Reflections on the release of the film,
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Opening Friday, January 20th
Starring Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and Thomas Horn
January 19, 2012
Dear Families and Friends,
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Bridges, the mental health clinic I worked at as a clinical social worker prior to September 11th. I joined the staff in 1994 as part of their interdisciplinary team providing counseling services to adults. On the morning of September 11th, after receiving a call from my husband, I went to a television in an adjoining building with the director of our agency. As we entered the room, we watched in disbelief as the second plane flew into the 2nd tower, where my son Brad worked on the 89th floor. The image will forever be etched in my mind. That was a turning point in my life, both personally and professionally. My colleagues immediately drove me home and I never returned to the clinic. As it turned out, I focused my energies instead on creating Voices of September 11th.
As I spoke last week with my former colleagues at Bridges, it was a time to reflect about how my work at Bridges has influenced our work at VOICES. Rekindling old friendships was a comforting reminder of the people who helped our family - from my co-workers and friends who provided ongoing support and understanding, to all of the family members, survivors and rescue workers we work with every day. Each of you have your own personal stories about your journey since 9/11.
In contrast, I had a more unsettling reminder of the feelings I experienced in the aftermath of September 11th when I attended a screening of the film, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The acting was superb and the film beautifully tells the story of a young boy's experience after the loss of his father on September 11th. Following the screening, the director, Steven Daldry, spoke with great sensitivity about the creation of the film.
As a family member, watching the film brought back vivid memories of my own personal experience...and the stories of the thousands of husbands, wives, siblings, mothers, fathers and children who lost loved ones on 9/11. 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.
As a clinician, I was taught to put yourself in the shoes of the person you are counseling. But my personal experience after 9/11 has taught me otherwise. Unless you have experienced the loss yourself, you cannot fully understand the struggles of individuals and families after a traumatic loss. Our goal as an organization is to provide programs that promote resiliency and help families move forward with their lives. Our work in creating the 9/11 Living Memorial assists families in commemorating the wonderful lives of their loved ones, not focusing on their tragic deaths.
The film tells a very powerful story and provides great insight into the personal journey of one family, 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 have experienced a traumatic event, 9/11 families, survivors and responders often have a negative response when confronted with reminders of the day. Children are especially vulnerable. I thought it was important to forewarn our membership in advance of the film opening in movie theaters this Friday, January 20th. Viewing the images and the content of the film may cause you to relive your personal loss and in doing so, be counterproductive to your healing process.
Please feel free to send me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, our staff is available by contacting our Connecticut office at 203-966-3911 or our New Jersey office at 732-543-2300.
Our best wishes to you and your family. We look forward to working with you in the New Year.
Mary Fetchet & The VOICES Staff