Thirteen years ago tonight, I sat in my bedroom which was just big enough for my full-size bed in my shared apartment in the West Village of New York. I pulled out my journal and wrote this quote: "I wasn't worth the pain my death would cost."
It's from a Dar Williams song called "After All," which is, in my opinion, the best song ever written about being suicidal. It doesn't romanticize it at all. In fact, the point of the song is that she chooses to live simply because she doesn't think she's worth enough to hurt those that love her. It's bleak, but damn, is it honest.
I was reminding myself, as I did so often in those days, that no matter how terrible things were, I couldn't subject my family and friends to the pain of suicide. I closed my journal, probably cried a bit, then fell asleep.
When I woke the next morning, it was to both my landline and my cell phone ringing off the hook. The twin towers a mile away were on fire and those people - the ones I didn't want to hurt by killing myself - were terrified that I was dead.
This isn't the story of how the shock of 9/11 rid me of my suicidal tendencies for good. I had a lot of trauma in my childhood combined with a genetic predisposition to depression, and it would take actual therapy to make me well.
What I had was tremendous survivor's guilt. I was supposed to go to a building at the base of the twin towers the next day for a 9am appointment. I was unemployed and it was time to check in with the unemployment agency to convince them that I was working hard to find work, and then use their databases to scour for prospective positions. The plan was to wake up at 7:30am, shower and make myself presentable, then walk out of my apartment by 8:30am so I could stroll down 6th Avenue and pick up a coffee along the way.
What I actually did was hit the snooze button a million times, then just turn off my alarm because I was depressed and figured I'd never get a job anyway and would soon be crawling home to Kentucky. When I heard the loud explosion a few minutes later, I groggily assumed they were trucks banging over pot holes and went back to sleep.
Had I woken up on time, I doubt I would have died. I wasn't supposed to be in the buildings themselves, after all. But I kept imagining scenarios of how it could happen. A piece of shrapnel from a plane plummeting toward me as I walked down 6th Avenue. And even more horrendous situations that I'm embarrassed to admit. How the hell was it fair that this whiny, suicidal girl with no spouse and no kids would be spared when so many people with rich, full lives and non-suicidal brains died?
September 11th has become a regular day. We never thought it could happen, but here we are. Bars are offering drink specials, organizations have meetings, TV shows that have nothing to do with what happened that day will air tomorrow.
But to me it will always be the day that death came really close and woke me up. My mental health wasn't fixed that day, but I did shed about 1,000 pounds of my chronic fear. I opened my heart and met Dave, my now husband, just over three months later. If I could go back in time and assure 25 year old Randi that 13 years later she'd have a husband, a daughter, and a son who love her so much it's ludicrous, I wonder if she'd have felt differently. Probably not. Because she was clinically depressed and needed help, and couldn't really see more than a minute into the future.
I found out this afternoon that September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day, and it seemed like such a crazy coincidence. So, if you feel like things will never get better, or if you're worried that someone in your life is suicidal, act now. Get help. Don't wait for a wake-up call. In fact, here's a resource for you.
And take a minute tomorrow to remember 9/11. Such a senseless tragedy (that spawned other senseless tragedies in its wake), and a day that most of us will never forget.