You probably remember where you were when you learned about the Twin Towers. Fifteen years later, those moments still sear. I had a job with a medical publishing company in Westchester, and I came to work a little late. I heard the receptionist say into the phone, “The second tower, too?”
The office was in chaos. Work was inconceivable. Although nobody was sure what to do next, I knew that this was not the time for me to sell ads for The Journal of Hematotherapy. Everyone was on the phone, trying to check up on their families and friends in lower Manhattan. Their efforts were often in vain because the circuits were overloaded: people were desperate to contact their loved ones and make sure they were all right.
“All right” meant “alive.”
In the first couple of hours, many were sure that this was the beginning of a general war. Television was dead, but radio announcers told us, erroneously, that there were eight rogue airplanes. (I’m surprised at how rarely this is mentioned.) Four had already crashed; what would the other four destroy?
My middle son was at Colorado College near the Air Force Academy, and I called him to say that if the war got wider, he should put his gear in his car and camp out in the hills.
Everything had changed forever. The homeland had been assaulted. The World Trade Center was only about thirty miles south of my house. A coordinated terrorist attack had killed thousands of innocent citizens – 3,000? 40,000? At first, no one was sure.
Soon, people were leaving the office for home. For some, because of transportation disruptions, the journey would take many hours. I lived a few minutes away, and I offered to put up anyone who needed it, but in times of crisis, you want to be with your family, not your colleagues. So I went home alone to watch TV and wait for my husband, who would be coming home from his job in Connecticut at six. I
t was now around four. I didn’t know what to do next. I couldn’t watch TV another minute. People kept jumping out of high windows, and buildings kept crumbling to the ground, sometimes in slow motion. Again and again, giant clouds of smoke and debris rose over the ruins.
I needed consolation. I needed communion with nature. I needed to surround myself with beauty. It was a superb September afternoon: sunny, crystalline, 70 degrees. I went to the harbor near my house and lowered my kayak into the water.
I paddled away from the harbor patrol and . . . lit up a joint.
Until this moment, I have never told anyone about that joint. I leave it that I kayaked in the harbor, grieving for my country. The harbor is under a flight path, and usually I hear the faint rumbling of planes every couple of minutes, but on this day, all planes were grounded, and I paddled under a silent dome. The sky was royal blue, the water was silver, and two white swans glided by my boat. Solace from nature is respectable; consolation from cannabis is not.
But why not? Why is the joint disreputable? I’m sure more Valium was consumed on 9/11/01 than on 9/10/01, and diazepam has a long list of side-effects. We are now learning that marijuana can work as an anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medicine that’s safer to the body than any pharmaceutical. Then as now, I did not have a prescription for a psychoactive drug such as Valium, but I did, as always, have my illegal cannabis stash.
Sometimes pot acts as a stabilizer, making misery and memory less intense. This cushioning effect is why it has proved useful for treating PTSD. Fifteen years ago, on the afternoon of 9/11, smoking pot did not make everything better. Thousands of people were still dead, and no one knew what the next weeks would bring. But cannabis somehow eased my fears about the future and blunted the horror of the day.
Maybe that’s why joints are called blunts.
We each have our own ways to stave off despair. “Whatever gets you through the night, it’s all right, it’s all right.” Now, fifteen years later, in an effort to help remove the stigma, I can finally admit to getting high on 9/11.
This article originally appeared on MERRYJANE.com, which is dedicated to elevating the discussion of cannabis culture.