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Relational Reflections: Yes, another blog, and this one’s from Dr. Nadine and Dr. Zan at True Heights

We Remember

Dr. Zan’s Thoughts:

There are not many moments in history that loom large in my mind as being intermingled with my own direct experience. However, 9-11 is one event to which I feel intimately connected. Perhaps all of us who have spent years living on the east coast, in proximity to New York which we clearly identify as THE city, recognize tragedies that strike our area as belonging to the collective. Much as those of us who live on the west side of the tunnels and bridges complain that New York gets credit for everything, even the sports teams that practice and play in Jersey, we are still kindred spirits with our neighboring New Yorkers. 

When 9-11 occurred, I can remember stumbling upon the image of planes crashing into the World Trade Towers, having just put my kids onto the school bus. The images were surreal and virtually impossible to process. One of my children happened to be engaged in her first days of kindergarten. She came home from that particular school day with a friend, whose father could not pick her up because he was stranded in the city with no ability to leave or to communicate with anyone. When my daughter’s friend asked, “Is my daddy stuck in a tunnel? Will he ever get out?” I was as reassuring as one who has no earthly idea what she is talking about can ever be.

The girls decided that they would focus on the important business of setting up a free lemonade stand. This was more fitting and healing than I could have imagined. The sight of 2 precious children sitting at the end of our driveway with a “Free Lemonade” sign clearly crafted by two 5 year olds was just what folks traveling through our neighborhood seemed to need. Countless vehicles stopped. Their occupants graciously greeted and thanked the children, then chatted among the other adults for a few moments--expressions of disbelief and concern, connecting with others as they slowly allowed the emotion of the day’s events sink in. Most importantly, we were reacting to the tragedy in community. This togetherness that occurred around a table of lemonade provided by children was a balm to the deep hurt that would impact countless beings but would never make sense. 

When life is difficult, we can take solace in finding unexpected connections with others. We can trust that there are those around us who know how we feel, who have walked this road before, who have experienced loss and persevered toward brighter days. 

On this, the anniversary of a very sad day in our nation’s history, we send wishes of love and peace to all who have suffered loss. May we continue to reach out to one another for support. And may we remember that we are a nation of survivors who can and will find ways to thrive when we open our arms to this beautifully diverse people and space that we call home.

Dr. Nadine’s Reflections:

I think we all remember where we were when we learned of the unimaginable event that forever changed our personal and collective histories.  It’s called a “flashbulb memory”, defined by the American Psychological Association as “a vivid, enduring memory associated with a personally significant and emotional event, often including such details as where the individual was or what he or she was doing at the time of the event.”  Mine was at home, as I was watching morning TV while exercising on the treadmill. I saw everything from the dreaded first crash to the final fall of the Towers. The drama was unfolding live, right in front of my eyes, to my disbelief and horror. My Dear One can describe vividly his personal experience of it as well; he was working that morning close to the location of the Twin Towers.

Though I had not yet begun my formal work in higher education counseling, I went to our local campus, and volunteered my services to help the students process their shock and worry.  I did speak to several students who were appreciative of the secure place to talk about the emotional trauma that the attack triggered. But mostly, the kids wanted to be together, to hug one another, to console one another.  They frantically called their families to find out what was happening, and to make sure their family members were safe. Likewise, their families called them for the same reason. Because so many of the university’s students have musical and theater commitments in New York City, you might imagine the dread encompassing the parents who wondered if their child was in the city when the Towers fell.  Their concern was heightened because many of the cell services were interrupted by the devastation and mobile calls were unavailable.

As the day progressed, many people, including the faculty and staff, came together to help support and offer solace to one another.  Differences were set aside to reprioritize attention from the unimportant “small stuff”, as Jack Kornfield describes, to the significant and salient things that really matter in life.  Abraham Maslow posits that we’re motivated by a hierarchy of needs: I saw those around me move right on up through that hierarchy from the basic physiological needs to safety needs to love and belonging.  Once there was a certainty that the basic physiological and safety needs were met, people melted together to embrace and buoy each other.

We are a nation of survivors, as Dr. Zan, asserts.  But I also want us to do more than survive together.  We can embrace and buoy one another because we want to bring out the best in one another, because we want to affirm each other, because we want to thrive.  And we can only do that in community. Let’s stop using our differences to be divisive and instead embrace them as strengths that represent a “beautifully diverse people and space that we call home.'' 

#trueheightsconsulting #weremember #love #connection #mindfulselfcompassion #humanconnection


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