A new Netflix movie “Worth” is airing ahead of the 20th anniversary of 9/11. I suspect that we will be inundated with many more reminders of that cursed day that changed the world forever for aviation, travel, security, and our daily life on this planet. The collective trauma that triggered other previous traumas brought out the best and the worst of human reactions. The people who rushed to the epicenter of the disaster to minister to the survivors were traumatized themselves from what they saw. Psychologists, art therapists, and trauma experts rushed in voluntarily to try and alleviate the latent effects of the disaster. And then came the lawyers with the offers of compensation. Monetary compensation by the government for loss of life and limb, as if a price could be placed on such things. And yet, this is exactly what happens every day when we take out life insurance, accident insurance, and yes, flight insurance – I could go on and on. There is indeed a formula. A gross and bitter formula that values the future earning power of the individual as a basis for compensation.
It all reminds me of the reparation payments by Germany to the survivors of the Holocaust. There was a formula. Papers to submit, affidavits to fill out and validate, medical committees to pass. There were those like my father who refused to apply, refused to take money from the perpetrators. But the Israeli government took money, the government held money in its treasury for survivors who refused to claim. I must admit that about 7 years ago I was given a survivor monthly allowance for life by the Israeli treasury, and I feel validated. The irony is that now the Romanian government is offering compensation to people who were there between 1940 and 1945.
I was born in Timisoara, a beautiful ancient city in Transylvania, which is now in Romania, on Dec. 7, 1941 – another pivotal day in world history. The attack on Pearl Harbor changed the Second World War and changed the world. This is a day of mourning for the world, and a day of celebrating life for me. A day in the world like many others, in which life is lost and life is born. But some days leave their mark on world events and on life beyond them. I always joke and say that I came into the world with a big bang, and perhaps that is why I constantly feel the need to help cure and change things in the world. Perhaps my work with trauma started when I was born into trauma. The current literature claims that we carry with us generational trauma that we need to heal together.
When I was married in 1966 on 9/11, I had no idea that the day of celebration and joy, the beginning of a new family which has celebrated that event for the past 54 years, would become a day of mourning in the world 34 years later. We were invited by our close friends Bill and Anita Epstein to go to the movies in Haifa, Israel, and then to dinner to celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary. When we came out of the theater we heard some people talking about a disaster in New York, where one of the Epsteins’ daughters lives. So naturally they were worried and called her up, only to find out what happened. She was OK, but we did not have any stomach for celebrating in a restaurant any more. We came back home and spent the night stunned, looking at the reports on TV.
The world is no longer the same. Guards and electronic detecting devices have become the standard everywhere. Violence is rampant and terrorist groups, wars, and refugee crises are the order of the day. If you ask me today what is a life worth, I can only hope that it is worth the legacy of deeds we leave behind. Monetary compensation may aid us to achieve some of our goals, but it should never be a goal on its own. Money cannot replace life, and neither can it bring back those we lost. We will celebrate again. This time our 55th wedding anniversary on 9/11, and my 80th birthday on 12/7. We are here and we will continue to celebrate and show the resilience we share with all others who are touched by adversity and are only becoming more compassionate and more willing to share and help others to heal and grow. Anniversaries and birthdays are among the milestones we erect in the road of life. It is up to us to make sure we reach every milestone with joy and pride, and work diligently towards the next one.