Hardly a week goes by without news reports of another tragic event occurring in communities around the world, and we can no longer afford to think “it can't happen here”. Voices of September 11th (VOICES) seventeen years of providing support services for those impacted by 9/11 and documented research demonstrates that planning in advance and implementing early interventions are critical in promoting healing and long-term recovery.
On March 28 and 29, VOICES hosted preparedness trainings, “Preparing for After: Planning for Effective Response Following Acts of Mass Violence” at Grace Farms. The trainings provided an overview documenting best practices for community stakeholders in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from acts of mass violence. Law enforcement, emergency responders, mental health professionals, and social service providers participated.
VOICES Founding Director Mary Fetchet said, “It’s heartbreaking that the same mistakes continue to be made in other tragedies with serious long-term consequences on all those impacted. By sharing what we’ve learned, we have an opportunity to help communities prepare in advance and better anticipate the support services that will be needed for long-term recovery.”
The trainings led by Mary Fetchet and Stephanie Landau from VOICES, brought together professionals from over 15 towns across Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, including police officers, firefighters, government representatives, emergency managers and responders, clinicians, and human services officials. Presentations were made by individuals who were impacted by and responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Completed in 2014, Preparing for After is based on VOICES extensive research and hundreds of interviews conducted with individuals who responded to the terrorist attacks on September 11, the Oklahoma City Bombing, and the shootings at Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University, and in Tucson, Arizona. VOICES ongoing work with the 9/11 community and lessons learned from more recent tragedies are incorporated into the materials.
Dr. Karen Alter-Reid and Retired Colonel of the Connecticut State Police Danny Stebbins discussed the prevalence of PTSD in those who responded to the Newtown shooting. They also emphasized the importance of leadership in destigmatizing mental health treatment, and the effectiveness of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) in treating PTSD. Former NYPD officers Matthew McCauley and Jeannie Kelly shared their personal experience about responding to the 9/11 attacks, and the serious medical and mental health conditions that responders and survivors are suffering from today due to their exposure to toxins.
The long-term lingering effects of 9/11 are staggering. Over 40,000 responders and survivors are currently suffering from life-threatening illnesses and serious mental health conditions, and over 2,100 individuals have died post-9/11, leaving behind families who need support. Over 400,000 individuals who were exposed to toxins in the aftermath of the attacks have not yet enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP). VOICES staff is assisting responders and survivors in enrolling in the WTCHP to ensure they have access to medical and mental health treatment, when and if they need it.
As part of VOICES efforts to assist other communities, on April 2 staff traveled to Parkland, Florida to participate in a Parkland Marjory Stoneman Douglas Community Peer Support Event. Along with other 9/11 representatives, and survivors of the shootings at Columbine High School, Pulse Night Club, the Aurora movie theatre and the Boston Marathon Bombing, participants shared personal stories and offered encouragement and support. Over two hundred Parkland survivors, families, and community members attended.
VOICES will be holding future Preparing for After overviews and will be working with community stakeholders to plan comprehensive two-day trainings. Contact VOICES office at 203-966-3911 or email Lani DeBoer at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested. Learn more by visiting www.voicesofseptember11.org.
About Voices of September 11th
Voices of September 11th (VOICES) is a non-profit organization providing long-term mental health support, resources and programs that promote resiliency in the lives of the thousands of individuals and families impacted by 9/11 that we work with every day.
VOICES assists survivors and responders in accessing treatment from the World Trade Center Health Program for mental health conditions, and life-threatening illnesses due their exposure to toxins in the aftermath of the attacks. VOICES 9/11 Living Memorial commemorates the 2,977 lives lost and documents stories of survivors.
VOICES Center of Excellence leverages our expertise to assist communities, throughout the United States and abroad, in preparing for and responding to other acts of terrorism and mass violence.