November 25, 2008
Dear Families and Friends,
On Monday, November 17th we celebrated what would have been our son Brad’s 32nd birthday. Brad was 24 years old when he died on 9/11. Unlike the public nature of the September 11th anniversary, Brad’s birthday is a quiet time of reflection for our family, a time when we remember the many ways he touched our lives. It is also a time when we receive calls and notes from those who knew Brad best - his extended family members and close friends, whose support we cherish. During moments like these, I think of all the families who experience bittersweet emotions on birthdays and holidays.
On Brad’s birthday we visited the Twin Towers Memorial at Friendship Park in Redington Beach, Florida. As you can see in the photograph, the memorial has two lighted towers about 10 feet in height erected on a pentagon shaped base with seven steps. The walkway surrounding the memorial includes bricks with the names of those who perished, many of whom I have come to know over the past seven years. I want to share the symbolism of the sculpture, which I thought was particularly meaningful:
Symbolism of the Sculpture
Two glass columns are representative of the World Trade Center Towers
Chips of broken glass signify the broken hearts of American People
An eternal illumination inside of the columns is a symbol that we will never forget September 11, 2001
The pentagon is represented by the pentagon shaped base leading up to the columns
There are seven steps representing the seven continents of the World
The circular garden around the perimeter of the sculpture represents our world and the blooming flowers are a symbol of eternal love and life.
All of us at VOICES wish you a safe and healthy Thanksgiving. Our hope is that you will be surrounded by family and friends who continue to honor the memory of your loved one and provide support during what might be a difficult time of year. Please let us know if we can be of assistance.
VOICES will be closed on Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday. Our best wishes to you and your family!
Mary and the Voices Staff
The holiday Season
By Dr. Robin F. Goodman, former VOICES Director of Family Programs
The winter holidays seem to follow fast on the heels of the September 11th anniversary. Like many occasions, they can be an exciting time for some and a challenging one for others. There are an abundance of public reminders about the holidays – at places of worship, in shopping malls, in the mail, at school, and at work – that may trigger thoughts of holidays past. Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa, there is a private aspect to every holiday that should be honored and those impacted by 9/11 should do what feels best. Whether the holidays are particularly difficult because they are upsetting, or if you are feeling hopeful but stressed because they are hectic,here are some suggestions for getting through the season:
Plan ahead: Making plans for the holidays requires thinking back to what has and has not worked in the past and what you might want to do differently. Often the biggest hurdle to overcome is just starting. Making even a small plan can be a relief and get things going.
Pace yourself: The holidays are often more than one day – there are parties, gifts, gatherings, travel, religious services. Choose what you want to do and what you feel good about doing.
Be forgiving: Once decisions are made you should feel confident in your choices. If plans change, if you change your mind, or if things don’t work out, be forgiving of yourself and others.
Be accepting: Individuals manage the holidays, stress, and their 9/11 related feelings in different ways. People also express their feelings in different ways and how they present on the outside may not be how they truly feel on the inside. Relationships also evolve and change over time, so what worked when children were small, or when extended family were near by, may need to be revised.
Keep expectations real: Everyone’s situation is different and reality is likely different from the perfect holidays portrayed on television and in movies. Decide and visualize what you will do for certain activities and what will happen; from who cooks to how people get along. Have realistic goals – go to one party, decorate store bought cookies, schedule one fun holiday activity with the kids.
Involve others: Give everyone a chance to talk about how they are feeling, what is most important, and what they want to do for the holidays – kids included. Make plans together, ideally leaving some room for individual preferences. Enlist your support system to help with activities you predict will be difficult. Accept help – you get what you need and you let someone else feel good about giving.
Find a calm zone: All the rushing and commitments can take its toll. Know when and how to take a break. Activities that allow you to recharge should be a priority - scented candles, tea with a friend, keeping to an exercise schedule, not answering the phone, are some of the many ways to manage stress, handle difficult feelings, and feel more in control.
Help kids: Parents should find ways to balance children and teens’ participation in festive activities with everyday routine. Keep in mind that children of all ages need and appreciate gifts of time and attention too. Remember to help children give to others as well.
Create and maintain meaning: Think about what to maintain while respecting everyone’s wishes. Repeating either some or all of previous traditions can be comforting. But creating and establishing new ones can be helpful at times. Consider ways to embrace the past, perhaps with a retelling of favorite stories, eating favorite foods, or visiting favorite places as a way to acknowledge someone special. Helping others in need can also add valuable meaning at holiday time.
Give thanks for small or large accomplishments you and your family have made this year. Reflect on what and who has helped you get through rough times in the past and envision wishes for joyous times ahead.
VOICES Programs and events
9/11 Living Memorial Workshop Schedule
VOICES is putting together its workshop schedule for 2009. If you would like us to come to your neighborhood, please contact us so we can consider including it in our schedule for the coming year. For more information, or to register for the workshops below, contact Michelle Doherty at VOICES of September 11th, (203) 966-3911 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also schedule an individual Living Memorial appointment at our Connecticut office.
New Brunswick, NJ
Date: Wednesday, December 3rd
Time: 12:00pm to 5:00pm by Appointment
Location: New Brunswick Development Corporation, 120 Albany Street, Tower 1, Seventh Floor
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
KBW, New York
Date: Wednesday, December 10th for KBW families
Time: 10:00am to 5:00pm by Appointment
Location: Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, 787 7th Avenue, Fourth Floor, New York, NY
Voices of September 11th offers teleconference groups that are facilitated by our mental health professionals. The teleconference groups provide an opportunity for those impacted by 9/11 to talk with others that share their same experience. Please contact our office at (203) 966-3911 if you are interested in participating.
Tuesday, December 2nd: Parents Teleconference Group 3:45pm to 5:00pm
Tuesday, December 2nd: Parenting Teleconference Group 9:00pm to 10:00pm
Wednesday, December 3rd: Firefighter Mothers Teleconference Group 10:00am to 11:00am
Wednesday, December 3rd: Widows w/No or Older Children Teleconference Group 11:30am to 12:30pm
Wednesday, December 3rd: Afternoon Siblings Teleconference Group 3:30pm to 4:30pm
In the News
9/11 Heroes Keep on Giving
When Lt. Tom O’Connor and his fellow firefighters responded to the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11 and during the months that followed, they were extremely grateful for the outpouring of public support they received. So when Hurricane Katrina hit in August of 2005, one month after he retired from the fire department, Tom and his friends didn't hesitate. They felt a calling to help people in need just as they had been helped in 2001.
FDNY lost 343 of its members on 9/11. One was Stephen Siller, whose brother Frank created the Stephen Siller “Let Us Do Good” Children’s Foundation in his memory. After Katrina, Tom sought the assistance of Frank and his Foundation. Working with a group of active and retired firefighters, who had responded to the 9/11 attacks and/or recovery operations, they brought five trucks of necessities like water, rice and cleaning supplies to Biloxi, MS. Since then, they have made five trips to the region with 35 truckloads of vital provisions. Recently, they added toys to their supply list, bringing 12,000 gifts to children devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Since then, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike have caused additional damage and reinforced the need for assistance to the area, which will be rebuilding for years to come. This year the firefighters hope to personally deliver eight trucks filled with toys, books and supplies to children throughout the region. If you would like to help, you can donate new, unwrapped toys and books for boys and girls of all ages. They will be collected during the month of November and the first week of December, and can be sent to: eFreight, Attention: Katrina Toy Drive, 175-11 148th Rd. , Jamaica , NY 11434. For more information on Tom's work, please visit El Barrios Bravest, or click here to learn more about the Stephen Siller “Let Us Do Good” Children’s Foundation.
Memorial Pool Construction Rises Above Ground Zero
A steel structure rising above the PATH train tracks near Fulton Street is providing the first definition of the memorial that will be built at Ground Zero, the New York Times reports. The structure is the outline of one of the twin pools that will be part of the National September Memorial & Museum, in the place where towers stood. Read the full New York Times article.
Ralph Kohlmann, the military judge overseeing the trial of alleged 9/11 planner Khaled Sheikh Mohahammed and four co-defendants, has announced his retirement. Kohlmann, a marine colonel, had been scheduled to retire in April but defense officials say that he decided to retire early as it seemed likely that the proceedings would continue beyond then. The retirement is likely to delay the trials of the five alleged conspirators. Colonel Stephen Henley has been named as Kohlmann’s successor, and must now hold a hearing in which the accused men can explore his potential biases, a process witch Colonel Kohlmann had already completed.
The American Civil Liberties Union described the timing of the announcement as “highly suspect and disturbing”, saying the Bush administration might be trying to “sabotage” President-elect Obama’s plans to close Guantanamo by rushing through a trial in the administration’s final days. But defense officials said that Colonel Kohlmann had discussed his retirement plans in open court in September, and that there was nothing suspicious about his departure. Read more here.
In a separate development later last week, a Federal District Court Judge in Washington in ordered the release of five Algerian men held at Guantanamo Bay for almost seven years, saying their detention had been unlawful, while keeping a sixth Algerian in custody for his support of Al Qaeda. All six men had won a Supreme Court ruling asserting their constitutional rights and allowing them to seek their freedom in federal court. Judge Richard J. Leon ruled the evidence against 5 of the detainees had been enough to hold them for intelligence purposes, but not strong enough for court proceedings. Read the New York Times story.
Senator Lieberman Retains Homeland Security Chairmanship
Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman will retain his position as chair of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, despite his support for Republican Senator John McCain during the presidential race. While his colleagues in the Democratic caucus voted 42-13 to condemn comments Lieberman made through the campaign, they elected to keep him as chair. Said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: "We're looking forward, we're not looking back," adding "This was not a time for retribution, it was a time for moving forward on the problems of this country."
The decision followed signals from President-elect Barack Obama that he did not want to punish Senator Lieberman for his stance during the election. Obama’s pledge to unite the country also lent support to Senator Lieberman’s position. Senator Lieberman responded to the decision by saying "This is the beginning of a new chapter, and I know that my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus were moved not only by the kind words that Senator Reid said about my longtime record, but by the appeal from President-elect Obama himself that the nation now unite to confront our very serious problems." Read more.