(Re-posted from 9.11.13)
Today we commemorate one of the events in our nation’s recent history that Americans greatly wish had never happen or at least could be forgotten. Yet we are all drawn back by the common instinct to honor those lost and their loved ones who still strive to heal and rebuild their lives. Among them, immortalized by images replayed on our TV screens and embedded in our minds, are members of the NYC First Responder Community.
In behalf of the 911 Wellness Foundation board of directors I offer up a prayer for personal healing from haunting trauma, and for the rebuilding of hope and lives even beyond what folks may believe is possible. (A benefit of my clinical trenchwork with those suffering from PTSD is seeing this prayer answered again and again.)
The city of New York is best seen as the epicenter of the 9/11 catastrophe of an enormous psychological shock wave that emanated outward throughout the country that day. It still pulses with heartbreak for Americans everywhere, especially each year on this day. No matter what state we hail from, each of us can recall just what we were doing that day, that moment the news came to us or flashed upon a screen nearby.
I am drawn back to the moment I sat in my office fully absorbed in the story of a distraught client. Honoring the Cardinal Rule to never interrupt a session except for emergencies, my secretary knocked rapidly on my door. I was in shock as she broke the news and put me through to a call from a school principal desperate for help leading his student body in processing the trauma. I was compelled to go instantly not only by the need to help his students but also because my own 12 year old daughter was among them. Weren’t all of us drawn to be with our own families in that instance of terror with an urgency we may have never so strongly before? The sense of security most Americans took for granted prior to 9/11/2001 has never quite been regained.
So first we remember for New York. Secondly, to remind ourselves that today, each today is a gift too precious to squander or fail to invest in a Life beyond ourselves, to a greater good. For the 911 Wellness Foundation that greater good is the well-being of The Very First Responder. We don’t think upon NYC to criticize for even a moment, but we are compelled to wonder compassionately: how have the good souls with headsets on in that city on that day been impacted through the years? As the invisible first responder who heard what no else quite heard the same way, did they get the help that many dispatchers still don’t receive after major emergencies: to validation that they too were personally involved in and affected by the traumatic events they managed; the chance to join the rest of their emergency response family and talk through it all; ongoing support from 911 leaders educated about PTSD; and, access with genuine encouragement to seek EMDR therapy to heal?
In no way am I here assuming leadership failures in NYC regarding care of dispatchers. The fact is that despite how advanced American medicine and psychology are, we are all still learning together about trauma and how to respond to it. That is our privilege and greatest opportunity to safe-guard our mental health and quality of life for the future.
So, for 911WF this is a day for us to commit as an organization to a task we are now prepared to pursue: as NYC officials may desire, we will offer help in sensitively seeking answers to those crucial questions above, and to supporting NYC leaders (themselves still recovering) in assuring the best possible ongoing support for their 911Pros who lived through that day and those that joined them since 2001.
How has remembering 9/11 affected and inspired you? If you want to join the 911WF mission, we’d welcome your email: 911Wellness@live.com.
Jim Marshall, Chair