"During my first carrier deployment, we were in port in Hong Kong when the 2004 tsunami hit Sumatra. We immediately pulled out of port and headed to Banda Aceh, one of the worst-hit places. When we first got there, we were down current of the affected areas and there was a lot of debris in the water. There were also a lot of bodies. I was working on the flight deck when I heard someone yell, 'Hey! Come look at this!' I walked over and looked in the water where they were pointing. At first, I couldn't see anything but a bunch of trash and debris and then my eyes fell on the body of an infant, thankfully it was floating face down. One leg had been torn off at the hip and the remnants of a diaper clung to the body. Somebody said something about getting a camera. I told them I'd feed them their camera if they took a photo.
Later that evening, I was standing in the smoke pit, leaning over the railing. Thankfully the sun had set and it was too dark to see anything outside the small areas of the surface lit up by lights from the ship. I couldn't stop thinking about that baby, it was just a loop playing over and over, bobbing up and down in my head. My thousand-yard stare was broken by a pale shape coming into view. This time it was the body of a woman, naked and decapitated. She drifted underneath me.
The ship was moved to the up-current side of the area shortly after that and we stopped seeing debris in the water. But to this day, I can't look at large bodies of water or even think about the ocean without those images popping into my head.
While we were there, our helo squadrons flew from first light until dark. The first few days were med-evacs, search, and rescue, body recovery, etc. After that, it was all about moving supplies. Those of us on the ship helped move, sort, organize, and stack food, water, medical supplies, etc. I think about 99 percent of us volunteered to go ashore to help. Some of us were lucky enough to get the chance.
When I finally got my chance to go help, we flew in on the first helicopter of the day, and as we crossed over the shore, I looked down and saw what looked like a dirty beach. The kind of beach with grey sand and lots of trash. I started seeing straight lines, squares, and rectangles and realized that I was looking at what used to be a town. Nothing taller than one foot high was left. I still choke up.
We went to the central staging area and the rest of the day was spent loading helos as fast as possible with as much as possible. We heaved bags of rice and jugs of water until our arms were going to fall off in 90-degree heat and 90 percent humidity and not a single person complained once. None of us could do enough. It wasn't possible to do enough.
As the sun headed for the horizon, we loaded up one last helo about half full of supplies and hopped in. We'd drop off that last load and head back to the carrier. As we dropped down into an open field, there were a couple of families waiting for us. We touched down and just tossed the stuff out as fast as possible. As we lifted off, I looked out and saw a man and his wife holding their little girl, maybe 4 years old. She was smiling and waving, thanking us.
Whenever the other images come into my head, I think about that little girl's smile."
"My biological mom was an addict when I was growing up. She would lock my little sister and in the room when she would get high. She would shut us in there and tell us not to come out until she came for us.
There was one day when I was 4 years old when she locked us in and didn't come back for us. My sister was younger than me and started crying after a while. I can remember wanting to help her but not knowing how. My mom's boyfriend eventually came over and found her unconscious on the floor. He let us out of the room, and I remember seeing her body lifeless on the floor and being so confused. He tried to not let me see, but I saw her anyway.
She ended up surviving, but we were removed from the home. My sister and I were both adopted by amazing parents (who later adopted again), but that memory stuck with me.
I am doing 'fine' overall. I am graduating from high school this year and am part of National Honor Society. I played sports throughout high school. I still have issues with abandonment. Sleeping by myself still scares me. I am lucky enough to have a brother close in age who doesn't mind sharing. I have a hard time believing that someone loves me. I have a girlfriend and I know she loves me, but I still question it at times. I am afraid to try substances of any kind, so I am nervous about starting college. It's a bunch of small things that make up my everyday life."
"When I was 25, a guy hanged himself in my workplace. I was the first person to see his body. His skin was blue and his tongue was sticking out. I still think about it every now and then.
This guy wasn't popular. Nobody hated him, exactly, but no one enjoyed his company. He was from Europe and had nothing in common with any of his coworkers. He worked in this finance-type role and was a tough guy about the budget. We had to defend every dime we spent, and he didn't even try to hide the fact that he thought all of us were a waste of time and money.
As for his motive, it turned out he was kind of a hypocrite. Apparently, he embezzled a bunch of cash from the firm a week before Christmas. He ran into money trouble and decided to forge checks to steal what he needed. When he got caught, he couldn't handle the consequences or the shame, so he hanged himself. The only suicide note he left was a boilerplate resignation letter.
I didn't like the guy, but we were all shaken up by it."
"When I was 12 years old, a friend's grandmother used to watch me before and after school. My mother raised me Mormon and these people all went to our church.
At the time, I had just lost the only father figure I had. I was depressed and near suicidal. I was also discovering that not only did I not believe in the Mormon church, but I disliked the church and the people in it. Needless to say, I was rebelling. However, at that time I was still a good kid, I was just sad and extremely confused.
My mom was a single mom. She and my dad divorced before I was born. My dad wanted a boy. When my mom found out I was a girl, he went on record in court that he didn't want anything to do with me. To this day, that is still a sore spot.
Now this grandma was mean and hateful to her core. She would talk crap about me and make fun of me behind my back and talk bad about my mom.
One day, the grandmother and I got into a disagreement. I don't remember what about, but I was calling my sister to pick me up. This grown woman looks 12-year-old me in the face and says 'if I was your father, I wouldn't want anything to do with you either.'
I tried to kill myself that night for the first time. To this day, I still can't forgive her. It's the single most hateful thing anyone has ever said to me."
"My brother and I shared a bedroom when we were in third and first grade, respectively. One night, we were both watching the 'Lion King' when we heard screaming from the living room. We didn't do anything or get nervous because our older sister would often get into fights with our mom. When we heard my big brother telling my mom to stop, I got nervous. I turned the volume up on the tv so my little brother couldn't hear the yelling because he started to get scared. I told him that everything was going to be fine, and I went outside the room.
I saw my sister grabbing my mom's arm trying to get a broken bottle out of her hand. She tried to kill herself. My big brother was trying to get my mom to calm down. I can never forget that day. I remember standing there frozen, seeing the broken glass and my mom crying and begging my sister to let go. I didn't know what to do and honestly, I don't remember what I did afterward. I just know that I didn't let my younger brother out of the room. I still have nightmares about it, 12 years later."
"Burying my stillborn daughter. I have two beautiful children now, but I went through 18 months of severe anxiety, depression, postpartum psychosis, and hallucinations. It messed me up because even now, I fully expect the fates to take away another child. That baby girl- she's a tear that hangs inside my soul forever."
"When I was 7 years old, I saw one of my good friends lying on the side of the road face down and blood coming from his head. He was killed in a hit and run. I remember coming back from Toys-R-Us, who I was with, what shoes my friend was wearing and everything, etc. He was hit while trying to get the mail, I believe. As we drove by, I said 'maw, that was Timmy! I recognize his shoes!' He had some awesome black Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle velcro shoes that I wanted. Honestly, I rarely thought about that event until many years later when an uncle suddenly passed."
"My brother had open-heart surgery, and afterword had a chest tube put in. When the nurse came in to drain the fluid, it put him in absolute misery. He screamed and cried throughout the duration of it. He was this tiny little 9-year-old sitting there in so much pain and there was nothing I could do to help him. Not even the heavy medication could take the pain away. I have a lot of nightmares now. Usually, it's him being assaulted or being skinned to death, but it's the same screams from the hospital."
"I was assaulted by a close family friend that was also a cop at the time when I was 15. He's been in court for luring two different young girls, and now he's probably going to get off on it unless new evidence is brought up. I now feel obligated to make a statement, and it's terrifying.
I can't handle being around police officers or tall, bald men."
"I was awoken by my father frantically knocking at my door. He came home to find my mother lying in bed without a pulse but still warm, and panicked, not knowing what to do. I almost lost it too, but managed to call for emergency service. She didn't make it.
She suffered from kidney failure and was on dialysis for at least 10 years. Patients dying in the sleep was quite common, at least in my part of the world.
The event left me wrong in my head. Nowadays, my heart rate will spike and I feel cold whenever someone knocks on my door. Especially the people with the habit of rasping the door in a very rapid manner. That always puts me on edge."
"Being told that my child had cancer. Having to watch my 6-year-old daughter go through chemotherapy and radiation. Trying to explain to her what cancer is and that she did nothing for it to happen. Having to hold her down while the doctors poke and prod her all while she is crying and asking me why. Watching her deteriorate right in front of me. Holding her up over a toilet to throw up since she was too weak to stand. Having to make a decision on treating her at the cost of her long-term quality of life.
Luckily, she is in remission but has too much of an understanding of mortality at her age. You can tell she has lost her childhood innocence.
Still constantly questioning if I could have done more to prevent it, or if she might relapse, but mostly just grateful she is still here."
"We were driving home from dinner, taking, laughing. The light is green and I think I see a flash of something ahead. We enter the intersection and I realize that what I saw was a homeless man stumbling across the street. I scream and instead of slamming on the brakes, my friend who is driving looks over at me. He sees the man, slams on the brakes, cuts the wheel, turning the passenger side toward the pedestrian just as he realizes that we are going to hit him. The look on his face and he was so close to me. By some miracle, we didn't hit him; we missed him by inches. We pulled over in shock and cried for a few minutes, then he dropped me off.
My mind did not understand that we did not actually hit or kill the homeless man. I would have flashes of my friend and I sitting on the curb, body in the road covered with a bloody sheet over it. I see myself talking with the police. I convinced myself that I was experiencing the 'denial' part of the grief process of ending someone's life. I still have flashes of what my brain thinks should have happened but didn't. It haunts me. We didn't kill him, but I see the images and feel the feelings as if we did.
I've had worse things happen to me in my life, but nothing has traumatized me more than seeing the face that that man made before he 'died.'"
"My fear of women.
I was about 10 or 11 years old, playing hide and seek with a couple of kids in the park. Amongst us was a girl who was hiding in the bushes. I found her and started running towards her to tag her. I tripped on a rock and fell forwards and grabbed her skirt which came off. She started crying and all the kids came up to me and thought that I was abusing her. She told her parents who came up to my place and told my parents and even though I pleaded innocence, they all thought that I was abusing her. None of my friends came to my defense since no one was there when it happened, and they took the girl's word over mine. I was known as an abuser from then on and slowly stopped playing with them.
Fast forward couple of years when I was 16 years old, and had a crush on this girl in high school, but was too nervous to tell her. A friend noticed this and asked me about it, and I confided in him that I liked this girl. He promptly tells his girlfriend who was in the same gang as that girl I liked and she spread it amongst them. The next week, everyone was making fun of me for liking that girl that I was too fat and ugly slob for, and her 'sort-of-boyfriend' confronted me in the washroom and threatened to beat me if I got near her. The constant fear and humiliation were getting too much after few days, and I begged my teacher to change my class to a different one just so I can sit in class in peace.
Needless to say, these events created a warped view of women in my mind that I could never trust them. Which now that I think is stupid. But this was the reason why I never had a girlfriend or went out on a date or asked a girl out, and I'm almost 30 now. These events happened to me at an age when I was starting to feel attraction to the opposite gender, but both the events warped my psyche. The only women I interact freely with are my aunts and cousins. I cannot believe that a girl would have feelings for me and I think they will either ridicule or humiliate me. I cannot get attached to someone and when I feel like I am, I distance to spare myself from the eventual pain. I can't text or message them first because I feel I will be bothering them.
I hope I can one day get over it but the memories are too painful and the emotional baggage is still there."
"When I was 10 years old, my mom, sister, and I were leaving Vons when we saw three younger men (in their 20s) viciously beating up a 60-year-old man. Kicking him on the ground, punching and all. Then THEIR MOM pulls up in her car, clearly seeing what was happening, got them in the car and drove away before the police got there.
Why did it leave me messed up?
1) People WERE EATING OUTSIDE WATCHING AND NOT ONE OF THEM CALLED THE POLICE despite sharing the account that they just attacked the older guy.
2) Their mom helped them get away, which is essentially condoning what they did. Obviously, a better parent would've left them to deal with the police.
3) It was unprovoked by a 60-year-old who was essentially defenseless against three large young males."
"Towards the end of high school, I got jumped by about 10 guys. I was just hanging out with a couple of girls and guys, this kid walked by us and 10 minutes later, brought back his buddies claiming we were talking smack. We didn't and that jerk had headphones on when he passed. They gave my buddy kidney damage and beat me unrecognizable for fun. Took turns beating us and bouncing rocks and breaking boards off is. They only attacked two of the three guys and left the girls alone.
Another time a few years later, out for my birthday walking up a Main Street of a small vacation town on the East Coast at 10 p.m., and we cross paths with three people on illegal substances. They start trouble and the next thing you know, one of them whips out a knife and stabs my then girlfriend's brother. The guy collapses on a chair and almost bleeds out. They get him to the hospital and save his life.
I once witnessed a woman get killed by a tow truck that started from a standstill about 30 feet away. The truck stopped after it body-checked her dead center in the chest. She never woke up. She worked at the nearby mom and pop grocery store. She was a nice lady. I went to the police department headquarters and was the main witness. The driver had to be on something.
My lady didn't understand why I had issues being anywhere near the street for the next year. That area was residential and we lived on the main road and all the drivers whipped up it way too fast anyway."
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