Welcome Message

Cochlear Implants, hearing loss and more! I carry an interesting perspective: someone who had normal hearing growing up, lost it all slowly as an adult, then regained it with cochlear implants. So I'm deaf, but I can hear - a true miracle. If you'd like to know more about me and my bilateral cochlear implant experiences right away, my two books have a wealth of information - see the links below. Check out the list of upcoming events too - perhaps one day we'll get to meet!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001: A Remembrance

My thoughts turn now to remembrances of that grim day - September 11, 2001.  It was a day we had been looking forward to, the date chosen months before for the League for the Hard of Hearing's annual Comedy Night.  It was a fundraiser for the League, the agency that is now renamed the Center for Hearing and Communication, but for us, this event was always more than about raising money. It was the one evening where people with hearing loss could experience professional standup comedy without missing a word because open captioning and asisstive listening devices were being provided. Comedy Night had always been our favorite event, and we were expecting almost 100 of our friends and family to join us that evening.  We started getting ready early in the morning, since we would be heading into the city in the afternoon to fine tune all the seating plans.  And then we got the phone call - my sister-in-law saying that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. 

My immediate thoughts were that this was a freakish airline accident.  But we rushed to turn on the television, and followed the horrific news as it unfolded.  I watched in horror as the second plane dove into the second tower - and I vividly remember realizing, incredulously, that one of the towers had just collapsed. 

Needless to say, we knew our plans for the day - and beyond - were forever altered.  My recollections of these events have a second layer of meaning, though.  Like everything else, it always has to do with "hearing."  I was watching the live news coverage, and it was captioned - in realtime.  My cochlear implant was allowing me to hear a lot of the live reporting, but I still needed the captioning to fill in whatever I was missing.  And that meant the difference between being part of this tragic event, or merely a bystander wondering what was going on. 

I mention this because this is in stark contrast to my experience a mere ten years prior, at the beginning of the militrary actions of the Persian Gulf War in 1991.  At that time, my hearing was at the profound level, and my hearing aid didn't help me much, if at all.  Although many television programs were captioned, live breaking news typically had no live captioning coverage - not yet required by law.  I remember desperately trying to understand what General Schwartzkopf was reporting to the news media, so important to me because I had a friend in the military now in harm's way.  I was a nervous bystander, hoping someone else would please tell me what was going on.

September 11, 2001 was vastly different - with the captioning being steadily streamed, so I could know exactly what was going on, at the same time everyone else was.  Being connected isn't just for the good things - it's as important, if not more so, during trying times.  I learned later that it wasn't by chance that the captioning continued to scroll throughout the morning when the reporting was so important.  I read about how the captioners needed to stay at their stations for hours on end without a break because they didn't want to lose their phone connections.  The dedication of these professionals to their consituency is one aspect most of us don't think about - or didn't, until then.  The National Court Reporters Association documented these real stories of how captioning continued on September 11 and they give a glimpse into what was going on behind the scenes. 

I "only" knew one person who perished that day - the mother of my daughter's friend. But knowing even one person makes it personal.  I watched the memorial ceremony on television this morning, the reading of all the names. I could hear most of it with my bilateral cochlear implants, but I had the captions scrolling, as a reminder of why my recollections of that infamous morning ten years ago are still so vivid.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Arlene, Just found your blog via your Facebook post. So glad I did. I didn't have my cochlear implants yet during 9/11 and I remember feeling more isolated than usual. I was alone in St. Louis with 2 young children and couldn't hear much at all on the phone, heard nothing via radio and my husband was hundreds of miles away in New York. I never wanted to feel helpless and dependent like that again and now, with 2 cochlear implants, I am confident I never will! I'm going to go read up about the captioners in the link you mentioned. I had no idea! I'm also going to post a link to your blog on the HearingExchange Facebook group. Best to you, Paula