposedly set in place to protect us -- their medications and equipment confiscated, their wearable medical devices (such as insulin pumps, CGM sensors, and ostomy bags) ripped from their bodies.


While this security theater raises my self-righteous sense of indignation, it's nothing like the overwhelming fear that something is going to round you up, confine you, and kill you -- or just bomb the sidewalk you're walking on and a three-mile radius around it, without so much as a "by-your-leave".


The closest I've ever come to that feeling since is shortly after I was diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol -- not so much the exact time of diagnosis, since I (a) was in denial and (b) knew all those conditions could be controlled -- but in the days and months afterwards, as I encountered adverse reaction after adverse reaction to antihypertensive medications, found out about the length and breadth of complications of diabetes, and learned that the earlier one was diagnosed -- even with seemingly-benign (if you take care of yourself) type 2 diabetes -- the earlier one was likely to develop devastating, and eventually fatal, complications. It didn't help that one close friend with type 2 diabetes was slowly dying, and another seemed wildly out of control.


I would not be surprised to learn that many people with type 1 diabetes (and their parents) have had to make the same sort of psychological accommodation so as not to be permanently overwhelmed by fear, and that every time we light a blue candle, the carefully-mended fence around those fears is ripped apart anew.


This afternoon, I saw a recent documentary by a teenager who, as a four-year-old child, was at Ground Zero. While his mother helped coordinate communications, he was been given last messages by many of the firefighters to their families, knowing they would not return. One of the grade-school principals interviewed in the film reminded me of something I had never meant to forget.


In the hours and days following the fall of the World Trade Center, those of us connected by radio and online networks passed information to and from the affected areas, calming friends', relatives', and coworkers' fears about others' safety. In the weeks and months afterwards, everyone we knew traded stories of where we were then. So many of us who worked in the area were delayed or detoured that day that it seemed more than mere coincidence. We all remembered to let our loved ones know we cared about them, just in case we never saw them again. It was a period of time where, friend or stranger, we were all family. We all had stories to tell; we all had fears to work through.


And so it is with each of us with diabetes. We each have a story to tell; we each have fears and uncertainties to work through; we each have to find a path between keeping those fears foreground enough to be vigilant and suppressed enough to avoid becoming overwhelmed. And like many other groups of survivors, we find each other, help each other, comfort each other, work through our dark times, and take our victories where we can.

Until today, I never realized how similar the two groups are.

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