At the time of 9-11, I was working for the American Red Cross, trained in more disaster response areas than I could believe. On that day, I was working in a branch office in Owasso, OK and was paged to come back to the main office in Tulsa. My first job was taking calls from people trying to find family in the Twin Towers. I can remember trying to sound calm as I took the information from a man whose brother was on the 105th floor. We were there to calm as much as to help the callers find answers.

In the months following 9-11, the American Red Cross developed a curriculum for students in grades K-12 called Facing Fear. It was designed not only for terrorist attacks, but for natural disasters such as tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and fires. As I learned, a fire in a home is as big a disaster to those people as a large scale disaster for many.


I was one of the first to take Facing Fear to the schools, working with sixth graders at first and later with eighth graders. What I learned from that experience was how much our children absorb from us, how great our responsibility is to our young people. There were lessons on understanding that this is not the only tragedy in history. I sent the students home to ask their parents and grandparents about World War II, Viet Nam, Kennedy’s assassination, and other shocking and tragic historical events. It was a good exercise for all the generations to help each other put the latest horror against mankind in perspective. We weren’t the first or the last generation to face terrible things.

With the eighth graders, we had a session where we discussed Picasso’s painting, Guernica. I was impressed with their insights as they interpreted the images of a war they knew nothing about. It was a strong lesson for us all.


In another lesson, we talked about listening to the media and learning how to interpret what you were hearing. Most of the students got their news from very short segments of local news programs. Their parents’ prejudices and political views were very evident in the classroom as I heard statements that were shockingly full of hate and obviously directly from what they heard at home. I encouraged them to get more than one report of the news, to read news magazines (this was 2002, when there were still a lot of them around), to watch other channels, to go online to news sources. I hope they learned to broaden their views, to listen to more than one perspective before forming their own opinion.

The other lesson that stands out in my mind is when we talked about what we could do to make changes. We talked about ways that everyone can get involved in their community to make sure it is safe and secure for everyone, whether you were going to be affected by a terrorist attack or a tornado. It helped the students to know that they could have some power over their environment and could make a difference in the lives of others.

Facing Fear was an excellent curriculum and I learned as much from the lessons as the students did. I realized that facing our fears is about not feeling so helpless, about feeling like there is something we can do, whether it is a contribution of time or dollars. It also helped all of us put it in perspective as an event that was horrible and shocking, but that those events had happened before and would likely happen again. We need to live our lives in the best way possible, treasuring each moment with our family and friends, making a difference whenever we can. If we help one person, we have made a difference for that person.

After watching the reports of the latest event, the Boston Marathon bombing, I can only think of these lessons learned. We keep living and learning…and hoping for a world of peace and love.