A Black man's emotional recovery from 9/11

Cyril Josh Barker | 9/11/2019, 12:35 a.m.
Frederick Myers plans to spend this September 11 in solitude.
Frederick Myers Bill Moore photo

Working late the night before, Myers said it was a series of small events at his home in New Jersey that kept him from getting to the World Trade Center to go to work. Taking his daughter to the bus stop, unpacking a suit, ironing the suit and replacing a missing button.

"I had the TV on and the news interrupted to talk about an incident that happened at the World Trade Center. It took me a while to realize why all these incidents were occurring and that they all had a purpose. They were keeping me from getting to work."

At 8:46 a.m., American Air-lines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center's North Tower between the 93rd and 94th floors and collapsed at 10:28 a.m. Myers' regular schedule would have had him in his office at the time.

He said, "My first reaction was 'I'm not going to work today,' which seemed obvious. Then when I learned about the second plane crashing into Tower II, I thought 'I'm not going to New York today.'" In total, 2,993 people lost their lives on September 11. In the Port Authority, 84 of the 1,400 employees who worked in the World Trade Center were killed when the tower collapsed. Because of his work, Myers knew most of the employees because he had helped them in the past with human resources issues.

"There's no workplace in the country that has had to with-stand two international terrorist attacks," he said. "The whole thing was like watching your own funeral."

Myers' emotions get the best of him when he discusses how his coworkers died. He references a cleaning woman who gave him a gift basket and a card containing a $100 bill as a wedding gift. He doesn't know where she is today or whether she is dead or alive.

The emotional effects took over Myers after the attack. He said the day after was very difficult.

"The next day, I felt like an alien in a foreign territory," he said. "The sense of community in an organization was shattered."

It took Myers two months to return to work at the Port Authority. After seeing two psychologists, Myers realized that the root of his pain was the fact that he had helped so many people in his workplace but was unable to save them from the attacks of September 11. "Eighty-four pieces of me went down with the World Trade Center," he said. "You can't be healed after something like that. I had developed personal relationships with all of them."

Returning to work for the Port Authority in late 2001, Myers was transferred to Jersey City, N.J. He left the Port Authority in 2007, taking a job working for the United Negro College Fund on Wall Street. "I didn't want to deal with the emotional trauma of having a workplace that was vulnerable to international terrorism," he said.

While police and firemen were praised for their work on September 11, Myers said that the stories of people of color have not been told in the media. Blacks, who worked in the World Trade Center, he said, suffered great losses.

"They suffered in a very different way," he said. "They lost their jobs and they were the victim of the economic fallout of 9/11. The World Trade Center was the economic center of the city and Lower Manhattan.

People of color suffered emotionally and economically. Many lost coworkers and jobs, which means no benefits, so who do you go to for mental help?" Myers believes that another attack similar to September 11 could happen again, and while his fears don't paralyze him from functioning normally, the traumatic experience, he said, stays with him.