In The News

Survivor Resiliency — Amazing WTC Survivors
September 2004

You develop your resiliency strengths from constantly learning ways to become better and better at handling challenges in all aspects of your life. Your responses to daily challenges, attitudes, and habits, determine how well you handle extreme adversity.

Survivors of extreme trauma are never the same again. Their lives have two parts: "before" and "after." How their new life turns out for them depends on their resiliency.

The September 6 issue of TIME magazine has an article on pages 60 and 62, describing how survivors from the World Trade Center tragedy are coming together to help other WTC survivors. I was at the gathering when the photo was taken and am very impressed with all the people I met. Tania Head (quoted in the article) has amazing resiliency. She was badly burned when the plane hit her floor in the South tower and lost her fiance in the North tower. She is recovering, does volunteer work at September Space (the survivor's center), and works actively trying to locate resources and help for survivors--who have been neglected during all the focus on the families of victims, the site clean-up, and the plans for rebuilding.

Elia Zedeno is pictured in the center of the TIME photo. During my sessions with the survivors, she spoke about how the tragedy devastated her and has now transformed her. Elia was working on the 73rd floor of the North Tower in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. She ran down from her office and out of the building fast when the alarms went off. She had been trapped in an elevator in the WTC in February, 1993, when a truck bomb set off in the central parking garage killed six people and injured over 1000.

Elia escaped from the North Tower unharmed, but says"I spent many days crying in front of the television set, watching in disbelief at what had become of the place where I had loved working for over twenty years. My house never emptied of family and concerned friends, yet I felt very much alone." She returned to her job with The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey right away, despite having many symptoms of PTSD. Finally, after she had to be taken from work to a hospital one day she began to confront her memories and feelings.

She wrote about her experience in a piece she titled "Falling Together." With her permission it is now posted at the Survivor website (, along with the three handouts I used during my sessions with the survivors, families of victims, and first responders.

The WTC survivors website is


Flag of Honor

During the three day gathering held at September Space in mid-August, I met John Michelotti. On his own, he decided to do something to honor and commemorate everyone who died in the terrorist attacks on September 11. He created an American flag with the names written on the stripes of the 3016 people who died that day. Those in the WTC buildings, at the Pentagon, and the passengers and pilots in the three airplanes.

The flag he gave me is now displayed in my basement office. You can see the flag and purchase one for yourself at the Flag of Honor website:

Support from Oklahoma City

In times of crisis, people reach out and help each other. When the Murrah government building was blown up by a truck bomb in 1995, New York City sent teams of firefighters and rescue workers to provide emergency assistance.

The survivors, families of victims, and emergency workers felt deep appreciation for this unexpected help. As a way to return the support, a small team of Oklahoma City blast survivors and victims family members came to the gatherings at September Space to talk about their experiences and offer support in the way that survivors can with each other.

The Oklahoma City group brought a seedling from the American Elm "survivor tree" that came back to life the next spring after being badly burned and blasted directly across the street from the explosion. The seedling was planted in a special ceremony at a small city park near the old WTC.

As is the way of survivors, many people in Oklahoma City searched for ways to make something positive come out of their loss. They created The National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism. One of the Directors, Ken Thompson, travels all over the world speaking to communities about what they can do to share lessons learned and develop best practices. Their website provides many free resources:

Plan Ahead

The information available from the MIPT is important to access and study because the recent 9/11 commission report emphasizes that immediately after a terrorist attack, the first responders for escape, rescue, and emergency first aid are co-workers, and the security and safety personnel in the building. It takes many vital minutes before fire, rescue, medical, and other community emergency response teams arrive.

As we read and see many stories about 9/11 in the next few days, let's extend our prayers and best wishes to all the survivors and the families of victims and lost rescue workers.

...give hugs, take naps, and have a happy heart!

Al Siebert, Ph.D.,
author of The Survivor Personality
Director of The Resiliency Center


Al Siebert, Ph.D.,
author of The Survivor Personality
Director of The Resiliency Center