REFLECTIONS AS WE ENTER A SIGNIFICANT YEAR
The beginning of a new year always offers an opportunity
to take inventory and think about goals and the future.
We all know that 2011 will be momentous for being
the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and there certainly is a sense of
anticipation that comes with the months leading up to the anniversary
day. It makes the questions that come with New Year’s
resolutions all the more weighty - what have you resolved to
do this year? What improvements or changes would you like to
make? How are you doing now, and how are you feeling about
where you are at?
This also brings up many thoughts related to the anniversary
and the 10 years that have passed since 9/11. When you think
back over the past 10 years so many different thoughts are likely
to come to mind. You are probably filled with thoughts and
memories about your loved one. There is no escaping the many
sad and traumatic memories you have endured, but along with
these, are there any thoughts about personal growth, yourself,
and the path you have travelled? As you reflect, can you pay
attention to not only what is sad and angering, but also to
thoughts about progress made and opportunities that only this
tragedy could have brought forth?
There are many things to consider as this year begins.
will be a great deal of attention paid to 9/11 this year, particularly
as the summer and fall get closer. Decide how much you
want to tune into all of that and what you do and don’t want to
participate in. This will be different for everyone. Don’t think
that just because one family member is doing something that you
have to as well. Think about what significance this anniversary
has for you. Does it feel different for you than other years?
As we’ve discussed at length in these pages, anniversaries,
particularly big ones, trigger memories and emotions. Stay aware
of that and try to stay ahead of it as much as you can. Of course
there will be times when something will pop up in the news
that you weren’t expecting, and you’ll have to continue figuring
out how to handle those moments. But there will be a great deal
of coverage and reminders that you will know about in advance,
and decide what is good for you to listen to and what you need
to steer clear of.
We’ve also talked about the importance of self care, which
will be quite important this year. Again, this will look different
for each one of you. Some of you will find great comfort in getting
involved in everything planned this year. Some will want to
stay connected with the family members you’ve become so close
with over the years. For others, self care will be a yoga retreat,
or a relaxing vacation, time spent with family members, or sessions
with your therapist. Whatever it is that has helped you with your healing and assisted you in your moments of distress
over the years will be what you draw on this year. Keep it up,
stay the course.
Plan as much as you can for how you want to spend key moments
of this year, both in September and in other parts of the
year. The more you plan for what works best for you and your
family, the more control you will feel like you have over your
experience. Talk openly with members of your family about their
thoughts for the year, and consider all ideas. It might be the year
to stick with tradition, or it might be the year to try something new – a vacation to someplace new, or a new ritual for remembering.
Family members might have different feelings about
what they want to do on the anniversary, or at other key moments
in the year. It might make sense to create different sets of
plans for different people. Try to stay open to the possibilities.
Please let us know at the CSU what kind of support you need
from us this year. We are always here to offer a listening ear, but
if there is an event or gathering you think would also be helpful
to the families this year please share your ideas. Contact Kim
Ahearn at (212) 570-1693 x 314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I wanted to take this opportunity to inform you that I left my position
as Social Worker/Assistant Program Director for the Line of Duty
Family Connections program of the FDNY-CSU on December 17,
2010. I started a new position as a Social Worker at the VA hospital
in the New Year.
It has been such a pleasure becoming part of your lives. As I end my
tenure here, I find myself reflecting, reminiscing, and looking at change
that has occurred in the LOD Family community over time. I’d like to
share with you some of my thoughts and observations as I consider the
six years I have spent with the program.
First of all, it is striking how different the LOD Family Connections
Program is from it’s inception in 2003. At that time we were
hosting mainly socialization events for kids whose dads died in the line
of duty through the Kids Connections program. As more and more
family members began to request services, we began to offer programs
to parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, and wives, who had lost their
loved one. The programs were rather segregated in those days, people
expressing a desire to be with others who experienced the same type
of loss. However, also at this time I recall many of you being so overwhelmed
by the loss that you were not yet wanting to talk about it.
It seemed almost taboo to talk at these events, perhaps for fear that
the pain associated with the trauma of the loss was just too great.
I remember a family member telling me at an earlier BBQ the CSU
hosted for LOD Family Connections “Thank you for hosting these
events. Even though we don’t talk about it, we all know why we are
here.” And that was how the program seemed to go for the first few
years. Family members would get together, but it seemed the loss was
so deep, so profound, that to talk about your loved one or 9/11 was
just too hard. So we went fishing, we had BBQs, we did things you
would have done with the FDNY while your loved one was alive.
So, although your loved one died, these connections to the FDNY
remained alive. In time, a new connection began to develop too, your
connection to each other.
Then, as time went on the community began to ask for groups and
seminars to talk more about your loss and foster the connection with
those who were experiencing similar feelings. Gradually, through support
groups and workshops, I began to hear stories about the enormous
loss and gaps your loved one left behind: an ailing mother, a leaky roof,
a pile of junk in the garage, a conversation unfinished. LOD Family
Connections changed shape accordingly; people began to gather in
groups of siblings, parents, wives, kids, and talk about those feelings of trauma, loss and abandonment. You were able to come together and
begin to talk about your pain with people who were experiencing the
same thing. I remember one of you telling me “9/11 was horrible,
absolutely horrible. But one good thing did come out of it, that I met
all these wonderful people.” Those groups felt healing. You shared
with each other and realized that you were not alone in your loss but
rather had developed a community and a place for your feelings: a community
As time moved forward and you worked hard at beginning to heal
through groups and often individual therapy, the dynamic of the program
seemed to shift again. The community seemed become more inclusive,
no longer separated into services for kids, siblings, parents, wives
separately, but rather under the one umbrella of Line of Duty Family
Connections. And at the program events, the stories began to change
too. You started to share stories of your loved one as he was when
he was alive, rather than his life overshadowed by the tragedy of his
death and the magnitude of your loss. I began to feel like I was getting
to know who your sons, brothers, husbands, fathers really were, their
personalities. You shared with me stories of heroism, but also stories
of his favorite foods and songs, his quirks, his terrible math skills, even
at times his quick temper. Not only did you begin to share with me
who he was, but also how your family has been shaped, how your role
in it was developed because of who he was.
As I reflect on leaving CSU and the Line of Duty Family Connections
Program, I realize the importance of memory in experiencing a
loss. I have seen your memories go as a community from a place of
trauma and avoidance, to an exploration of pain and grief, to a new
place of joy and nostalgia in the remembrance of your loved one. Although
the pain of the loss will never be over, and will resurface as
you experience other losses and anniversaries, it is touching to see the
support you have developed as a community and the comfort you give
I assure you my departure will not affect LOD Family Connections
programming or community. Kim Ahearn will continue to be the Program
Director and the services that we have provided throughout the
years will remain unchanged. Additionally, as always, the support of
the FDNY-CSU is available to you for any mental health treatment,
referral, or advising you may need.
I wish you all the best.
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SOMEONE TO TALK TO?
OUR COUNSELORS ARE ON CALL AT (212) 570-1693
24 HOURS A DAY, 7 DAYS A WEEK
Meeting are 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. except where noted. For info,
call the CSU at (212) 570-1693.
Greenbush Presbyterian Church,
For info, call (212) 570-1693
Staten Island CSU,
1688 Victory Blvd.,
For info, call Mary Cole at
Spouses * New Day & Time
Orange County CSU,
2279 Goshen Tpke.,
For info, call (845) 695-1029,
Freeport Fire Dept. Headquarters,
15 Broadway, 2nd Floor,
For info, call Dr. Dianne Kane
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Spouses Without Children.
3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.,
For info, call Elena Coronges
Our Lady Help of Christians Roman Catholic Church Convent,
1314 East 29th St. (by Ave. M),
Freeport Fire Dept. Headquarters (See above.)
Fiancees & Significant Others
6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., CSU,
251 Lafayette St., 3rd Floor,
Fort Totten FDNY Family Crisis Center,
Bldg. 413 A,
Bayside (photo ID required).
Center Cottage, Suffolk Community College
Crooked Hill Road, Brentwood.
For info, call Ray brown at (631) 851-6888.
New group in Fort Totten
Every other Thursday, 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
For info, call Lynne or Kristen (718) 352-2140.
THE LINK IS SUPPORTED BYTHE NATIONAL FALLEN FIREFIGHTERS FOUNDATION
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