We often hear about veterans who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But there are civilians who experienced the 911 attacks who also suffer from PTSD. Some are receiving help from Congress. But our local survivors do not.
Congress extended the World Trade Center Health Care Fund in 2015, which continues to help survivors of the September 11 attacks in New York City. But there is no money for the survivors of the attack on the Pentagon. A local woman who was there that day has been struggling ever since.
"I was in shock," said Amy West, 45, who was working at the Pentagon as a civilian contractor with LockHeed Martin. "People don't know how bad it was."
She said she her program manager insisted her entire team had to come back the next day.
"And I didn't know that I had a choice," she said.
West said she kept going back to work at the Pentagon for the next six weeks even though it felt under siege.
"Two guys with assault rifles, there were bombing sniffing dogs. There were alarms going off all the time,” West said. “And every time an alarm went off, we don't know if it's a real attack or not, and so you just run for your life."
The indelible images she saw over the next several weeks impacted her psyche.
"They were carrying the body bags out the back (in the north parking lot) so that they wouldn't get any press," West said.
She described a gruesome scene of rolling gurneys that would be carrying body bags, some were only partially full with remains of her former co-workers.
"It was horrific," she said.
She was able to transfer and worked until 2012 when she finally had to quit because of PTSD, which she said has gotten even worse.
West survived on disability for her PTSD: she has a recurring nightmare about commercial planes circling above and crashing into one another, falling out of the sky. Anxiety kicks in when she's around large crowds and she rarely leaves home. Her memory is impaired.
But now, West is speaking publicly to help her son Cassian who has autism. He will be four years old in a few weeks, yet he speaks only a few clear words.
"He should've been talking at two years old," West said.
"Autism is very expensive disorder. The psychiatrists don't take insurance. You have to raise funds yourself," she said.
Cassian is in a three-hour-a-day program with Fairfax County, which is excellent, West said, but not enough.
She has started a GoFundMe page to raise $15,000 for his testing and treatment. The single mom wishes she could work and pay for it herself, but she can't.