By, Connie Palmer, Imagine Clinical Training Director
Yesterday I attended the Voices Center for Resilience, formerly called Voices of September 11th, conference in NYC. Imagine has been a part of offering workshops at the this conference for the last ten years. The organization builds upon their unique legacy of providing long-term support for the 9/11 community, while sharing their nearly two decades of expertise to assist those impacted by other tragedies in the United States and abroad.
During the conference, Bruce Perry spoke on the ongoing trauma and grief experienced by those impacted by the events of September 11th. He recently wrote a book about trauma with Oprah Winfrey entitled, What Happened to You? After talking about the trauma triggers experienced by those impacted, he talked about the ongoing grief experienced by those whose loved ones died on that day or since then from 9/11 related illnesses. But then he said something that caught my attention. He talked about the ongoing pain of grief from that day that continues to be felt twenty years later. He said, “We need to build literacy about loss and the community’s awareness of loss, grief and trauma. This needs to be taught in high schools.”
Imagine’s grief education does just that! There are so many lessons we can learn from that horrible day and Imagine’s mission of teaching students, teachers and parents about grief is one of the ways we can honor the memory of those who have died and continue to die. One of the workshops I have offered several times for Voices is Yes, I’m Still Grieving! The title claims the ongoing right to our feelings of grief no matter how much time has passed.
Then I facilitated a panel discussion of victims’ families, survivors and responders. Their voices were full of the grief and painful memories of that day. One of the first responders said that everyday is a reminder of 9/11 as he bears witness to how many of those who responded that day are sick with various cancers and that now more have died from those illnesses than died on 9/11.
As I continued to listen, I realized their voices were full of something else. Resilience. Each one spoke to their commitment to live and love fully every day. They spoke of remembering the past and of not allowing their lives to be defined by that tragic day.
Tomorrow as I remember all those who died on and after 9/11, I will reaffirm my commitment and use my voice to live out Imagine’s vision to imagine a world where grief and loss are transformed into resilience, empathy and compassion.