In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Dr. Judy Kuriansky spent weeks surrounded by the destruction.
Kuriansky, a psychologist and professor at Columbia University Teacher's College, was a first responder giving psychological aid. She walked around talking to others about what they were going through. She handed out water, gloves, hats and watched as the other responders dug up and covered bodies as they went through the debris. It was around that same time she started handing out teddy bears.
“This is, from a psychological point of view, what we call contact comfort,” she said.
“We gave them to the kids who had been around and up at the family assistance center, where I also was posted, and there were adults who came by and said, ‘Dr. Judy, where’s my teddy bear?’ So, we all need our teddy bears and our loved ones and our community here to comfort us.”
Kuriansky relayed the story of the weeks immediately following the 9/11 attacks Tuesday on the 11th anniversary at the Town of Orangetown September 11th Memorial, hosted by the Town of Orangetown and the Police Benevolent Association. She was there to talk about healing and moving on from crisis.
“This is the 11th anniversary and that matters. Even though people made such a big deal about number 10, 11 matters too, and the healing continues to go on,” said Kuriansky, also a radio host. “Even though Osama Bin Laden is dead, we can celebrate that, we have a lot to mourn ourselves in order to heal.”
She added that it’s possible to grow from mourning. Kuriansky called it “post-traumatic growth” and said that with mourning can come the reevaluation of life, relationships and experiences. People not only reflect backwards but also look ahead, she said.
Kuriansky added that there are five questions psychologists might ask after someone goes through a traumatic experience:
- Where were you when you heard the horrible news?
- Who did you first think of that’s important in your life?
- Who did you call to first try to connect with?
- What were your feelings?
- How do you feel you can use the experience to move on?
The ceremony was held outside in front of Orangetown Town Hall on a cool almost Autumn night with a clear blue sky.
“I’m sure that many of us are looking up in the sky and thinking, ‘My god, that’s the kind of blue sky that I saw when I heard about attacks on the World Trade Center,’” said Orangtown Supervisor Andy Stewart.
Madison Schindele, a Tappan Zee High School student, sang the national anthem and at the end of the ceremony came back to sing “God Bless America,” which turned into a sing-a-long with many of the 50-plus people in attendance joining in. Local religious leaders read out the names of Rockland County victims in the attacks.
Musician Russell Daisey performed on piano and sang he wrote with Kuriansky while in a class of her’s at Columbia called “Towers of Light.” They wrote it in June 2002 about the two beams of light that were turned on at night following Sept. 11, and are lit up again on each ensuing anniversary.
Orangetown Poet Laureate Rose Marie Raccioppi recited a poem she wrote called “Where Does The Pain Go.” The full poem can be read .