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How I Almost Went Blind On 9/11 (And, what I did about it)

Posted on 25 April 2017

On the morning of September 11, 2001 I was at Ground Zero in New York City - I was also very hung over, over weight, stressed out and in an unhappy marriage - I was there to work a live webcast that never happened.  I remember starting up the camera to record, then seeing a flurry of papers flit passed the windows.  I was adjusting the focus of the cameras when it struck me, "I am on the 60th floor of 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza - where the heck is that coming from?" The confusion and disbelief rolled in.  The few staffers and security guards on site ran to the other side of the floor that faced the towers.  I followed.  

We stood there a moment, frozen watching the flame erupt and tiny objects fall from the gash in the side of the tower.  "Those are people." I couldn't help but say it aloud. 

"Don't say that!" a colleague shushed me, unaware of the historic impact of that moment - and how those floating bodies would be emulated in commemorative art.

When the second plane appeared, it was almost a relief - "...That must be one of those fire fighting planes" someone offered... but no, it was not a fire fighting plane.  It turned to the second tower and we all leaned in, I put my hands against the window to steady myself - the crowd behind me had grown and I was pushed into it further just as the second plane caused a fireball to erupt and head directly at where we stood.  We all jumped back and at that moment, deep panic set in all around me.  

No one was prepared.  No one was organized.  Alarms went off and we all abandoned our posts. Webcast cancelled.

After running down the 60 flights of stairs, I went outside to try and find my immediate "team" who I worked with - cell service was not working, calls would not go through.  I stood in front of the building in the middle of the plaza, watching the charred belongings of strangers fall like ticker tape all around me.  It was a sickening scene, I heard rumblings from onlookers "The Pentagon was hit! This is a coordinated terror attack."  

"Don't even say that!  Who would do this?"

And in an instant, the ground started to rumble and the first tower crumbled into a grey cloud, floor-by-floor the dervish rose up and out - it quickly erupted through the side streets, filling the atmosphere with it's death cloud, heading straight toward me - "I'm not ready to die"  I whispered into the collar of my shirt which I pulled over my face - I glanced over at the Picasso Sculpture and was worried for it...  

I crouched down, eyes fixated on the cloud as it came toward me in all directions - there was no where to hide - I acquiesced, curled myself into a ball, hugged my knees, pushed myself up against the glass windows of the plaza building.

Then it was silent for a moment - realized I was still alive.  The soot was thick, no one could see and I realized I was in the middle of a hoard!  I cleared a spot on the glass and saw the entrance was around the corner to my left.  People around me began to panic and scream as the reality of what had just occurred overwhelmed their realities.  This was a moment, I chose.

"It's ok, we're ok!  Grab my hand and the person next to you, follow me around to the entrance - it's right around the corner."  I don't remember who was next to me but I do recall she grabbed my hand so hard and started to squeal.  The people to my left were frozen and wouldn't move so I started pulling people and directing them to MOVE!!  Go to the door!

We huddled in and down the escalator, the last thing I saw was a woman's shoe... a spilled purse, some blood on a $20 bill.  A lot of grey, itchy soot.  That soot, it was everywhere.

I had an asthma attack so bad I almost passed out in the sub-basement.  A stranger gave me their inhaler and I was able to get going again. (Thank you, Stranger!)

We were in the sub-sub-basement when the second tower came down - the train tunnel meets up with the emergency exit in the plaza building and MTA workers covered in blood and soot came barreling in to the corridors and it was even worse than the first tower.

Needless to say, I was a little stressed that day.  Eventually we were let out of the sub-sub-sub basement and I walked up to my then residence in Hell's Kitchen.

2 Days later at work, I was sitting at my desk - trying to focus - of course Chase (my then employer) was already hard at work generating it's messaging for the tragedy - I was staring at the wall behind my monitor and that is when I first noticed it.  Hysterical blindness?

After an emergency visit to the eye doctor and back down to NYU ENT Center (No longer there as such) - I was told I experienced a stress leak in my left eye - this condition is called Central serous retinopathy (CSR) - as you can read on about it, it is not a very well understood condition, it is a result of stress and other variants... usually a condition experienced by Japanese business men.  I always felt my stress well up in my head... I knew then, I needed to get a grip!

With practice, the footprint of the deformity in the eye began to shrink, naturally - But because I had to make an effort... I had to teach myself to manage stress "better" and I was able figure it out - I was able to finally lose 50 pounds of weight - a revelation after reading both Bethenny Frankel's "Naturally Thin" and Tim Ferriss' 4 Hour Body and get my fitness up to peak with my friends at Modo Yoga.

If you followed me on Twitter you will see the progression, I became increasingly obsessed with overall health, especially mental well being and as a technologist (an Engineer by trade) I wanted to find the latest and greatest innovations to make finding the bliss easier and more efficient.  Sure, I always meditated, "practiced" Yoga and tried to eat right - but it didn't really work until ... one day, it all came together in my mind.  I was able to see myself from a different perspective through meditation and desperation... and compassion.

It seems I was not alone!  Over the years, the entire societal trend seems to have shifted with the likes of Tim Ferriss and Dave Asprey and others!  Many of the techniques, apps, gadgets and science I use today didn't even exist 10 years ago!  Holy smokes!  (Follow me on Facebook, Twitter etc and you will see a steady stream of gadgets, apps, music, hacks, blissful stuff and healthy eats - All key ingredients we can all use to manage our own biology.)

All these years later the less common side effects of CSR - the stress leak - are ever present.  I continue to suffer from night blindness, especially bad when it rains and we get road glare, and there is an overall light sensitivity... the stress leak has left behind what I call a "squid", a grey spot in my vision that at times moves and changes.  It's always there.  I like to imagine it gives me a SuperPower, and that through this * lens * I can see the truth inside people's hearts.

Needless to say, I take eye health very seriously and being prepared for random situations is high on my list.  (Gee, wonder why?) Over the last 16 years I became more and more consumed with health, biohacking and finding ways to manage the stress that almost made me blind.

One of the cool things I found are these little shades - through a series of fortunate happenstances they came into my possession and the second I saw them a light went off!

I emailed the  US company that holds the patent and asked if I could make them available to my friends and colleagues here, as generally they are only available in bulk to the medical industry.

Fun, cool and VERY geeky - the tough and portable healthy EYE solution for 2017. Made in the USA, 100% UV protection that is always handy to protect your eyes - and the special eyes of the people you care about.  

Available in Amber, the blue blocker version, especially great for blocking the blue light from PC, Phone and TV screens which can prevent our innate ability to produce melatonin and have normal circadian rhythm... This means, if you have trouble getting sleepy at night... you could benefit from blocking out the blue lights to allow your body to get naturally sleepy.  Mind you, lack of sleep is a huge stressor on your body - if you don't have enough delicious, restorative sleep at night, you will not have much success in managing your stress.

The Blissed Out Geek online store is making a short run - for just $20 you will receive a set of 3 Platinum and 3 Amber shades to give as a caring gift or save for emergencies.

If you lose, forget or even break your sun glasses, reach for one of these eye saving tubes (throw one in the glove box and another in your purse) -  You will look like you are from the future in these super cool, lightweight, easy to use, face forming miracles with 100% Ultra Violet Eye protection.  

I am so proud to introduce this BlissedOutGeek exclusive, specially designed and packaged for your Eye Health "On-The-Go" by yours truly.  I knew the second I found them that this was important and kinda cool.  You have no excuse to neglect your eyes... take a moment and breath, focus, and buy a pack for yourself or your loved one.

With gratitude,




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  • Alex DePew: April 26, 2017

    Wow, that is a damn harrowing story! So glad you got through it and are doing so much better these days. If you are ever around the way in Berlin, definitely let me know!

  • Little Shiva: April 26, 2017

    Nice beach pic! <3

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