A 9-11 Obsession

by Bill Brenner on September 2, 2011

It happens every time the calendar rolls into September. I start watching documentaries about 9-11-01 and can’t stop.

Mood music:

Most people do this in the days leading up to a 9-11 anniversary, but for me there’s the OCD element, where after I watch something I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ll forget the rest of the world exists and just replay the scenes in my head over and over again.

I’ve been like this for the last couple of days. Thanks to YouTube I can watch all these documentaries at will.

I’ll get this out of my system. All these little compulsions pass sooner or later. But I wanted to direct you to one documentary that is worth watching obsessively, because you can learn a lot about the goodness man is capable of. It’s a Discovery Channel documentary called “Inside The Twin Towers.”

Here’s part 1. If you start there, YouTube will play each 10-minute clip in order. There are 10 in all.

There’s a morbid aspect of the program where they show what it was probably like to be inside the towers as they collapsed. But this is mostly about people helping other people despite the risks to their own lives. You see a lot of strangers helping each other.

Once the haunting aspect of the documentary wears off, you’ll walk away feeling inspired.

And maybe — just maybe — you’ll realize that you are capable of great things, of touching a lot of people, regardless of your own personal demons.

Events like 9-11-01 are full of evil and sorrow. But, as Mister Rogers said in a show he did right after the attacks, the helpers ALWAYS come. Some are firefighters running up endless flights of stairs with 60 pounds of gear on their backs.

And some are stock traders who, when put in a certain place at a certain time, did something they were always meant to do.

God has a plan, alright. Sometimes it involves awful events. But it’s a plan that sorts the boys from the men, the girls from the women, and the good souls from the selfish and indifferent souls.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Penny September 2, 2011 at 5:05 am

I am in a serious screwed up place these days. I know I can make it through and that it will take time and patience. You are a steady inspiration. You really are. Just wanted you to know.

Dan September 16, 2012 at 9:27 am

One of my favorite movie lines is from one of my favorite movies, Excalibur, the wizard Merlin, after being jostled by Arthur’s knights (he wasn’t king yet), says “It is the doom of men that they forget.” It is important to remember and some events in our lives are so important, so shocking, that they continue to draw our attention.

Thara December 3, 2015 at 4:08 pm

Dad was killed on 9/11.

My God. I still can’t watch that without any tissues ready. I’m also obsessed with 9/11 but I don’t forget the world exists.

I can’t stop. Someday when my child is 4 or 5 years old, I will tell them about 9/11. No lies, just the truth.

I’m expecting a baby.

Erick December 9, 2015 at 5:04 pm

I was on search and rescue at the Pentagon. I think about it none stop still, and almost every night I am back inside the Pentagon.
I just want it all to go away. Currently seeing counseling… paying for it out of my own pocket. The sessions seem to help a little in dealing with/preparing for nightmares. It is what it is.

G30 December 22, 2015 at 9:18 pm

I really relate to what you said about being inspired by the heroism of 9/11. I am also obsessed with 9/11 and it is surprising to me. When the attacks occurred, I experienced the worst anxiety I’d ever experienced for months and had a resurgence of OCD behaviors (even though I live far from the east coast and never saw the news footage-I avoided it that day). For years I avoided all news, pictures etc so as not to trigger anxiety. Then one day a few years ago I began watching documentaries and news coverage from that day. It no longer gives me anxiety or triggers OCD behaviors. Instead, I find myself blown away by the stories of heroism. I am inspired by people who faced fear that day and rejected it to help others.

To Erick, my heart goes out to you, so much. You are not alone. WNYC did an amazing audio documentary on the 10 year anniversary where they profiled some responders who still deal with what you are dealing with each and every day. It breaks my heart that your PTSD treatment is coming out of your own pocket.

Thara, I am so sorry for your loss.

RM March 24, 2017 at 5:23 am

Obsession with death or mass death (such as 9/11); you’re watching the videos over and over again in the hopes that you’ll FEEL something. While many people discuss such events sentimentally (James Joyce wisely said that “sentiment is unearned emotion”), it sounds like you’re struggling to bridge the gap between electronic images and humanity. You should be glad that you’re able to face these images and bravely ask yourself, “How much do I honestly care about my fellow man?”

DM May 8, 2017 at 1:59 pm

I am the same way – it’s why I googled this idea! I was 14 when 9/11 happened, and now I’m 30 and for some reason recently I can’t stop watching the videos, reading testimonials/survival stories, thinking about it, and I visited the 9/11 museum – I cried throughout it. I feel like I get haunted by the 911 calls, morbid details, and even what family and loved ones go through today still after having lost someone. I think I try to imagine what it was like (I agree with RM’s idea of bridging the gap with humanity), and I feel so bad for all the innocent victims. Anyways, it’s reassuring to hear I’m not the only one.

Mike July 25, 2017 at 10:57 pm

Thought I was the only one. How foolish of me. I used to watch 9/11 documentaries all the time. I told my gf about it and she helps to curb my mind. I still watch them sometimes, but not like I used to. I used to watch them every night for months. I think it has to do with magnitude of it and how everything intertwined. So so many aspects and stories. Idk, still trying to figure it out- it affects me so much.

Vashti September 24, 2017 at 7:37 am

Gosh. Here I am on 24 September 2017, googling ‘obsessed with 9/11’. Because I am. I watch everything I can, from The Falling Man, to The Flight that Fought Back. I just can’t stop thinking about 9/11. Especially Flight 93. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

Arianna January 3, 2018 at 6:19 pm

Just like the last poster, I’m here because I googled ‘obsessed with 9/11’. I don’t have any other OCD symptoms or tendencies. Normally for me, it starts around the beginning of September and lasts until the end of the month. Last year (2016) was really bad – I would retreat into my room every evening, watch documentaries, and cry until it hurt. Sep 2017 almost went by unnoticed but I’m back thinking about it now.
I sometimes wonder if it’s linked at all to my dad’s death. He died in February 2001 – I was 14 / 15 at the time of my dad’s death / 9/11. That year definitely changed the world for me. Maybe I’m trying to grieve for my dad by grieving 9/11.

Tommy January 28, 2018 at 4:00 pm

I have several OCD tendencies, most of which aren’t an emotional attachment that occupies my mind/time (needing tv or radio volume on an “even” number, tapping my finger to syllables while talking, etc). Feeling an overwhelming urge/attachment/obsession/interest with the events leading up to and surrounding Tuesday, September 11, 2001 isn’t explainable really…or even logical. I feel an especially intimate empathy for the victims who would have had time to realize in complete certainty that their lives were over and would never again be going home to see their family/friends/loved ones…The woman in the WTC who kept repeating, “I’m going to die aren’t I”…..The man climbing out to the ledge over 100 stories up to escape the apocalyptic hell going on a few inches from him, only to slip and begin a 10 second descent that was long enough for him to wonder why this unfair and permanent fate was chosen for him… The man on Flight 175 who was relaying the dire circumstances on his doomed flight to his Father who said, “Don’t worry, Dad, if it happens it will be real quick”…The Flight Attendant being held and tortured in the cockpit of United Flight 175 who repeated over and over again, “Please, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die”…The Flight Attendant on the phone with the American Airlines Operations Center in the ground in Ft Worth, TX who began relaying the seat #’s of the terrorists in control of her flight (and her life) who’s chilling assessment, “We’re all over the place, I see buildings, I see water, we’re flying low, we’re flying really low, we’re flying way too low, Oh my God,” foretold the helplessness and fear of those on board just moments before their lives ended instantly in a ball of fire in Lower Manhattan, 2,000 miles away from their intended destination in Northern California.

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