They [the Americans] are the hope of this world. They may become its model.
Watching television on Tuesday morning I felt a knot in my stomach that I had not felt since December 21st, 1988. That was the day the plane carrying Eric, Jason, Kate and scores of other people "disappeared" over the skies over Lockerbie Scotland. In the first news reports, all we were told was that the plane could no longer be found on the radar system. It would not be confirmed until days later that Pan Am 103 was the target of a terrorist attack. The confirmation was inconsequential because we already knew that people we loved were never coming back.
The feelings of helplessness, despair, confusion, and anger all came back to me Tuesday, September 11th, watching the live footage of the plane striking the second World Trade Center tower. When something this horrific happens, we feel a need to do something. But just what can elude us. Not every activity suits every person, but here are some suggestions as to how you can help in times of crisis.
Helping with Hugs ~ With news like we have had over the past few days, sometimes there just are not enough words. A heartfelt hug can express emotion and empathy we cannot express any other way. Have hugs available for your children, your family and your friends. In downtown Boston there was a woman on the sidewalk crying, a passerby stopped gave her a long hug, squeezed her hand and kept going. The woman said that random hug was what enabled her to get through the day.
Connect With Community ~ Times of crisis are not times to be spent alone. The obvious communities are churches, synagogues, and mosques. But you do not need to be a religious person to be involved in a community. Knock on doors to make sure your neighbors are all right. Organize fellow workers to assist others. Attend support rallies within your city. Just get out and get involved.
Volunteer Your Time ~ After hearing the news, a friend, who happens to be a licensed psychologist, began calling to find where she could volunteer to help. She had a skill she knew would be valuable during this time. Do not underestimate your skills. While you may not be a psychologist, medical professional, firefighter or part of a demolition crew, there are still ways for you to help. A group of students from Ithaca, New York drove into the city and have been helping distributed food and drink to the work crews. Find a place where you are needed.
Give of Yourself ~ Even before the extent of the disaster was known, the lines are the Red Cross began to form. Donate blood now and mark a date on your calendar for 6 months from now to donate again. There is a constant need for supply in our nations blood banks year-round.
Fund the Future ~ Many organizations have already established funds to assist the families of the victims. Every contribution counts. The United Way has issued the following release:
Anyone wishing to contribute to The September 11th Fund may send their financial donations in care of United Way September 11th Fund, 2 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016, (212) 251-4035. Donors may specify the community (New York City, Washington, D.C., or other affected areas) where they would like their contributions to help. Contributions are also being accepted on United Way of New York City's Web site at www.uwnyc.org.Go On A Media Diet ~ I awoke this morning to the news on my clock radio, and then turned on the television as I drank my orange juice. A few minutes later, my toddler came downstairs and asked for "Tubbies, peas!" I was never so glad to see those brightly colored Teletubbies. After days of watching the destruction, it was time for my mind to have a break from the carnage. Put yourself on a media diet. Watch the evening news, but then change the channel or turn off the television. A perpetual dose of bad news is bad for our spirit.
Send Symbolic Messages ~ Yesterday I was passed by a car that looked like it was straight out of a Fourth of July parade. Now is the time to proudly display our Nation's flag. Whether it is on your home, your car or your person. Showing our colors is a step in reclaiming our sense of peace.
Fight Hatred and Ignorance ~ In our frustration, some may be inclined to lash out. Be sure to vent appropriately. I am deeply saddened by reports of taunts, blows and bullets directed at fellow Americans. If only it was so simple as to say that one ethnic group has a monopoly on evil. Be sure to separate the criminals from other potential victims. The terrorists will win if we are torn apart by distrust and hate. Focus your anger and channel it towards insuring those responsible are brought to justice.
Communicate With Others With Care - Over the past few days I have received a flurry of distribution e-mails. Many of which carried news that friends and family were safe. Some shared prayers or words of comfort. Others espoused subversive and slightly disturbing messages. One even made veiled threats if I did not pass it along to 10 other people. This is a scary time and it is important to keep the lines of communication open. Do so with care. Really read and re-read the e-mail you are sending before forwarding it along. Also, be sure to use the BCC feature for any distribution longer than three names.
Have a Plan ~ One of the survivors interviewed was visiting NYC for a meeting in the World Trade Center. He said after he heard the crash, he had to follow the crowds to get out of the building. Whenever you are somewhere new, take a moment to look around for the emergency exits. If you can, try to spot more than one. This is important whether you are at a business meeting, in a restaurant, or staying in a hotel. The few seconds it takes can save you critical time in an emergency.
Be an Intelligence Officer ~ While watching the reports and hearing the authorities asking families about dental records, scars, tattoos and distinguishing characteristics, it occurred to me that this is information I should be collecting for my immediate family. Do you know your loved one's dentist? If not, now is the time to gather that information. And as silly as it sounds, pull out the camera and take pictures of those scars and tattoos. Place this information in your home medical files. Hopefully, you will never need it.
Contact Information ~ After hearing the news, I queried my contact database for "New York, New York" to find all of my friends and family living in the city. But then it occurred to me, I did not have all of the information I really needed. My aunt works in Manhattan, but I only had her home address in New Jersey. I kept calling family members until we confirmed she was safe. One of my friends worked downtown, but all the circuits were busy and I could not reach her. Luckily, I had additional information for her, including her mother's home phone number. I was able to reach her mother, who had heard my friend was also safe. Over the next few weeks, I will be gathering additional information from loved ones. Some of the information will include home and work addresses, home/work/mobile phone numbers. As well as an additional contact name and number just in case I am unable to reach them any other way.
Terrorism plays upon our darkest fears to make us feel unsafe. While the government and military can take steps to eradicate terrorism, we must take steps to eradicate the fear from our lives. We must regain control and reclaim our lives. After all of this bad news, I had the fortunate experience of attending the bris for a new baby boy on Thursday afternoon. It was exactly what I needed. To see the new parents and the family rejoice at the birth of a baby. The event was truly a celebration of the hope and potential born within each of us. And a reminder that no matter what terrible tragedies befall us, life does go on.
It is my hope all of your friends and families are accounted for and safe.