DUMONT, N.J. — A month after the planes flew into the towers on 9/11, Vicki Sidrow, head of Vantage Health System in Dumont , was on a boat crossing the Hudson.
She was escorting a couple from Ocala, Florida from the state family support center in Jersey City to the makeshift memorial for the victims in Lower Manhattan.
That’s the system that state had set up: it called in mental health workers from across New Jersey.
Once they arrived, each was assigned a family to help.
Sometimes that help was counseling. Other times, it was a matter of getting a bottle of water or finding out exactly what a family member needed to know.
“There were trailers set up so you could literally go in and out of trailers to get information,” Sidrow recalled.
But it’s the boat ride that lingers in her mind.
“People were quiet on the boats,” she recalled. “Can you imagine the anxiety in going to the memorial? At the memorial, people were very somber. It was horrible.”
As Sidrow tried her best to help the couple from Ocala, even she had trouble staying completely composed. To this day, their story makes her cry.
Both their son and daughter-in-law worked for Cantor Fitzgerald.
Their daughter-in-law was pregnant.
“9/11 was a Tuesday,” Sidrow said. “Her last day of work was supposed to be Friday. They all died. So this couple lost their son, their daughter-in-law, and their prospective grandchild. Oh, my God.”
It’s still difficult for her to utter the last part: “It was their only child.”
The couple was in shock, she said. But there was more to their emotions.
To say they were sad wouldn’t be correct, according to Sidrow.
“I don’t even know what the word is,” she said. “They were quietly overwhelmed.”
Thousands of such scenes played out as the boats continued to come and go for weeks on end.
Back at the mental health center in Dumont, the mental health effects of 9/11 had barely started.
“We saw people, post-9/11, for therapy,” Sidrow said. “We saw some of the kids who lost a parent for years.”
9/11 shocked Americans 15 years ago, Sidrow observed, because nobody thought such a thing could happen here.
Then it did.
Ever since, nothing has been the same.
Even with all that’s been done to secure Americans, Sidrow said, people feel less safe now than they did back then.
“Now there is, unfortunately, so much fear, including fear about foreigners,” she said.
These days, she sometimes thinks about the safe world in which she was raised in the 1950s.
Then she thinks about her grandchildren.
“I feel bad for them growing up like this,” she said.