Health And Wellness

Remembering 9/11 On The 20th Anniversary Of The Attacks And The People Who Still Suffer Today

Photo: Keith Burke / Shutterstock
9/11 memorial

The 20th anniversary of 9/11 does not mean that the pain and memories have subsided for many. This date set many things into motion that continue to have an effect today. 

Men and women were deployed to the scene for rescue and recovery. Men and women were shortly thereafter deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

Homeland Security was formed to reassess and defend our vulnerabilities. The 9/11 memorial museum was built to honor those involved.

Everyone was affected somehow. 

RELATED: 20 Powerful 9/11 Quotes In Memory Of The Attacks On September 11, 2001

Why is remembering 9/11 important?

For those who suffer from complicated grief from their involvement in 9/11, having a safe place to share and remember this collective trauma is essential to healing. Another essential part of healing often is the search for reason or meaning in the tragedy. 

During acts of terrorism, it's difficult to find meaning or make sense of what happened. Investing in a shared experience to memorialize the events helps those who are still suffering to not feel alone.

Community and support are vital to recovery. If you remember back to this tragic day, the one thing that stood out was how the entire country came together in mourning. 

We stood proud as a nation with a collective purpose. However, after the clean-up was complete and the rescue efforts concluded, in many ways the majority of us moved on. 

Many involved just tried to forget. For those that were processing and seeking community support, there were groups and organizations to provide that. Those who participated found solace in connecting with others that understood first-hand the complexity and enormity of their grief. 

Memorials were built to serve as reminders, so the losses were not forgotten. Keeping the memory alive lets those who still grieve know they are remembered.

Then came the COVID pandemic. This isolated those who needed connection even more. Many memorial events are canceled this year, and the chance of connecting with others for shared grief has evaporated. 

That is why this year on the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 it's even more important to memorialize it so the responders and survivors can feel that we still care, and that they are not alone.

Who were the victims of 9/11?

There were nearly 3,000 deaths and almost 10,000 injured in the attacks. These include:

The passengers of the four hijacked flights

People working in and around the World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon

Fire Fighters

NYC Police Officers


Port Authority Police Officers

Also counted among the victims are the families and loved ones of those who died, as well as the men and women of our Armed Forces that died or were injured while deployed in response to the attack.

What are the Psychological Effects of 9/11?

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in trauma, I have seen a broad range of psychological effects of 9/11. Many in our country lost a sense of safety and security on that day. For those of us on the East Coast even more so. 

A common theme for people who were in the towers, like first responders, or who were on the scene and trying to escape the city is, “It is a day I will never forget, and it changed my life forever.” 

Even those of us who watched it unfold on TV or listened to it on the radio can remember what we were doing on that day. For many who were at ground zero, they report vivid snapshots of different scenes that they cannot forget. 

Moments in time felt very surreal, like after the towers collapsed and everything was covered in dust and ash as if the world had turned black and white for that moment in time. 

Many have responded by dissociating from the event and tucking it away in the corner of their memory hoping never to think of it again. Others have gotten through the memories with the support of family and friends and are only occasionally reminded of it. 

There have been those who retired from their occupations after 9/11 for they could no longer work without the reminder of what they were doing on that day. There's also a portion of the survivors and responders that have chronic complicated grief or post-traumatic stress disorder.

RELATED: How I Moved Forward After Being Blamed For The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

How Many People Have PTSD From 9/11?

According to multiple sources, the prevalence of PTSD caused by 9/11 ranges from 3.8% to 29.6%, depending on the population. One of the variables appears to be the length of exposure to the trauma. 

Those that were there day after day, and those who had their homes or jobs taken because of it had an increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder. Proximity to the event also showed as an indicator to increase the likelihood of developing PTSD. 

Inadequate access to medical care, low levels of support or connection, and financial instability also increased the odds.

Many of these statistics, however, come from people that have reached out for some form of help. It's not uncommon for people that struggle with PTSD to avoid talking about it and avoid reaching out for help. Many simply hope that it'll just go away on its own. 

Many find it too painful to talk about and avoid the topic of their trauma altogether. Often, trauma survivors and victims exercise avoidance because talking about it makes it more real, and they don't want to burden their loved ones with the memories they themselves have to endure.

People also fear being looked at differently. I see similar issues when treating Viet Nam veterans. Many of them had waited 40 years before reaching out for help. 

A great deal of them blame themselves for not being able to “just get over it.” Most want to avoid the social stigma that still exists surrounding mental illness

In an article by Mathew Tull, Ph.D., Tull reviewed a study that explored kids and media coverage of 9/11.

This study suggests that indirect exposure to the events of 9/11 via television accounted for children and parents having symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of PTSD. Even beyond that, many experienced trauma at a sub-clinical level. 

This study serves as a reminder to regulate what your children watch on television. Not only that, it's a good idea to limit your own exposure to coverage of traumatic events. 

How are victims and families doing today?

Over the past 20 years, many people have struggled to get over it, but have still managed to move on with their lives. There are still many people, however, that are suffering from psychological and physical illnesses

The 9/11 World Trade Center Health Program provides monitoring and treatment for Responders and Survivors of the 9/11 attacks and has been reauthorized to do so until 2090.

The categories of illness that have plagued these populations include:

Acute Traumatic Injuries

Airway and Digestive Disorders


Mental Health Conditions

Musculoskeletal Disorders

As of June 30, 2021, 112,042 program members have registered and 4,627 are now deceased.

Why is Remembering 9/11 On The 20th Anniversary of The Attacks Important?

On September 11th, 2001, the landscape of the United States was forever changed, both physically and otherwise. What used to be thought of as an impenetrable country now had the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, PA under attack by air in an unprecedented terrorist attack. 

Many lives were lost that day and in the days to follow. Memories of the attacks are etched into the minds of those who were there, the loved ones of those who were lost, and the world who watched helplessly as the events unfolded through the media. 

These are memories that we will Never Forget.

Remembering 9/11 is important to serve as a reminder of how we can come together as a society and support one another. It's also important to remember you never know how someone else might have been affected and to show them we still care.

If you or someone you love continues to struggle with mental or physical difficulties because of 9/11, reach out. There's help out there waiting for you, and people who care. Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or text "HELLO" to 741741 to be connected with the Crisis Text Line.

RELATED: 5 Heartbreaking Signs Your Spouse Is Silently Suffering From PTSD

Carolyn C. Snyder LCSW is the Owner & Founder of C Snyder Counseling & Wellness as well as an author and creator of Inner Child Healing programs. For more information on her services, visit her website.