10 years ago on September 11, 2001 I was supposed to be serving on jury duty. As a full-time seminary student my service that day was differed and I attended class instead. It was a World Missions class. After class ended I headed to the chapel like many of my fellow students did every morning for the daily chapel service.
When I arrived outside the chapel, I saw a group gathering. It isn’t unusual to see something different outside the chapel. I just assumed we were going to process in together. As I got closer I realized this gathering focused their attention on a TV screen. The first tower of the World Trade Center had been hit. My fellow seminarians stood around in shock, a scene that was repeated in various forms around the world that day.
Today, 10 years later, about 11 of my oldest sons classmates report to Ranger School at Ft. Benning. They have completed their training in Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course. These young men were in Middle School on September 11, 2001. I imagine some decided that day ten years ago that they would serve their country.
10 years ago while standing in front of that television set on the campus of Columbia Theological Seminary, I couldn’t have imagined how the following ten years would unfold. I was about to start a year-long unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. My focus was on developing a model of chaplaincy to journalists who cover traumatic events.
I knew through my journalist friends that they, like other first responders, saw and experienced trauma up close. I also knew then, as I do now, unlike firefighters, police EMS and other first responders journalists do not get the same training or support the others have. My call to be a supportive presence to journalists who risk their safety to keep us informed was formed leading up to and including the 2001 – 2002 school year.
Since 2001, I have had the opportunity to meet and be mentored by some of the leading researchers in the area of traumatic stress studies. The Rosalyn Carter Mental Health Journalism Program have afforded me tremendous opportunities to meet and learn from scholars and researchers in the area of traumatic stress. The leadership of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma has taught me a great deal about the trials journalists go through. I’ve had the privilege to also learn from and listen to the struggles of journalists who have covered some of the world’s worst disasters, both natural and man-made.
A few of these journalists were there at the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon the morning of 9/11/01. Photojournalist David Handschuh was at the foot of the WTC when it began to collapse. He was seriously injured that day. Mike Walter was on his way to the DC TV station, where he served as an anchor, when a plane hit the Pentagon. Both journalists are fellows with the Dart Center and members of the Dart Society. I am grateful to them for sharing their personal stories.
I am still on the journey to be a supportive presence to journalists. My call has expanded to also teach civilians about traumatic stress and how to be supportive to our returning veterans. I now serve on the board of directors for the nonprofit, Care For The Troops.
10 years ago standing in front of that TV on the seminary campus I could not have predicted the wide variety of journalists I would come to know both in the US and abroad. I could not imagine that my then 12-year-old son and his friends from The Citadel would be second lieutenants training with the U.S Army Rangers, or that I’d even know what that training entails.
I am grateful to the many people who have seen the importance of this call to be a supportive presence to journalists and also to the members of the military and veterans.
Filed under: Polytrauma, PTSD, Research, U.S. Army, Uncategorized, Veterans Tagged: | Armor BOLC, Army, Army Rangers, Clinical Pastoral Education, Columbia Theological Seminary, Dart Society, David Handschuh, Dorie Griggs, Facebook, Fort Benning, Infantry BOLC, Mike Walter, military families, postaday2011, Posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD, Ranger School, Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship, The Citadel, The Citadel The Military College of South Carolina, The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, Traumatic stress, U.S. Army, United States Army, Veteran, World Trade Center