Steve Fishman: Does anyone still flash back to 9/11?
Tom Canavan: Every day. Pass a construction site, smell that concrete powder, and it comes back. Or hear the Metro-North train coming in, the rumble. You have that instant Oh, my God, and then you realize it’s nothing. It’s the train. Or it’s a construction site, that’s all. It could be the most obscure little thing.
Elia Zedeño: Look at the clock and it’s 9:11. And it’s really 7:11, every time.
Manuel Chea: It always happens.
Fishman: It’s the central event of your lives now?
Canavan: It becomes an addiction. For lack of a better word, yeah.
Fishman: How is everybody’s life now? Looking back, what was the hardest part?
Earlyne Johnson: I was very angry for a couple of months. What made me really angry was the therapists: They were like, “Oh, try to go back and do what you normally do.” Well, I normally went to the World Trade Center and went to work! I was like, “No, I can’t go back.”
Canavan: Well, if you want, I will refer you to my therapist. She was excellent.
Fishman: How about medication? Who uses it?
Canavan: I never took so much as an aspirin before. They had me on nine pills a day. I still sleep probably three to four hours a night. What I have is a movie projector in my head, and this movie plays [of the tower coming on top of me]. It’s like your body rests, but your brain doesn’t shut down. It just keeps playing over and over.
Zedeño: I went to work right away; we regrouped in another facility, but I didn’t feel safe. I would go home at night and go into my room and systematically became alienated from just about everybody. At work I would run to and from the bathroom, so I would take my bag with me and make sure that I was ready to run; I kept thinking I was going to get caught with my pants down. [Laughter]
Peter Totten: Only two or three days later, I started commuting to Princeton, where we have a large office. My first task was to deal with the family members—we lost thirteen people—and that was extremely difficult.
Fishman: How did they view you?
Totten: There were a few who were … not antagonistic, but clearly angry. I don’t know that they actually ever said, “Why are you alive and my so-and-so is dead?” but they would be yelling on the phone, and sometimes you just had to let them vent. It was a difficult thing to just sit and take it.
Canavan: I had that. One of the women I was with was killed five feet from me, and I spoke to her family. “Where was she? Was she screaming?” And then finally at the end, it was, “Well, how come you’re alive and she’s not?”
Johnson: Someone asked me, “Why do you think you didn’t die?” and I just kinda summed it up: God isn’t finished with me yet.
Fishman: Was God finished with the others?
Johnson: I don’t think God makes mistakes; you know, if it’s your time to go, you’re going to go.