Leadership on Point

Ten Years Later, Remembering The Events of 9/11/01

September 6, 2011 Richard Levin

Remembering September 11, 2001

It was mid-day on September 11, 2001.  The planes had hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon three hours earlier , and it was feeling like the end of the world.  My colleagues and I were scrambling to answer phone calls from anxious clients, family members, and friends when one of my associates called from the field.  She had received a telephone call from a friend of hers at the United Nations, requesting any documents or research we had on helping children cope with tragic situations.  There were pieces of articles I had written and notes for articles I had hoped to write, but nothing specific to the caller’s request.  All I could say was that I would do my best to pull some concepts together and forward some guidelines to the UN.  I closed the door to my office, and over several hours allowed my own thoughts and fears to pour through my fingers onto my laptop.  Writing a document to help people respond to questions that really had no answers, proved remarkably therapeutic and cathartic; I realized I needed some perspective on my own feelings, and a means of guiding people through the madness of the day.  The mission to assuage people’s fear and anxiety kept me feeling productive and less personally afraid.  I could have used days or weeks to write everything I wanted to say, but the UN caller was clear about her urgent deadline: she needed my document before the close of the school day.  I sent her what I had, with minimal time to proofread what I wrote, no frame of mind to add a pithy title, and buffeted by the senseless reality of the day.  Later that afternoon, I heard that the UN had distributed my document, “Children’s Reactions to Stress”, to the schools of New York City to help children, their families, and their teachers understand in some small measure how to cope with feeling scared and unsafe. Without the use of the Internet, the document went “viral” the old-fashioned way: from New York, copies were faxed to other cities; and from the UN, paper copies were mailed to other countries.

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