From 9-11 to Covid-19
Coast to Coast National Trauma was something extraordinary on 9/11 and now we face it again 20 years later with Covid-19.
We are sharing these never-before-published stories written by survivors and witnesses right after the 9/11 attacks who faced and transcended trauma and death, in the hope that we can find ways to learn from and shed light on these dark experiences.
The 9/11 attack was swift, political, and public. The Covid-19 attack was—still is—stealth, indifference, and private. But the way the body and spirit react to trauma is the same.
Who better to help us get through it than those who lived it? We offer these personal stories of recovery up to you to help you embrace the healing that can happen now.
Stories that can help us heal
Perhaps stories from one national trauma can help us to recover from another
Ritual and remembrance
Mary W. Quigley
The 1,000 congregation members who filled St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre were sober, seeking solace in a familiar ritual. For his sermon the pastor left the pulpit and stood directly in front of the parishioners. He talked briefly about the horror and sadness of the terrorist attack, all the while fingering a white piece of paper. Then he stopped, unfolded the paper, and slowly read the names of 30 men and women missing from our town.
In the thick of it
Ten days have passed since the World Trade Center vanished. I wanted to write you, as much for myself as to tell you what is happening, how the air tastes, what color the horizon has taken on.
I go up and down, hour by hour more than day by day. This particular moment, at 5 in the evening on Saturday the 22nd, I'm okay.
My colleagues and I held a teach-in last week for journalism students at NYU. An intellectual vigil, if you will. For the first time since I became a professor, I saw in the faces of students how much they needed us. Events had made them vulnerable to knowledge they hoped we had. Of course we needed them too. Their hoping most of all.
The sun had just dropped behind the trees, casting long, orange shadows across the ballfield; the sky, layered like the silky, clear waters of the tropics, turned an opalescent blue. In groups of twos and threes and fours young families and long-retired residents converged on the baseball diamond carrying candles, American flags, and a sense of historical imminence. Our lives, we all sensed, would never be the same. The future felt dangerously uncertain.
Fires still burning
I received a call that volunteers were needed in mass care with ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle) training in New York City. This was Saturday evening and Sunday morning I got up, sang in my church’s worship band, got prayed over for strength, and headed for the airport to serve once again. I thanked the Lord for the strength He was giving me and would continue to give me.
The balm of music
Yesterday I had probably the most incredible and moving experience of my life. Juilliard organized a quartet to go play at the Armory. The Armory is a huge military building where families of people missing from Tuesday's disaster go to wait for news of their loved ones.
Waves of grief
The Reverend Donald Steele
Reverend Steele, Pastor at the Central Presbyterian Church in Summit New Jersey, gave this sermon while Senior Pastor of the Hitchcock Presbyterian Church in Scarsdale, New York.
These have not been easy days for any of us. We are all operating with more stress than we probably even realize. And so, we need to keep talking with each other. We need to keep on being patient with each other and with ourselves. We need to remember that life is not a race, but that it is a journey. Let’s take our time.
Covered by soot & debris
Everyone was looking up, so I did too and saw the second plane crash into the building, and then people jumping out. No one could move, everyone was transfixed by what they were seeing. It felt like we were watching a re-run of Towering Inferno, but this was no movie, it was in front of us... but too difficult to take in.
Through my window
Patricia Lee Stotter
It was silent. It was silent. An audience stood viewing the urban proscenium of death. The people, frozen and staring in the street, looked like some crazy foreshadowing of a Pompeii, waiting for the mud and the dust to take its place upon them. Disbelief. Denial.
The second plane hit.
River of tears
When will this weeping end, I wonder, when will the river of tears run dry, the aching heart find relief, this national mourning run its course?
When will the sight of exhausted rescue workers and anguished fire fighters, of families seeking loved ones, of flickering candles, no longer sear my eyes?
Large heart of a city
Maybe the faded, torn notes of missing, wanting, please look for.... / Maybe the burned-downed candles and withering flowers left in corners of / buildings near B'way and Fulton... / Maybe the twisted, metal monster fingers, waiting to fall... / Maybe the broken glass windows glinting in the morning sunshine.... / Maybe the small groups of women gathering for a quick solace of camaraderie...
I lived near St. Vincent's Hospital (at the time, a Level I trauma center) and went to join the line of those seeking to donate blood. Plastered on every available surface — bus stops, pizzerias, even mail boxes — were hundreds upon hundreds of handmade flyers, with more being posted by frantic New Yorkers who'd come to the hospital to try to find their loved ones.
Those scenes, even more than the horrors I'd witnessed the day before, simply broke my heart.
He would be embarrassed by this tribute, so I won’t mention his name, though many in the community now know he was among the courageous firefighters who rushed to the scene of the World Trade Center disaster on September 11 and remain there still, searching for victims, extinguishing fires, sifting through the rubble, and providing America with an example of heroism that has reignited our national pride.
Ode to NYC
Betty Medsger & John Racanelli
We came to New York from San Francisco nearly one and one-half years ago because we had grown to love this city. Now, like our fellow New Yorkers, we’ve gone through the profound emotions that were lit by the September 11 attacks – fear, loss, anger, grief, love – and find ourselves even more deeply immersed in the life of the city and still very glad to be here.
The last time we had seen her she was sitting in the first pew with her two young children listening to friends and relatives memorialize her husband. He had died along with so many others on September 11 and she had asked us, a local choir, to perform a requiem mass at his service of remembrance.
September 30, 2001
For years, an eclectic group of Jewish people in Santa Fe had been getting together informally, and had developed bonds of friendship. But after September 11th, we felt that the reason for getting together should change dramatically. We felt an urgent need to meet with people from OTHER countries, other cultures, other faiths. The meetings started and grew organically. Here's how it all began.
Everyone was thirsty
October 4, 2001
The purpose of the evening was for North Americans to listen to the wisdom of other cultures. Maybe it would give us other ways of dealing with the horror of what is going on. Someone suggested that before listening, we go around and introduce ourselves. Then, the most difficult and easiest part: to sit back, without succumbing to the desire to discuss, dispute or dialogue. To sit back and listen.
A good deal of weeping
October 16, 2001
Suddenly, the coffee shop was full of people. Sixty. Seventy. Eighty. I heard accents, saw the rainbow of skin colors; I could relax. A Catalonian man. A woman from Kuwait. An Israeli Arab woman. A German man. Two women who spoke a western African language. A woman of Lebanese extraction. Two Mexican nationals. A Spanish man. A Jordanian. A Vietnam vet.
A vital link
October 28, 2001
It's a Saturday night. Some people are going to movies, some are staying home to read, or eat, or have sex. Kids are having sleepovers and play dates. We had a Wisdom Circle. At 6 o'clock, there were about 5 people in the room. I always feel that same anxiety: Why are we doing this? Does anyone care? Will anyone come? And then they started to arrive. By 6:30, there were about 110 people. I loved the faces--black, white, brown. I loved the clothes—scarves and turbans and jeans and boots and long hair and short hair.
The point is to listen
November 10, 2001
For many people, tonight was the best Wisdom Circle of all. As a reminder that everything is always in flux, we did something different—nudging ourselves out of the comfort of the format we had established. Before we ate, Fehti led a Sufi zikr—a ceremony that is designed, as he explained, to get you out of your head and into your heart.
Breath of fire
November 22, 2001
Thanksgiving is a one-table holiday. Families gather around a groaning board, covered with a white tablecloth. By the end of the evening, there is usually a red wine stain or two. It is a time for intimacy, for being with those who are close to you. Or is it? We decided to find out. We decided to make a Wisdom Circle for Thanksgiving.
You have two ears and one mouth
December 2, 2001
Geishee Tashi is a Tibetan lama. He wears a beautiful crimson robe, and when he listens to someone, he pays full attention. His presence is light, rather than heavy. I think it’s the payoff for more than 35 years of taming his wild mind. He walked onto the small platform in Tribes coffee house, sat down with a cushion, a prayer book, two bells and a peaceful demeanor. He spoke about compassion, and how it is our job in life not to harm anyone.
They make the roof boogie
December 31, 2001
I do not know how this happens. We say we are going to have a New Year’s eve with music. Nothing is planned. Nothing is arranged. We say we are starting at 8 pm and we tell people to bring food. It’s all done by word-of-mouth. Then we just trust. So, tonight was New Year’s eve. About 200 people showed up—teens, older folks, kids in their twenties, Americans, people who were born in Argentina, Peru, Israel, France, Germany, Jordan, Denmark, Palestine....people from all over the world.
In Santa Fe, a group of people began meeting to talk -- and to listen -- to people of other faiths and heritages and ethnic backgrounds.
It was Muslims and Christians and Jews and Sikhs; people from Afghanistan and Israel and India and Germany and New York and Chile and Brazil and Jordan and California and New Jersey.
It started small, but it grew.
When they met, they talked, but mostly they listened.
After each gathering, Judith Fein wrote the story of its laughter, tears, love and pain, and emailed it to her friends.
Wisdom circle stories
It can help to hear what others, people who are different from you, think and feel
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