We will never forget… and we will forge ahead

Today I’ve seen so many posts saying “we will never forget” or “always remember.” Significant days like September 11 remind us of where we were 18 years ago. I was at Riley hospital with a group of medical doctors, psychiatrists, social workers and nurses. We were discussing research related to youth health and mental health. One of the faculty interrupted our discussion, and like many Americans that day, we turned on the TV. And also like many Americans I watched video after video, listened to recorded call after call, and wondered what was next. My brother, who was in the nuclear program of the Navy at that time, was at the Pentagon that very morning of 9-11. My sisters, mom, his wife and I all waited for the call to let us know if he was safe.

It felt like life was spinning out of control and time was standing still all at once. We all wondered what on earth was happening in our world.

Yes, we WILL always remember. For me it isn’t just about 9-11 though. Today ‘s significance comes on the heels of the University of Pennsylvania’s director of counseling services suicide, on the heels of the recent mega church pastor’s suicide and on the heels of a high school friend of mine who also died by suicide. Quite frankly, the totality and finality of it all carries a massive weight that feels a bit crushing today.

Thankfully, 18 years later I know better than to watch the videos. I can still remember without them. I don’t need social media to replay the details that already replay by themselves in my mind. Today I choose not to sink into the photos and videos of the rubble. I feel the rubble without them. And truth is, there are people who are still picking up the pieces of 9-11, even 18 years later. People are still grieving the loss of my friend from a few months ago and I’m sure the families who lost the Penn director and the families of the mega pastor also feel the rubble today.

But here’s the thing. While we feel so much today, we can’t stay in the rubble. Truth is, we don’t want to stay in the rubble. Our bodies, minds and spirits were created to fight against sickness, disease, and even death. Something about that rubble is fought by an innate desire to survive. Being faced with death gives cause to rise with strength. I saw it in the eyes of the United Airlines staff I helped debrief the week after 9-11. I saw it in my brother when he reported himself as safe. I heard it my friend’s eulogy and I pray it for the mega pastor and Penn director’s families.

We see the tragedy. We feel the pain. And please know, there is hope. While we can’t change the past we can make a difference in the future. We can stand arm and arm with those who have lived and lost. We can our honor our country and those who bravely serve. We can become an advocate for those struggling to breathe their next breath. We can even join in learning how to debrief those who feel the rubble of what is left when their own tragedies strike. Let’s choose to focus on what CAN do.

Will you join me? Will you help those who are grieving find supportive grief counseling? Will you learn more how to recognize signs of suicide so you can help prevent it? Will you help your neighbor by learning how to respond after a crisis? Not everyone has to be a therapist, but everyone can be an equipped and helpful neighbor. When one part of our neighborhood, or town, or country hurt, don’t we all? Will you let the events of 9-11 and the recent losses of leaders motivate you to make a difference? Will you do something?

First responders, thank you.

Families who have lost loved ones, we grieve with you.

Neighbors and friends, Care to Change invites you to join us.

We can’t do it all, but we can do something.

Today I choose to fix my gaze on the hope rather than the rubble. I hope you’ll join me.

April is the director of Care to Change. She is a licensed therapist, QPR instructor and is trained in both critical incident debriefing and evidence based therapies known to help victims of trauma.