When we think about all that we are experiencing today with the COVID-19 virus, there is an oddly similar yet different trauma and fear surrounding it that is like what our nation experienced after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City in 2001.
When 9/11 struck, there was no instruction manual for how we as individuals and collectively should respond, but there was an urgent feeling and need for a quick response: the same can be said for COVID-19. The effects of both events, although their onset was totally different, will be with all of us for years to come.
There was no time to prepare and no way to avoid it.
The major difference between the next steps of healing during the aftermath of these events is that 9/11 brought a sense of social comfort, where people found refuge and healing by sharing space with others and mourning together.
In contrast, we are now being forced to social distance and must work to find new ways to work through our current fears and feelings of anxiety.
We have all watched together as TV and the media have flooded our lives with images and information surrounding both events. Studies show there is a direct correlation between media exposure and a distress response from people, which causes even more fear and anxiety as we all become bystanders to something we can’t necessarily control. Just like that day in 2001, we have found ourselves again in uncharted waters. We are seeing an uptick in overdoses, suicide attempts, and severe mental health issues. Many agencies across the nation are working tirelessly to combat this with telemedicine, extra support, and more to wrap those in need with every service possible as we work toward finding a new normal.
Now, it’s more important than ever to stand together.
We must all radically accept what has occurred and work together as we navigate the uncertain feelings of “what will happen next,” just as we felt as a nation that day 19 years ago.
COVID-19 will no doubt be another memory forever etched in our minds. Many people remember where they were and what they were doing when they found out about the towers falling, just like we will all remember the time we couldn’t leave our homes without a mask, hug our grandparents, or continue life as it was because of a virus we know little about. We will get through it as we did then, together.
If you or someone you know is struggling to navigate these uncertain times and need extra support, connect with us! Spectrum Health is here to help.
By Shannon Schwarberg
Senior Program Manager, Special Project Development
Spectrum Health and Human Services