9/11: A Survivor’s Story: Artie Van Why
Life: it’s precious and yet like the flame on a burning candle it can slowly or quickly die. Sometimes we think that we are not worthy of the goodness that we’ve been blessed with and other times we take it fore granted. Artie Van Why was at the crossroads of his life not finding any specific direction and looking to God for answers? Finding his way at times yet losing focus too. Hoping for acceptance and trying to lead a good Christian life with the help of God and his power. Realizing he wanted to become an actor he worked in the field for a while. Meeting Karen set him in a more positive direction and together they became one for a short time. But, when she went away for a while Artie had another realization and how would he tell her that he was a gay man looking for a different type of relationship? How would he tell his parents? Yet the courage he showed in telling both Karen and his parent’s let his strong character shine through.
Now he had to decide on his job learning that his company was moving to near the World Trade Center and not everyone was being asked to work there. However, offered a great opportunity and with careful deliberation he accepted the position and for a short time his life was enriched and moving in the right direction until it wasn’t.
A morning with his favorite coffee and bagel then visiting his street vendor while sitting outside and enjoying the beautiful blue sky and the people walking by. Work begins at 8:30 little did anyone know that at 8:46am the world wound change, lives would end and the towers would be destroyed as the heinous ignorant hateful terrorists decided to ram two planes One into each tower at two different times and one at the pentagon. The sight that our author witnessed and the fear held within his heart and mind at the moment he and his fellow employees were rushing out of their office building running for their lives, this moment in time this vision will never fade. Like a movie that’s repeating over and over again it will replay in his mind forever. The sight of so much paper and debris and people falling from buildings and one man who he and others tried to save does not negate what these terrorists did but reminds of how New Yorker’s rally to help others in a crisis.
The solitude, the silence the world at a standstill and his heart heavy. The fears, trying to find a phone to call his parents and feeling displaced and not centered at times. Helping Billy find his boyfriend and the vigil and the meeting. Many cane and placed flowers and others joined hands and prayed. Some put up pictures of those missing or victims of such cruelty that can never be forgotten or forgiven. Hate is a terrible word and until it’s eliminated the fear of more like 9/11 is always in the minds of those who lived it or watched it happen.
Twelve step meetings, support groups and the people that he meets all dealing with their own grief and experience in his/ her own way. But, the love of his family helped yet a life changing decision to leave his secure job after so many years led him to writing That Day in September an heartfelt account of his experience on September 11,2001 and the aftermath leading to writing this more in-depth account adding more about his close friend Richard who helped him to bring it on stage as a play he starred in followed by putting the later version on tour for more audiences to see. Success does not mean a Tony award, it means living his dream.
Things changed and he decided to move to Lancaster Pennsylvania and start a new chapter in his life. His therapist, Stephanie was his primary support system along with his parents but PTSD is debilitating and at times the depression was overwhelming and losing his gay friends and support in New York created a definite void. Changes happened and his life changed moving in with his parents and becoming their caregiver. But, That Day in September would linger in his mind and writing more about it and recreating it for his parents and Sue would help them understand that horrific day. But, when Bin Laden was finally dead and the news broke he shared it alone and dealt with the realities of that day once more. But, there were no tears for his death but for those he caused to die that day.
Told in his own voice this book is a reminder that we must never forget, always stay vigilant and cherish those that are dear to us each day.
Forgetting how to laugh and smile was what engulfed his life and wondering why God let him survive played on his every thought. Just maybe he wanted you to live your life, create your own way of telling others about your experience by writing this book, speaking to others, talking with friends and revisiting Ground Zero on the anniversary of 9/11. This is a powerful book and students of all ages need to hear his words and read this book to understand how it impacted Arte and so many other survivors and families that lost someone dear to them that day.
Visiting the 9/11 museum was a noteworthy and allowed him along with his therapist to remember that day and the very moment his life changed. But, imagine receiving a special email from Arianna Huffington to write for them helping others understand that day in September and sharing his experiences and hopefully making a difference with his words and thoughts. Then the tragedy in Orlando brings it all back but speaking the next day about 9/11 would make him stronger.
The inner turmoil that Artie experiences daily is paramount to how he relates to daily activities and to the stressful and painful reminders of 9/11. Each day presents new challenges and he wonders if this day would be his last. Fortunately for him he was given Ranger his service dog and companion to provide comfort for him in those more difficult moments.
Nice France and the 1000’s I’d students having to deal with tragedy yet realizing the gravity of his words in his Huff posts and the importance of knowing why it happened seemed irrelevant compared to the death and carnage resulting from it.
The level of terror panic he describes as he and others from this attack screamed, yelled and ran for their lives not knowing what might come next.
Talking to students is important and standing in front of them they would learn from his talk the meaning of terrorism and terrorist attack. You can’t shield anyone. He even talks about Orlando and we all understand the fears so many have about travel, sexuality, discrimination, rejection and ridicule. He talks about a weekend respite and the loss of his mother a powerful chapter. How he handled it after and the like so many of us the difficulties of dealing with holidays when losing a loved one. It begins in August will describe how the author and other survivors and families who lost someone that day recalled what they saw and endured. Then, losing his dad. The story is power and the epilogue even more. A story of a man who survived 9/11 yet finds it difficult till this day to understand why he survived. In my thoughts Artie you are hear to tell your story, write tryout posts, interact with your support group on Facebook and to remind us Never to Forget!
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