Remembering 11th September and the aftermath

I don’t have any grand or notable memories  from 11th  September 2001. I wasn’t connected to New York in any personal way but this last  Friday, after work, I spent the evening by coincidence with the friend whom I spent the evening of the 11th September 2001 with.

We spoke about our collective and individual memories of that day. The interesting thing was how we remembered different aspects. She told me she remembered I seemed a lot more shell-shocked than her – but I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

I wasn’t at work that day. I was about to go on holiday and was at my dad’s house. My dad was out so I was just pottering around between packing up things I needed (I’d been staying with him) and well, just enjoying not working.

We’ve always been a family of news junkies and my dad had Sky (which I didn’t at the time) so I generally had the rolling news channel on as a default and indeed, I was watching the rolling news from the moment the very first news came in that a plane had hit the first tower. In fact, I was one of those people calling people I knew and telling them to put on the television because I couldn’t explain what I was seeing.

So there I was, watching the live television pictures when the second plane hit the second tower,  and when the towers collapsed and for all the aftermath. It happened as I was watching and honestly, I felt scared. It’s interesting to recall because of course the distance was so great but as I was watching the rumours starting about how many planes there were, where the planes were going, what was happening – or then the wackier ones (retrospectively) like Canary Wharf being targeted.

My friend and I had been intending to go to the cinema that evening. We didn’t. I told her I really didn’t want to go out into central London. I can’t explain my feelings of the time. As we met this weekend, she said she thought because I had been watching the entire television coverage, I felt a greater immediacy and a greater link to what had happened. For her, she told me, they had been told at work and it didn’t quite seem real.

Regardless it felt as if the world was a different place. In the end, we met in a small local restaurant and chatted. It felt somehow more respectful in an odd way. I’d been to New York about a year previously and had been up the Twin Towers – I’d got pictures of me standing at the top and bought some of the usual tat I return from holidays with at the gift shop up there. I thought about the people who would have served me and who smiled at me. Then I tried not to. I didn’t though have any personal connection with New York. I didn’t know anyone who lived there or who might have been involved in the destruction that unfolded.

I wonder if it is the watching of televisual events unfolding that brings some of the tragedy closer and I wonder how that will impact on the ways that these kinds of effects have a greater terror when we see up close, the faces of people affected and relate to them.

I know, the day that New York was attacked, I felt that we – myself, my country, the type of cosy life we had got used to, were under attack too. The world had changed. The world was a scarier place.

As an aftermath – I spent some time in the Family Support Centre after the London Bombings on the 7th July 2005.  When I was there I had a few discussions with those in the various local authorities who had co-ordinated the response for families and victims and pulled together a joint London protocol. Apart from the fact that there are lessons that how can said to have been learnt from the inquest, many of the initial lessons were learnt in discussion with colleagues in the United States about coordinating post-disaster/attack.  The impact was more than local it was international.

As for anniversaries, they are always difficult but today my thoughts are resolutely in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania – as well as those affected all over the work – just as they were ten years ago and many years in between.

There is more than unites us than divides us.

A failed adoption

I was horrified when I saw this story on the news this morning. It involves a child aged seven who was adopted in the US from Russia and his adopted mother put him on a plane on his own back to Russia complaining that he was ‘mentally unstable’. Now Russia is considering suspending adoptions to the US.

This is beyond heartbreaking. I have a lot of difficulties with international adoptions to be honest. I wonder if it is ever the best thing to take a child away from their home environment and culture and while I can accept that there may be some circumstances that it could work and be favourable and that there are some wonderful individual adopted parents – there is something of the ‘baby trafficking’ imperialist feel. Especially when they have their names changed to something ‘American’ with such impunity and may find themselves in smaller towns, isolated from contact with their own culture and with fears that the native background and culture might be whitewashed.

I think the key is proper checks, preparation and aftercare if these types of adoptions are to take place and so a lot of questions need to be asked (and are no doubt being asked) of the agency in particular and perhaps, just perhaps, the process is actually too short rather than over-lengthy.

Being able to pick a child with less care than one might pick a puppy is incredibly uncomfortable and immoral. Putting a child on an aeroplane – urgh. Beyond urgh.

I have no expertise in the field of adoption and I say that straight out but it seems a lot more common in the US for international adoptions to take place. I wonder if it is due to a more decentralised system of agencies which exist. I honestly don’t know the answer.

But whatever the answer is, this is not it.

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Alzheimer’s, Screening and Stigma

A report published on the Science Daily website yesterday explains that UK older adults were far less likely to want to access dementia screening than their US counterparts.

The premise of the study was to find out what difference access to universal health care made to access to services and screening in particular for Alzheimer’s.   The findings were, well, it didn’t make a great deal of difference, in fact, UK patients sought the screenings at a far lower level.

Some interesting points I picked up from the study. The reasons given for Britons being less likely to want the screening were based on the attitudes and stigma that society places on people who have Alzheimer’s.

Interestingly, although none of the sample groups in the UK or US had diagnoses of Alzheimer’s

significantly more of the U.K. participants (48 percent) had close friends or relatives who have or had Alzheimer’s disease compared to U.S. participants (27 percent)

So it made me wonder if the concerns about being screened were not about the cost of treatment obviously in the UK as there is the free universal healthcare, but more from having seen family and/or friends suffering at closer range.

So the conclusion that

Even when taking into account education and race differences, Britons indicated greater concern with the stigma of diagnosis, with potential loss of independence, and with emotional suffering than their American counterparts

may be, at least in part, due to a closer experience of Alzheimer’s in the UK sample.

I hope these kinds of studies are not used to attack universal health care. I think there are a lot of other attitudes and perceptions at play rather than just ‘fear of the cost of Alzheimer’s’.

The researchers intend to extend on this pilot study with further studies.

One to watch.

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November

I did fairly well at staying up all night to watch the results of the US elections. It was fairly inspiring and exciting at 3am.. 4am.. but now, with work in a couple of hours, I am just beginning to hit the ‘wall’ so might not be prone to write too much about it!

image jetheriot at Flickr

Nice work, Senator Obama. Somehow the sky seems a little bit more blue from over  here.

And as for McCain – nothing in his campaign became him like the leaving of it. A lot of dignity there in that concession speech.

One of the comments that waved across my half-wakeful consciousness was someone on the BBC who said that there was almost a sense of closure after the 2000 elections and the whole Florida theft/mess – who can forget the Tale of the Hanging Chad (that sounds like it should be some kind of Country Hit.. ). The 2000 elections were, in my mind, something of a blot on the landscape that tainted Bush before he’d even started to govern and do enough tainting of his own.

There seems to be a sense of hope now. Hope for change. Hope for difference. Optimism for the future. Who knows how long it will last but nothing wrong with enjoying while we can. The Prime Minister has also just released a statement congratulating Obama.

Sleepiness and lack of breakfast makes for a slightly disjointed post!

And as for tonight. I think I’ll probably pass on the bonfire celebrations or at least postpone them till the weekend.

I’ll be back to the more usual social work type posts tomorrow. I just felt the election was too big an event to let it pass me by.

British views on the US Election

The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. That makes it election day in the United States. Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that.

If there were even a smidgeon of doubt, which I assume there isn’t, I’m very much behind Obama. But it’s not my election. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important to us, over here, though. Because it is.

image kevin dooley at Flickr

So here’s a brief round up of British based news about the election

The Times runs a rank of the best and worst ever US Presidents.

Lincoln comes in at No 1 and Buchanan comes last at No. 42. GW Bush? Joint 37th (with Nixon!).

They also have a podcast which I’d recommend – really, it’s quite funny!

The Telegraph runs an interesting story about the mathematics behind the Electoral College system and its fairness, or otherwise.

The Daily Mail – bless ’em – on why we will miss Bush (!?!) (Don’t worry, it has lots of pictures!).

In the Guardian, Freedland writes about why this election is so important internationally. And Pottering (the President of the European Parliament – and no, I didn’t know that before I read the article!) writes about the impact on Europe more specifically.

The Financial Times looks at the very grand expectations internationally,  that will be held for the new President.

The Economist has a slightly different angle (from one I’ve seen, anyway) and looks at the effect of the elderly voters on the outcome.  Also quite an amusing ‘best and worse’ quotations from the election trails.

I did briefly look at the Sun to see what they were saying, but they just had a joke about B.O! – with lots of related puns!

The BBC rocks up with a Guide to Election Night as well as a quiz!  (I got 50% – obviously haven’t been paying as much attention as I thought I had been!).

So that’ll be something to keep me occupied this evening and through the night – although most of my attempts to stay up for election results seem to end in falling asleep on the sofa – especially as tomorrow is a work day!