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There’s a particular period of my life that I have always referred to as my Year of Hell. (The phrase is borrowed from an episode of Star Trek: Voyager; call it my annus horribilis if you prefer a more classical term.) In fact, I cheat a little bit: it’s a period of just about thirteen months, spanning from September of 2001 through September of the following year. Perhaps it’s overstating things a bit; I know I’ve had a pretty good life, and I probably don’t know what true suffering is like. But it was, as they say, a rough patch.
That thirteen-month period started, of course, with an event that wasn’t about me at all: 9/11, a trauma we all shared, even those of us who watched only from a distance. I felt shaken: it seemed that the world had changed, and not for the better. Over the weeks and months that followed, I watched nervously as the economy reeled and the country moved toward war. But gradually I began to realize that despite the enormity of the event, my own life hadn’t really been affected.