9/11 & The Rest of Us: The Legacy of an American Tragedy - Learning How to Process Trauma & Hope for Mental Health Awareness

Today marks the 22nd anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks, an American tragedy that has changed the world forever. On the morning of September 11th, 2001 19 terrorists belonging to Al-Qaeda, seized control of two commercial airplanes and subsequently flew them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. A third plane struck the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, while a fourth plane, United Flight 93, crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after heroic passengers attempted to regain control of the airliner. The events of that morning resulted in the catastrophic collapse of both World Trade Center towers & 2,996 deaths of citizens from 102 countries. 

Twenty-two years later, survivors, witnesses, and all Americans are still processing the trauma & dealing with a world forever changed. In fact, just a few days ago, the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has identified another victim. This brings the total number of identified victims to 1,647 out of the 2,753 people who died that day. The impact reverberated globally, fostering a profound sense of vulnerability and grief. According to the Pew Research Center, “Our first survey following the attacks went into the field just days after 9/11, from Sept. 13-17, 2001. A sizable majority of adults (71%) said they felt depressed, nearly half (49%) had difficulty concentrating, and a third said they had trouble sleeping.” 

September is also National Suicide Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness and promote dialogue about a critical issue that affects millions of lives. Suicide is a global concern, and this month serves as a poignant reminder that we can all play a role in preventing it. One of the most powerful aspects of Suicide Prevention Month is its emphasis on breaking the silence surrounding mental health. Stigma and shame often prevent individuals from seeking help or discussing their struggles openly. This month encourages us to foster compassionate and judgment-free spaces where people feel safe sharing their feelings.

This week's blog invites you to watch The Rest of Us, directed by Dr. Linda G. Mills, an accomplished artist, author, scholar, and the 17th president of New York University. The film explores the tenacity of students confronting a mental health crisis at Blair University's campus. Set in the Fall of 2001 at the campus of Blair University, amidst the aftermath of 9/11, a diverse group of college students spring into action when confronted by the reality of suicide, which forces them to face a campus-wide mental health crisis. They struggle to make sense of their place in a new world.

The Rest of Us stars Laila Robins from films such as Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), An Innocent Man (1989) & The Boys (2022) and actress Amanda Debraux.  When asked in an interview why Dr. Mills decided to focus on the tragedy that was 9/11, she responded: “I myself had gone through 9/11, at very close range, I had just about then moved to New York, and I saw the profound dramatic impact that 9/11 had on our students in so many different ways, and particularly on our Muslim students. And so I was very interested and felt it was a truly important and neglected area: that we address both the kind of impact of such a world event, a city event, and what that means to young people’s mental health.” 

Just as we rallied together in the face of 9/11, we can also unite to support those struggling with their mental well-being. As we remember 9/11 and observe Suicide Prevention Month, let us stand together to support those in need. By breaking the silence, erasing stigma, and providing resources for mental health, we can create a world where no one feels alone in their struggles. Help is always available, and reaching out can make all the difference. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please don't hesitate to seek assistance through the provided resources. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call or text 988 immediately for the National Suicide Hotline. If you are uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can chat with the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988lifeline.org. You can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.

Please find a link here to the names of the nearly 3,000 people that lost their lives as a result of the attacks of September, 11th, 2001. May they rest in peace and may their memories be honored and respected as we build a more open, honest and respectful future for all humankind.


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