Where do I begin to describe the horror that I shared with the world on September 11, 2001? It was a horror so big that at first, I refused to believe it. Planes deliberately flying into buildings? A terrorist attack against the United States? It had to be a hoax.
Where do I begin to describe the feeling of loss that followed me around for days and weeks after this event? In the immediate aftermath, two of my New York friends were missing. One was located, safe and sound, the day after the attack. The other, whose daily schedule would have placed him in the North Tower during the critical moments, was never seen again, and his remains were never identified.
How do you grieve for someone when you hope against hope, and against all available evidence, that they are alive?
Where do I begin to describe the utter desolation that I felt when, more than fifteen years later, I stood at the site of the Twin Towers and looked into the reflecting pool? I knew that my friend’s name was etched into granite surrounding the pool, along with the names of all the other victims, but I could not bring myself to look for it.
Where do I begin to delve into the sensory shock that I felt when I went into the 9/11 museum? As I entered that space where all of those people had died, the first thing that struck me was the smell. It was the smell of fear, despair and confusion. It was the smell of death. It was the smell of hopes and dreams that would be forever unfulfilled.
I wandered through the space in a trance, not sure what I was most horrified by. I stared at enormous pieces of twisted metal, the staircase that scores of people fled down in an attempt to survive, and projected images of missing persons ads posted by desperately hopeful relatives in the days after the attack.
Where do I begin to describe how depressing it was to witness the blatant sensationalization of tragedy? When we arrived, at least one hundred people were in line ahead of us, many of them chattering excitedly about how “cool” it was to be here, before forking over their $24 admission fees. Visitors to the museum were gleefully taking selfies in front of the exhibits, as if this was a carnival instead of the place where hundreds of people had lost their lives.
After a while, I had had enough. I felt as if the place was haunted by the dead, by memories forever lost and by futures never lived. If I didn’t get out of there, I was going to buckle beneath the weight of grief for all of the victims. As I made my way to the exit, I passed a gift shop. There is no way to describe how I felt about the presence of a gift shop in a place like this.
As I left and emerged into the world of the living, the spectres of the dead clung to me, and I wondered what my children would make of all of this. Having been born in 2003 and 2005, both my sons were born in the post-9/11 era.
To me, the 9/11 attacks are a horrifying memory that include personal loss. To my kids, it is an event in history, something that happened to the generation before them.
If they visited the 9/11 museum, would they be affected in the same way I was? Or would the oddly upbeat tourism there undermine just how tragic this event was?
There is a lot of controversy surrounding 9/11. Many questions have been asked and not satisfactorily answered. Many coincidences have not been addressed. The truth, I believe, has not been told to its fullest extent.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the world changed that day. People lost their lives. Other people lost children, parents, brothers, sisters, life partners and friends. Emergency responders saw things that no one should ever have to witness. Rescue workers developed illnesses that would later kill them,
Where do I begin to describe the magnitude of this tragedy? And where do I begin to talk to my children about it, so that it is more than just a history lesson to them?
How did the events of 9/11 affect you and your family? How do you talk about it to your kids?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle of Canada. Photo credit to the author.
62,000 people. That is the estimated number of Haitians who are still displaced from the 7.0 earthquake that shook Haiti in January 2010; a heartbreaking disaster that claimed over 200,000 lives and displaced as many as 3 million people.
Elouse’s four cousins
….this is only 1% of the 900 people who lost their lives in Haiti to Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
900 lives…fathers, mothers, teachers, grandmas, little brothers, babies…lost in the waters of a sea that came on land and washed it out. A land crushed under debris created by a 145mph wind that knocked down concrete walls and tore down palm trees as if they were saplings just transplanted from a kindergarten classroom the day before.
To say that we feel for our sisters and brothers in Haiti is an understatement. My heart is heavy and it wants to scream because although it believes that we, together, will make things better, it is hard to see the road ahead when there is such a harsh wind blowing in one’s face.
To look at the state of Haiti now, with the lack of food and access, and the abundance of poverty, one may not remember how powerful a nation Haiti actually is.
In the 18th century, Toussaint-Louverture, Henri Christophe and Dessalines revolted in an effective guerilla war against the French colony. All three had been enslaved: they successfully ended slavery and regained freedom for the nation. They did this in 1791 against the French, in 1801 against the Spanish conquest, and in 1802 against an invasion ordered by Napoleon Bonaparte. They renamed Saint-Dominique after its original Arawak name, Haiti, which became the second independent nation in the Americas.
Such history should not go unnoticed because it is a significant example of the perseverance, love, and determination that courses through the veins of Haitians.
If I could say anything to my sisters and brothers in Haiti right now, if I could speak at all, I would say this:
“In the midst of the chaos; the heartbreak; the loss of life; the search for lives; the feeling that rebuilding will simply take too much energy…again; the pain; the tears that will run dry; the anguish, and all the feelings that weigh down your soul and may make you doubt your abilities, please remember who you are, what you have accomplished, and what you are capable of doing. You do not stand alone, because we stand with you. You do not sit alone, you do not swim alone, you do not cry alone, you do not hug your loved ones alone, you do not cry alone.
You do not cry alone, and you will not rebuild alone.
We are with you.
We are with you and we will laugh together again and you will see that we can get out of this. Please believe with me. I know it’s hard right now, and I do not pretend to understand what you’re going through, but please believe with me”.
To anyone who would like to assist, you may consider contacting any and all of these organizations:
Food For The Poor
Save the Children
Please remember that there is also a cholera outbreak because of lack of clean water, and it is also claiming lives. Help is needed most urgently! Please lets do what we can.
My heart goes out to everyone affected by this hurricane, not only in Haiti but in neighboring countries including the southern US states. Sending you all love and happiness in the hopes that you keep believing and looking forward to another sunrise.
Have you ever been directly affected by a devastating storm? What would you say to those who are trying to rebuild their lives?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sophia at ThinkSayBe. Photo credit: Ricardo’s Photography. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
The last photo of the author and her brother with their mom.
There once was a little girl who lost her mother. She was too young to fully understand the concept of never. She had a secret belief that people were making a silly mistake when they gently explained that her mommy would never be coming home again.
The little girl secretly believed her mommy had just taken a long vacation. Her Daddy told her that Mommy was in a special type of hospital for people who were sick and needed to rest.
Since the little girl was smart and precocious, she imagined her mother had taken a much needed rest and gone on holiday with the traveling circus, which recently had been in town. Hadn’t Mommy admired the clowns and acrobats SO much? Wouldn’t this be a great way to get better after all the medicine the little girl had secretly seen her mommy take when she thought nobody was watching…
As the months and then years dragged on and Mommy didn’t come back, the girl started to realise that the traveling circus probably wasn’t the reason her mother had left.
Instead, she started to suspect that her parents had gotten a divorce and her father had custody of the 2 children since his wife was sick. This had happened to a boy in the little girl’s class at school.
She still couldn’t accept the fact her mother was gone for good.
Things began to get difficult at home and at school too. At first the other children were sympathetic because their teacher had told them that the little girl was going through difficult times at home and needed help and understanding from her classmates.
Eventually though, when the girl started coming to school with untidy hair and wearing grubby, mismatched socks, most of the kids started calling her names and telling her she was a freak.
She DID look and act weird, she knew. The sad truth was that she FELT like a freak, and that was even worse.
When other girls went on sleepovers and to birthday parties, on shopping trips and visits to the local swimming pool with their moms, the little girl wasn’t invited. The mothers felt awkward and embarrassed trying to organise these things with the girl’s father. The father said he needed his daughter to stay home and look after her little brother and he couldn’t spare her as he had to work. After a few kind attempts, the invitations dried up.
Although help was offered to the father at first, his depressed and confused mental health gradually repelled those who were trying to help him support his 2 young children. After losing all of his teeth and most of his hair due to extreme stress, he realised he couldn’t cope alone anymore. He suffered a nervous breakdown and was forced to go back to his country of origin to seek help from estranged relatives.
This is the traumatic beginning of my early life and the reason I lived in a fantasy world following the death of my mother, when I was just six years old.
My family had left England a few years earlier and gone to live in Australia for a better life. We really did have a perfect lifestyle for a couple of years until my beloved mother became sick and died of cancer before the age of 30.
I remember with utmost shock how I refused to believe my mother was actually dead. I’m staggered now at how I stubbornly clung to elaborate fantasies about her REAL whereabouts and my utter refusal to grasp reality.
The other thing I remember with clarity is the nastiness of some and the true kindness of others.
Although virtually everyone was supportive and helpful at first, this really didn’t last long. After a relatively short period of time, I became an object of ridicule and target for bullies. My father was going through his own catastrophic demise and I basically had to fend for myself as well as bring up my younger brother.
It’s not easy for a 6-and-a-half-year-old to cook, clean and look after herself and her 4-year-old brother as well.
I went to school looking unkempt and bedraggled most of the time and the fantasies I told about my mother must have scared my schoolmates, who knew she had passed on. I was called names and kids threw stones at me because I was so different from them. In my class I was the only one from a single-parent home at that time.
Nowadays, of course, single-parent families are commonplace. Back then it wasn’t the norm and other kids made me feel that somehow it was my fault; I was stigmatized.
Coming from another country and speaking with a different accent didn’t help either. I was unacceptably different on so many levels.
When I first met my Greek husband decades later, one of his relatives praised him for being such a good Christian, offering to marry not only a foreigner but an orphan too!!!
It seems that in many cultures the child is responsible and pays for the parents “crimes.”
I remember a limited amount of kindness during my formative years and so try my best to instill a sense of compassion and respect for ALL living things in my children. I tell them that it really doesn’t matter how many possessions a person has that gives them value but how they treat others that counts. The way they interact with others is the true measure of their worth.
As a result of my childhood, I know that the kindness and compassion we show to a person can shape their whole future, for better or worse.
If we could all impart this wisdom in our children, wouldn’t the world be such a better place?
Have you had any childhood traumas that have made you passionate about something in adulthood? How do you encourage your kids to show kindness to others?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our contributor in Greece and mum to two, Ann Marie Wright.
The image used in this post is attributed to the author.
This summer, we found out that my grandpa has cancer in the bile duct of his liver. This word is not new to my family. In 2010, we lost my grandma to a five year battle with ovarian cancer. But, what is new is my children’s awareness of what is happening now as opposed to five years ago. They were only two and five at that time; almost still considered babies.
Now, they are seven and ten, and they question everything. The first question they both asked me was “Is Grandpa going to die?” (more…)
365DaysOn the Chibok Girls are never to be forgotten.
It is 365 days today that the Chibok Girls were abducted. Exactly one year ago on 14th April 2014 276 Chibok School Girls were abducted from their school. I just cannot believe the fact that we actually allowed it to get to one year without the rescue of our #chibokGirls. How could we allow innocent children be taken away by terrorist group and do nothing. The #ChibokGirls ought not to have been taken in the first place. They were supposed to be protected to enjoy their Childhood and their innocence. We failed to protect them and also failed in the next best thing which would have been their immediate rescue. How can we live with ourselves? How do we live with our consciences? How do we face ourselves in the mirror knowing fully well that we abandoned 219 #ChibokGirls and left them with the terrorists.
What is the crime of #ChibokGirls? Is it because she is Nigerian? Is it because she is poor? Or is it because she dared to be educated? #ChibokGirls against all odds dared to be educated and on April 14th 2014 they paid for daring. A group of armed terrorists entered their school and abducted 276 of them from their school in Chibok. 57 of them escaped on their own and there are still 219 of them still with the abductors for a year today, and not a single one has been rescued. The armed terrorists group known as Boko Haram, literarily meaning that western education is forbidden, have vowed to get schools closed down and seem to be succeeding. For some children in the North Eastern States of Nigeria education has become truly forbidden as schools in some parts have been closed for over a year.
The #ChibokGirls were writing their Final year examination after which those who passed would be able to secure admission into University. A beacon of hope for their families. Schools had been closed down in neighbouring towns and a lot of parents sent their children to be able to complete their secondary school education in Chibok.
There had been series of attacks within some neighbouring villages and yet the #ChibokGirls went to school. Even those who were not boarders went to stay in school because there was electricity there and they wanted to have a place to read for their exams. Sheer determination to get an education which they knew would be their key to breaking the shackles of poverty. For the #ChibokGirl education meant everything. It was the path that could lead to an end to the vicious cycle of poverty. Like one of the #ChibokMothers said to us when we invited them to one of the Sit Outs we had, said her daughter had promised to go to school to get an education and wipe away her tears. The mother asked us; “If my daughter is in the hands of terrorist how she will wipe away my tears?
For most of these parents their children are everything, including a future source of livelihood. What makes the #ChibokGirls issue so saddening is that a lot of children, especially the Girl-Child from the region of Nigeria they come from, hardly ever go to school. They are the most educationally disadvantaged and it takes a lot to get them to school, especially the girls.
One of the #ChibokFathers put it this way: ‘The government fines us if we do not send our children to school. Now that our children have been abducted while in school who will fine the government?’ A #ChibokFather wept at the Unity Fountain in Abuja where we have the daily Sit Out to demand for the rescue of our #ChibokGirls when he told us the story of how his daughter was driven home because she had not paid 300 Naira (Less than 2 Dollars) for testimonial. He struggled for days to get the 300 Naira and when he was able to, he took her back to the school only for her to be abducted the very next day. I ask again! What is the crime of the #ChibokGirl? Is it because she is Nigerian? Is it because she is poor or is it because she dared to be educated?
If these are crimes many of us would be guilty. I grew up poor in an environment where education was not seen as important.
I went to school in the morning without breakfast and came back home without expecting lunch.By the time I was aged 11, I had no friends to play with because they were all married off. I was taunted and ridiculed and what kept me going was the thought that if I am able to get an education I would one day be able to ride a car and escape the life of poverty I was born into. At the age of 24 when I got married my friends were grandparents, and by the time I turned 40 they had become great grand parents.
Anytime I think of the fact that if I was taken when I was writing my exams my parents would have been unable to speak out for me because poverty had rendered them voiceless, and if nobody else stood for me where would I be today? Probably dead! With that in mind I can never give up on the #ChibokGirls because to give up on them is to give up on the who I was 24 years ago.
The #ChibokGirls with all the disadvantage they were born with decided that they would dare to take themselves out of the station that they were born into, and for daring to dream have been with abductors for a year. The world seems to have turned its back on the #ChibokGirls. The world seems to move on after the initial flurry of activity with the world saying #BringBackOur Girls. It was glamorous for people to hold the banner and say #BringBackOurGirls in the early days. People have moved on with their lives but for the #ChibokGirls and their families there is no moving on, not for a second for 365 days. Today it is exactly one year. My daughter has volunteered to be a #ChibokGirl Ambassador who would stand for the voiceless #ChibokGirls here in Abuja, and make demands that the government rescues the #ChibokGirls. This is what she had to say:
I see my parents every day and I feel guilty because 219 school girls haven’t seen their parents for one whole year. They live in fear of not knowing what is going to happen next whether they would live to see the next second, the next minute, the next hour, the next day. They have lost all hope especially in their country.
I feel sad that I live in a country, where 219 girls would be abducted and kept in captivity for 365 days and yet nothing is done, yet no attempt is made to rescue them, and everyone just moves on as if nothing ever happened. Why? They are kept in the hands of monsters that go around killing people and think they are practicing Islam, but Islam is a religion of peace not violence.
What if it were I that was abducted will everyone just move on and forget about me.
Bring Back Our Girls Now And Alive.
As long as the #ChibokGirls are left with abductors we have failed the children of the world especially the Girl-Child whom we tell is important and that she should dare to dream. Action, they say, speaks louder than words. The Girl-Child knows that it is all a lie because she can see the #ChibokGirls who dared and what happened to them.
By failing to rescue the #ChibokGirls we have failed children all over the world. We have allowed terror be what they go to school expecting could happen to them, and this is not how it should be.
Due to what has happened to the #ChibokGirls and many others in that region a lot of parents are refusing to send their children to school where they are still open, and some are saying they would not send their children even when schools are opened. No parents should be made to choose between sending a child to school or their safety.
Work needs to be done to ensure that parents do send their children to school, lest the terrorist will have succeeded with their ideology of western education being forbidden. We must remember injustice to one is injustice to all. Terrorist attack to one is terrorist attack to all. Terror attack to anyone anywhere in the world is terrorist attack to everyone everywhere in the world.
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Aisha Yesufu in Nigeria. All images provided by Aisha Yesufu.
I didn’t have a bad marriage.
I wasn’t beaten or mistreated.
My ex never had an affair.
Money stressors were manageable.
We rarely argued.
To the outside world we seemed absolutely fine. But we weren’t.
It was, for me, an intensely sad marriage. And for a long time I couldn’t work out why. Here was a perfectly pleasant man who wished me well and who responded to my affection. He worked hard and was what most of us would call a “good guy”. He still is. But my self-esteem was dropping and my mood was becoming a habitual mix of frustration and melancholy.
It was one of those slow drifts downwards, like water eroding rock.
Then, around 10 years ago, he was diagnosed with something call Alexithymia. It’s not a mental disorder but more of a fixed personality trait. It’s common in those formally on the autism spectrum, in those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and in some of us with attachment issues from our early childhood.
Basically, anyone with Alexithymia cannot identify the bodily sensations that go along with their emotions. They still have the same sensations but are unable to distinguish between them and label them. They also have a very limited imaginative life, which sounds fine, until you realise predicting outcomes and taking steps to avoid the less desirable ones, are in fact, a product of our imagination.
These two issues give rise to a deep lack of empathy and ability to relate to another human being. Sympathy –the intellectual understanding of the experience of another–can happen but the actual feeling of an emotion, as another has it, in the sense of true empathy, cannot.
For me, this meant I would have to be sobbing in front of my ex before he understood I was sad, and then have to tell him to give me a hug, as the appropriate response. He did not mean to be uncaring. He just never understood subtle body language or had the instinctive responses that most of us have.
There are always three choices in a situation: To alter it; to put up with it; or to leave.
For many years I did my best to see if things could change. I offered to go back to work, so he could get therapy. I suggested counselling, on more than one occasion. None of these offers were ever taken up.
The more I read about Alexithymia, the more I realised… I would never be taken up on any of these. People with Alexithymia see the rest of us as over-emotional and confusing. They cannot see why they would leave their completely logical realms. Their idea of a perfect partner is a kind body in the house with whom there is as little emotional deviation and routines are maintained – this was exactly what our marriage was.
As time went by, I became increasingly distant and detached. At times, I became unpleasant and down right bitchy. Then, around three years ago, someone asked me what made me happy. And I couldn’t tell them. From being someone who was a perpetual optimist, I was by then emotionally dead – aside from experiencing frustration and melancholy. It was a massive wake up call and I knew something had to change.
It did take three years for me to be ready. There is a comfort in familiarity that is enticing. But in the end, my physical body was beginning to suffer, my older boys were finding the emotional disconnect from their father tough going and the other side of the leap to leave seemed less stressful than staying.
I am sure I was by no means the perfect partner either. But I share this here because these are immensely lonely and soul-destroying relationships to be in – and many who are in them either think they are going crazy or that they are the only ones ever to have this experience or some combination of both. But neither are true.
You’re not crazy. You’re not alone. The shell of the outside relationship that the world sees is not the whole story.
Have you ever known someone with Alexithymia? Tell us your tale.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our long-time contributor and mother to three in New Zealand, Karyn Sparkles Willis.
The image used in this post is attributed to Nathan Jones. It carries a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.