The date is embedded in US history unlike any other. It marks a trauma for us as a nation. Our New York skyline is not the same. And, we are not the same.
Some of us lost a loved one. Many of us know someone who lost a loved one. 1 World Trade Center is all too close to us here in Scarsdale, NY. Our hearts still ache.
There are many things that traumatize people. War, atrocities like rape, accidents, violence, abuse, severe illness, and bullying are traumatizing. A trauma usually happens without warning. We feel unprepared and powerless to prevent it. After a trauma we are left feeling frightened, vulnerable, and helpless. People often experience both emotional and physical symptoms such as;
Traumas are more often experienced in an individual manner. You may have a car accident, or find out you have cancer. Ten years ago we experienced a trauma as individuals and as a large collective group—as Americans together. Really, the whole world experienced September 11, but if you are an American, like I am, the impact is deep and personal.
Anniversaries are times when trauma symptoms can re-surface. Media images and sounds of the traumatic events of 9-11 can bring us back in a visceral way. For some, this can trigger the emotional or physical symptoms experienced in the past. Be especially mindful of this happening for teens who were small children at the time of the attack.
This week our nation is filled with thousands of events to commemorate the ten year anniversary. Anniversaries are a good time to reflect back, contemplate the present, and to look ahead. They are a time to note our progress in healing. Staying full of pain, hatred or fear is not good. Opening ourselves to calm, joy and love again is hard, but important.
We’ll probably never get over 9-11. But we can continue working to get through it.
We all heal in different ways, and at different speeds. Help from a professional trauma expert is advised when symptoms are severe or healing does not progress. No matter what we personally experienced, we can all note that we are collectively ten years beyond that infamous date.
I hope you aren’t in the same emotional place as you were ten years ago. I hope you have been able to move towards healing in various ways, even if you experienced the deep personal loss of a loved one. One of the ways we move further along on the healing continuum is to tell our story. Everyone has their story about 9-11. We are hearing so many of them during this ten year anniversary of remembering.
I encourage you to take time this week to tell your story to someone. And listen carefully if others choose to share their story with you.
Here’s the thing though, don’t tell your story to just anyone. Choose someone you trust and feel connected to. Pick someone who is empathetic and caring. Make sure you both have ample time for the conversation and won’t be hurried. If you are listening, try not to interrupt or interject parts of your story. Sometimes that can turn into a type of competition where neither person gets fully listened to. If you are the one someone asks to be their listener, give the gift of truly listening. Time for the telling of your story can come later, or with a different person.
Working with a trauma expert is certainly advised for those severely impacted. But a good friend, relative, colleague, or spiritual advisor can be just right for many. Tell more than the facts of where you were, or how you knew one of the victims. Dig a little deeper into your emotional remembering place and talk about your feelings too. Reflect slowly and personally. Let yourself remember your personal mix of feelings, when you first heard about the attacks, later that day when we found out more, and even how you felt days, weeks, or months after September 11, 2001.
As you dig through the feelings, perhaps going deeper than before, keep one thing firmly in your mind. It is today, not ten years ago. While you remember and reflect, stay grounded in the present. Staying grounded in this way helps lessen the emotional impact of our trauma. And that takes us a step further in healing.
It can also be helpful to come together with others for collective tribute and time of remembering. We have various opportunities in our region. Many houses of worship are offering special services or events. Perhaps you want to go to Ground Zero. I encourage you to join others in person. It would be easy to just watch an anniversary event on TV, but there is nothing like being shoulder to shoulder with another person. The experience is quite different and can have a strong emotional impact and healing.
One of the ways we got through 9-11-01 is by coming together and supporting each other. It’s also one of the best ways to commemorate the anniversary, ten years later on 9-11-11.