REWEAVING HISTORY: The Aftermath of Trauma.

by Velleda C. Ceccoli Ph.D. on September 10, 2012

A couple of nights ago I looked outside my window and saw a single tower of white light rising among the Manhattan skyscrapers, reaching towards the night sky. I look for it every September. Often it comes early. That tower of light is actually made up of two beams that, in the distance, merge into one single luminous reminder of where the Twin Towers stood. It lights up every September as a memorial to those who died during the terrible events of September 11. It is a fluid and gentle memorial in contrast to the events of that day, and perhaps an easy one to miss if one does not look in that direction at the right time of night.

Every September when I see the tower of light, I revisit my own memories of September 11 and the New York that was then. This time, as I looked at the unwavering light I also caught a glimpse of a nearby giant structure emerging on its right – the Freedom Tower – a single tower of glass and steel making its way toward the sky. It has taken us eleven years to rebuild what was wiped out in 45 minutes. Eleven years to plant trees, build parks and fountains, shopping malls, museums and art galleries and the Freedom Tower. Architecturally, the landscape of downtown New York has been re-shaped, weaving within its newness memories of what now constitutes many a New Yorker’s traumatic history.

September 11 always makes me think not only of the events of that eerie and terrible day, and the ensuing war torn country we have become, but also about human resilience and how we go about repairing wounds. The events post 911 illustrate how a city and its inhabitants go about living post disaster. They illustrate how all of us get on with our daily life while holding a raw and painful reality within us.

“Time heals all wounds” the saying goes, and there is truth to this – but it does not erase the scars of experience. And on September 11, the scar of the attacks on the United States- on the Twin Towers, in Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania – the scar that marks the end of the known and the beginning of the unknown for all of us that survived, that scar twitches a little every September, eleven years after the fact. It’s twitching is triggered by the anniversary, the memorial, and yes, even the Freedom Tower in all of its architectural splendor and its badge of survival.

Psychological trauma is like that. It may recede with the passing of time, only to come back (in some personal and private form) when it is triggered by external events –in this case anniversaries and memorials. Such events are always complicated emotional happenings which strike at the core of who we were before and who we have become.

While psychotherapy helps to alleviate, understand and incorporate the effects of trauma, it cannot erase its traces. As a psychoanalyst who works with varying types of psychological trauma I see people reweave such experiences into their life and move on, forever changed- like the landscape of the city that I love. On September 11, I am always reminded that we are all survivors and united through our experience of reweaving what we knew with what we now know.



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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Erika Schwartz MD September 11, 2012 at 7:14 AM

Thank you for the gentle reminder. It is only with kindness we can move on and construct a new normal.


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