91/11/2001: The Day That Changed America
Coping With Disaster
Reprinted from Junior Scholastic, October 15 & 22, 2001

The terrible events and images from September 11th shook the emotions of all Americans. Here is advice from Dr. Bruce D. Perry, a specialist in helping young people cope with tragedy, to help us ride out the roller coaster of emotions we are feeling.

Spend time with your friends. When we talk with each other about tragic events, it helps us.

Don't watch the TV images over and over. The images are horrifying, but they still grab our attention. That's understandable. But watching them again and again won't help you understand what happened. And they could intensify negative feelings. The frequent replays may even make younger children think the attacks are still going on. If you are watching and your younger brother or sister is with you, turn off the TV.

Don't let this make you feel unsafe in your home or school. Your home and your school are still safe. And steps are being taken to make our lives safer.

Don't be surprised if you can't get the images out of your mind. It's normal for you to think about "unbelievable" events again and again. Over time, this will fade.

Even though you may live far away from the attacks, you may have strong feelings about them. Watching the scenes on TV and having everyone talk about the attacks makes them feel closer and more threatening. And you may find yourself overcome with sadness, fear, confusion, and anger. This is normal. In time, these feelings will ease.

Your feelings may change from moment to moment. Out of the blue, you may remember the attacks and start crying. You may have a hard time falling asleep. You may be scared to think of your mom or dad flying on a plane. One moment you will be fine, the next incredibly sad, and then terribly angry. This emotional roller coaster can be exhausting, but it's perfectly normal. It will slow down as time passes.

Don't direct your anger at the wrong people. Don't spread the hate that led to this act. Do not lump all people of a certain ethnicity or religion into the same group. This was the work of a small group of hateful people. Blame them, not some kid in your class who is different from you.

If you feel very sad, scared, or angry, tell your teacher or parents. Sometimes these feelings make us feel out of control. If you find your emotions are overwhelming you, tell an adult you trust. Don't be afraid to reach out for help.

Dr. Bruce D. Perry is an internationally recognized authority on youth in crisis. Dr. Perry served as consultant on many incidents involving traumatized young people, including the Columbine High School shootings and the Oklahoma City bombing.