Ten Years After the Terrorists

Reflections on God’s protection and provision

By Dwight Bain

“Where were you when you heard about the terrorist attacks?” Ask any American above the age of 15 and they will get a sad look in their eyes and tell you exactly what they were doing ten years ago. We remember any major crisis and the attacks on 9/11 were the deadliest in our nation’s history. What we remember about that day can make us stronger because we are filled with overwhelming gratitude or it can crush us because of unresolved grief, guilt or trauma.

Reflections only show a picture of the way things are in a given moment of time. When you look into a mirror or see your face reflected back from the still water of a pond you aren’t seeing the real thing, it’s just a mirror image of the real thing. Memories are like that and memories are a gift from God when we have worked through the grief, or memories can bring back a lot of pain.

News anchor Ted Koppel said on the day of the attacks, “Nothing will ever be the same again” and he was right. America is different. People don’t trust as much. People automatically look at some people with suspicion. Mostly people are more afraid. A tragedy on one single day in 2001 changed all the other days to come.

So what can we learn from that sad day in September so many years ago?

First is to look back and REMEMBER…
· Remember the painful past
· Remember how America came together
· Remember how everyone wanted to help others
· Remember people jamming churches to pray for our country

Next is to RECALL…
· Recall the lessons learned
· Recall how God protected us from more attacks
· Recall how God provided for us through this terribly stressful decade
· Recall how people were able to grieve and then grow again after terrible loss

Most of all to REFOCUS…
· Refocus on core values
· Refocus on what matters most to you
· Refocus on who you called 10 years ago to see if they were okay
· Refocus on your faith in God and your hope in a better future by His grace

When you think back to the horrible images of the terrorist attacks, or if you choose to watch one of the many media specials, I hope you protect your loved ones from the hidden dangers of becoming obsessed, even paralyzed from media overexposure. Guarding your mind from the trauma of crisis events playing over and over on television or the Internet was important then, and it is just as important today.

How can you tell if you or your children have seen too much, or perhaps have emotions which have been building up inside from years ago? There are many warning signs of chronic stress. You need to become aware of the warning signs and learn how to cope.

Consider these practical action steps as you protect your daily routine especially in dealing with the needs of your children. Using these guidelines, parents can grow stronger as well as be able to reach out to children to help them deal with the crisis, in an age appropriate manner. The stress-reaction guidelines listed below will help children and adults avoid being ‘re-traumatized’ by distressing images of the attack.

1. Avoid stuffing your emotions

Think in terms of an expanding balloon. The terrorist attacks were terrible, but they were 10 years ago. Letting pressure from the past build up will only create more pressure if you don't have some type of healthy outlet. When traumatic emotions build up, you will feel like blowing up. A more effective way to directly deal with your emotions is to follow this brief model of crisis management for yourself and for children.

Face it- Directly face the trauma and tragedy of the past.

Feel it- There are a number of normal emotions that occur after an act of violence like terrorism. Fear, guilt, grief, panic, denial, anxiety, anger, shock, loss of emotional control or depression are all normal emotions. You should consider these as normal reactions to trauma and express them verbally. You cannot talk too much as you attempt to release intense emotions. Healthy expression includes talking, writing, drawing, journaling and prayer.

Process it- This is the cognitive stage that comes after you begin to release emotions. Since there are no single answers to a national tragedy, it is recommended that you sort through what this crisis means to you. How was your life impacted? What changed for your children or the people you work with? What have you done differently? As you recall the events of the past it allows you to reinforce a strategic plan of action to better cope with your personal and professional life. After you process through how you have dealt with this crisis, think through how you can share what you and your family learned with others. Consider how you might be able to help them manage the hurt, loss, fear or loneliness they might be carrying inside.

Grow- The final stage is to remember we made it through that terrible time. We survived. We moved on. We are a people of faith and hope and we came together and helped each other grow stronger as a nation. Think of the countless ways whole communities came together. People donated blood. They gave money to the Salvation Army or to their church and reached out to neighbors and friends with words of hope. America grew stronger through that crisis, and you likely grew stronger as well.

Terrorists do things to make you afraid. Panic is what they hope to accomplish.

2. Use caution with overexposure to media images

The images of burned bodies pulled from the wreckage of the World Trade Center in Manhattan were some of the worst images most Americans will ever see. Parents should limit their exposure to watching images of the attacks, and especially prevent young children or seniors from seeing too much. Each of these images represent a family devastated by tragedy, and it doesn’t help your family to dwell on another family in pain as a form of entertainment. Pray for them, but don’t just sit idly and watch because there may be a deep fear in children of “when will terrorism happen to me?” Another significant factor is that overexposure to graphic images creates a sense of mental "numbness" that desensitizes other emotions. I believe it is an act of human dignity to not watch others pain as a form of entertainment. We should feel pity for the deceased, instead of watching them like someone would watch an action adventure movie. This type of reverence helps the victims feel respected instead of exploited.

3. Avoid extended periods of aloneness

Isolation is one of the most dangerous behaviors during a tragedy. Spending too much time alone is not recommended, because the combination of remembering the trauma along with excessive aloneness leads to feeling overanxious, fearful and panic-stricken. It is mentally healthy to be around other supportive people. After the attacks churches, synagogues, social service agencies and hotlines were swamped with discussion groups, counseling and supportive words to heal. It is essential to be around other healthy adults. Children especially need to feel secure and have access to loved ones. If you live alone, this is an important time to reach out to neighbors or others near your home. Crisis requires real relationship, so remember to reach out beyond social networks, and church is a great place to start.

4. Strategies to help children

Children look to their parents for support and encouragement during any crisis. The following is a guide to help parents and teachers manage the flood of emotions that may come up during the anniversary of the attacks.

Ages birth-6
It is recommended that children under the age of six not be given exposure to major traumatic events. Children of this age draw their support from their parents, so if the parents or guardians feel safe and secure, the children will as well. Parents should speak calmly around children about bad things that happen in the world, and that "we will remember the people that were hurt in our prayers." If the parents are able to maintain a sense of calmness, children will feel safe.

Ages 6-12
Children this age are more aware of the world around them, yet still need moms and dads to shield them from most of the bad news in our world. Very limited exposure to the media is recommended at this stage, with more open discussions about any fears or insecurities that the child is feeling. Talking is encouraged for this age group, or write letters to emergency workers to thank them for helping the victims. Drawing pictures allows for healthy emotional expression, and something everyone needs is just being held close. A hug helps bring security to a child. Also remember to have special times of prayer. These steps help children better deal with their fears about bad things that happen in the world.

Ages 12-18
Young people have their own impressions of traumatic events. The older they are, the more likely they will have strong opinions, and it is normal for them to process their feelings with friends. This should be balanced with family, teachers, pastors or counselors. They need time to verbally process how they feel about what happened ten years ago. Special emphasis should be placed on helping this age group talk through the issues and how it impacted them and not stay isolated. Silence is a warning sign that the crisis events of the past have been internalized. Strict limits on over exposure of media is essential to prevent anxiety or panic levels from rising.

Warning Signs.
Stress signs of overexposure to painful memories from the past may occur immediately after the trauma or even a few years later. These signs are indicators that stress is beginning to overwhelm the individual. The longer the stress symptoms occur, the greater the severity of the traumatic event on the individual. This does not imply craziness or weakness rather it indicates that the memories are too powerful for the person to manage by themselves. Adults or children who display many of the following stress symptoms may need additional help dealing with the events of the crisis. They should seek the appropriate medical or psychological assistance.

Physical:Chills, thirst, fatigue, nausea, fainting, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, chest pain, headaches, elevated Blood Pressure, rapid heart rate, muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, shock symptoms, etc.

Emotional:Fear, guilt, grief, panic, denial, anxiety, irritability, depression, apprehension, emotional shock, feeling overwhelmed, loss of emotional control, etc.

Cognitive:Confusion, nightmares, uncertainty, hyper-vigilance, suspiciousness, intrusive images, poor problem solving, poor abstract thinking, poor attention/memory and concentration, disorientation of time, places or people, difficulty identifying objects or people, heightened or lowered alertness, etc.

Behavioral:Withdrawal, antisocial acts, inability to rest, intensified pacing, erratic movements, changes in social activity, changes in speech patterns, loss of or increase of appetite, increased alcohol consumption, etc.

When in doubt, contact your pastor, a physician or certified mental health professional. It is important to actively deal with any painful past emotions to find strength to cope with issues in the present. Remember there are caring people who can help you. You never have to go through a crisis alone.

Bottom line discussion issues for growth. Think about and discuss these issues with others…

· How you have changed since the terrorist attacks?

· How you and your family are different since then?

· Talk about what was important to you on the day of the attacks… and what is important to you today.

· Share how grateful you are for God’s protection these last 10 years, and then think about the peace you can have about the future since God is always closer to you than you could ever imagine.


About the Author: Dwight Bain has dedicated his life to guide people toward greater results as an Author, Nationally Certified Counselor and Certified Life Coach. He worked as a crisis counselor at Ground Zero in New York City after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and has worked with crisis management teams for over 30 years. For more Christian life management resources visit Dwight’s blog with over 300 helpful articles and special reports designed to save you time by solving stressful problems at www.LifeworksGroup.org or follow along @ www.FaceBook.com/DwightBain

Popular posts from this blog

Understanding Schizotypal Personality Disorder

The Ultimate Networkers Checklist