Where were you on 911 ?
On a home visit. That is where I was when I first knew what was happening on 9/11.
My first job as a social worker was at Mt. Hope Family Center. Most of my day was spent visiting families in the community to provide education and support. The TV, which was constantly on during my visits with “Mrs. H.” caught our attention when the regular programming was interrupted moments after the first plane hit first tower (first tower to be hit, but called the “second tower”). Our conversation ended and we sat together watching it unfold trying to comprehend.
When something is out of our consciousness, it is hard for us to understand. 911 was a shock for most Americans who take our safety for granted. It was not in our reality to be attacked in this way. We searched for meaning as all sat riveted in front of the TV for a week. We sent pies, hard hats and stuffed animals, but basically we felt helpless. The only thing we had to offer was our reverence. We kept watching the news.
Unable to make sense of this unthinkable situation, many of us took on the meaning poured into our minds by the reporters and leaders in our country. Desperately trying to understand we were ripe to take on whatever meaning was pro-offered. This was a dangerous time for us and our psyches. Fear set in for many of us. The “Truth” of that fear was validated all day. I don’t have to imagine the consequences of this. I lived through the fear myself: Panicking when I heard a plane fly over for at least a year afterwards. (This was often since my house was under a flight path.)
Dealing with 911
And I have seen anxiety and panic spike exponentially in the last ten years in all ages of my clients. Not many have been immune to the effects of this event.
When we experience something, we put meaning around it almost immediately and feel very uncomfortable until we do. The problem is this initial meaning may have some nasty consequences. Fear, anger, hurt, and desire for revenge, to name a few. We are just trading one discomfort for another.
However, every event or thought can have a totally different meaning from a different perspective. Seeing that there are other possibilities can open us up to inviting those new meaning to come through. Most likely there is one that doesn’t lead us to be afraid.
Humbly admitting that we don’t know what it means, instead of searching desperately for an answer: “I don’t know what that means.” “I don’t know about the hijackers, or their motives or what made them angry. Maybe there is a story I don’t know about. I can only begin to guess what it was like for families to lose their loved ones. I don’t know anything.” – can allow other meanings space. These might be preferred meanings that can heal us, relieve us and make us feel whole again. It is the letting go of assumption that opens us up to new knowledge.
I invite you to do this on the tenth anniversary of 911. We have done the other bit, about taking on and adhering and having opinions. We have felt hurt, scared and angry. Now let’s suspend those meanings and allow for a compassionate, loving, perhaps even spiritually based understanding to emerge.