I recently had an opportunity to attend a screening of the film, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. As a family member, watching the film brought back vivid memories of my own personal experience. It also reminded me of the stories that thousands of husbands, wives, siblings, mothers, fathers and children who lost loved ones on 9/11, have shared with us over the past 10 years. For many of us, images of people falling from the building, the smoldering towers, the memorial service with the empty casket and hearing phone messages brought back the horror and uncertainty we all felt. The boy’s search for the owner of a key reminded me of our search for our loved ones, for their remains and answers to how this could have happened. Despite the passage of ten years and our ability to ” move forward”, there is no closure for most families. We learn to “live with the loss” as best we can. Some individuals have the support they need and are more resilient than others.
In my training as a clinical social worker, l was taught to try to put myself in the shoes of the person I was counseling. My personal experience after 9/11 has taught me otherwise. Unless you have experienced the loss yourself, you cannot fully understand the struggles of families, colleagues and friends. Unless you survived or witnessed the frightening events of the day, it’s difficult to be empathetic or have insight into the lifelong challenges they face.
The film tells a very powerful story describing the personal journey of one family in the aftermath of 9/11, much like Saving Private Ryan portrays World War II and Shindler’s List, the Holocaust. However, we recognize that, much like the veterans and Holocaust survivors who experienced a traumatic event, 9/11 families, survivors and responders often have a negative response when confronted with images of the event and traumatic reminders of the day. Children who are old enough to remember 9/11 are especially vulnerable. I thought it was important to raise these issues with those who have a strong connection to 9/11, because the images and content of the film may cause you to relive your personal loss and in doing so, be counterproductive to your healing process.
Ten years later, our goal as an organization is to provide programs that promote resiliency and help families and survivors move forward with their lives. Our work in creating the 9/11 Living Memorial www.911livingmemorial.org assists families in commemorating the wonderful lives of their loved ones, rather than focusing on their tragic deaths.
Please feel free to share your thoughts.