September 10, 2014

Healing By Serving: Offering Love & Support After 9/11. ~ Annie S. Greenleaf

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The day after 9/11 I stood in my bathtub peering out the upper floor window onto my neighbor’s front yard.

I watched as a young pregnant mother of five, with one boy in tow walked up the driveway. I had heard of this woman, Katy, everyone was talking about her and her family and her beloved husband who worked in the towers and was now missing. I had a great urge to run to her and hold her, and tell her that everything would be okay.

I closed my eyes tears rolling down my cheeks and prayed to God, if there is any way that you can use me to help her, then please bring me to her.

Our move from South Florida to New Jersey years ago was difficult. Our home in Florida sold immediately and we were living in an apartment. The housing market in New Jersey was hot, and multiple offers were common. After two real estate agents and a failed contract, my husband and I and our two small children moved north anyway.

At last we found “the” home and were just starting to settle when the tragic events of 9/11 shook the world and the little township of Basking Ridge.

Prior to our move I had been leading a women’s meditation group I founded and aptly named, Synchronized Women. I had also been teaching the powerful spiritual tools that had been transformational in my life of meditation, journal writing and the use of affirmations.

This was my passion and I was determined to set up and launch my work as a way to connect with my new community. No introduction would be necessary, only the willingness to step in.

The meditation class I had set up through the Somerset Hills YMCA had ten students registered before 9/11 and on the night of the first class, I was met with an overflowing crowd of heavy-hearted participants. They were fathers, sons, young moms, school teachers, and business men and women who entered the room in search of some sort of peace.

“What on earth can I possibly give to them”? I questioned God when my own heart was so heavy. After the introduction and talk, I lit candles dimmed the lights and instructed everyone to close their eyes.

A wave of light surged through me as I realized that we were gathered to heal together, that all I had to do was simply help facilitate the process.

After four Tuesday nights we bonded, our process of healing had begun.

Weeks later, I was invited to speak on the topic of journal writing to a local bereavement group of over 75 people, all residents of surrounding townships who had lost loved ones in the tragedy—mothers, wives, brothers, sisters. On the day I was to give the presentation I was armed with a stack notes and copies of a poem I had written for the bereavement group.

Upon entering the room, I was suddenly overcome with nervousness. Again, the similar thought of “what on earth do I have to offer these people who have been struck by such enormous tragedy” entered my mind.

A palpable lightness of support, compassion and love permeated the room as I wandered through introducing myself to members of the group. The intense sadness was matched by incredible courage.

Those who endured great loss were each holding up the other by the shoulders—not physically, but through their great love and courage. After my presentation I cried my way through the poem as I read it aloud and they cried with me.

Afterwards, I was greeted with love and gratitude as I handed out copies. And then, the young pregnant mother of five, named Katy looked me in the eyes as I handed her a poem and said, “That was amazing, I have heard a lot about you.” And that moment started a lifelong relationship with a woman I adore to this day. God did use me.

My experiences of helping my new community after 9/11 were life-changing and taught me that I thrive in situations where I am needed to bring love and comfort to others. Here is what I would say to others who find themselves in a similar situation:

1. When we are “called” to aid others during times of trial, we will be led. Trust that we have everything we need within us, and if we need something simply ask and it will be given.

2. When in doubt always go to our hearts, always give what is in our heart. The poem I wrote came from heart and it was received with the same love.

3. There are no greater tools than love and compassion. Our capacity to love is without measure.

4. We don’t have to be on the front lines of a tragedy to help others. Don’t wait for a tragedy to call, ask your creator where you are needed today. Simple acts of kindness are needed everywhere!

On September 11, 2014 I will stand on my deck overlooking the nature preserve behind our Colorado home and reflect.

I will remember, I will post a prayer I wrote, I will listen to Bruce Springsteen’s “Rising” album, I will think of Katy, and Cindy, and Erin, and the many faces of the Basking Ridge, New Jersey bereavement group, and the powerful Pam Koch who founded it.

I will go there, but I won’t stay there. I will give thanks to my creator for the opportunity to serve in the way I was called to.

I will give thanks for the tremendous personal growth that came as a result of the work I was brought to.

I will once again be humbled by the power of God and humanity and our ability to come together to bring healing to others during times of great need.


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Apprentice Editor: Guenevere Neufeld / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Flickr / Luca Vanzella

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