Friday, September 11, 2009

Memories of 9/11

It seems every generation has at least one major event where they can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when the event occurred. From the “date which will live in infamy” to the assassinations of world figures like John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., those who remember these events can tell you exact details about that moment in time.

For me, I have very clear memories of the space shuttle Challenger launching, then exploding in air. I was a freshman in high school, watching the launch on a television in the school cafeteria when the tragedy occurred. I can remember the shock and confusion of that moment … immediate questions about what happened? Is this real? Will they be okay? Could they possibly be okay? How could this happen?

The second event that will forever live in my memory is the attack on our nation on September 11, 2001. I was teaching middle schoolers, a part-time job, in Georgia at the time. My first class didn't start until 9:30 so I was just arriving at the school when a teacher stopped me in the hall and said, "Did you hear? Someone crashed into the World Trade Tower!" I remember visualizing a car crashing into the first floor and wondering what more there was to the story.

When I got to my classroom, I turned on the television. Special reports indicated that an aircraft had crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center. They were not sure if it was a commercial or private aircraft. It was said that reporters were just starting to get information and “obviously something devastating” was happening. We had no idea.

At 9:03, a second plane was visible on the live coverage as it also crashed directly into the World Trade Center. Immediately, we knew that this was more than an accident.

Our principal announced that all TVs should be turned off; students were not to watch. At the time, there was so much confusion; we didn't yet know for sure what was happening.

I remember calling my husband (a Soldier on Fort Stewart) and having a hard time getting through; the phone lines were overwhelmed. When I finally got through, we started listing the friends we had in NYC, at the Pentagon, and trying to make sense of this horrifying situation. What was happening? Two, then three, then FOUR flights! It can’t be just a coincidence, right? Are we under attack? Will Army installations be next? Who is doing this? It was overwhelming and frightening and is a moment in time I will always remember.

Truly, we will never forget that day; we will always remember and honor those who perished so unexpectedly, their loved ones who continue to miss them, all the heroes who responded that day ... and all the heroes who continue to respond in defense of our freedom. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Fun Coffee Group Idea

Our first Coffee with the new leadership in our brigade was a fun "Bunco Queen" theme, complete with pink boas, tiaras, cutesy paper goods, and a gorgeous pink cake.  Fun idea!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Suicide Prevention: My Story

PHOTO: One of many suicide prevention posters from the Department of Defense. I like the "Have the Courage to Help a Buddy" theme.

I have been reading a lot about suicide prevention this week. DoD is hosting "Suicide Prevention Month" alongside many other organizations to assist in identifying and preventing suicidal behavior and, especially, actions. This is a hot topic in the Army right now, with concerns about suicide rates, PTSD and other behavioral health issues, and the ongoing deployment cycle being discussed continuously.

As it stands, it seems to me that suicide is one of the last standing "hush" subjects that no one really wants to talk about. With what I see as an "expose all" society (think Jerry Springer and similar shows where folks tell every minute detail about some really humiliating life event), it seems odd to me that this is still such a taboo topic. And I hope this is changing.

I have known one person in my life who committed suicide. He was a close family member who died when I was about ten years old. My most vivid memories of this time are mostly about my families' reaction. It was a very emotional, very dark time. I saw first-hand the guilt and blame and questioning that is sure to take place after anyone takes their own life. Why would he do this? How could this happen? What was so bad that it couldn’t be resolved? What should I have done? How could I possibly have missed this? How could I not know how bad things had gotten?

My grandmother, especially, spent years wondering what she could have done, should have done. We had several conversations, years later, about the "warning signs" and "risk factors," many of which were present, but not noticed until after the fact. The risk factors were more apparent ... alcohol and drug use, depression, troubled relationships, anger, financial issues. But the "warning signs" were more subtle ... like giving away a prized possession, coming by to see family members after a long absence.

In retrospect and after much discussion, it was easy to see that he was preparing for his death and saying goodbye to those he loved. Even with all of these signs that clearly pointed to a very troubled person, none of us ever thought of suicide. In fact, I think you can justify a lot with only a little effort ... The alcohol use was common for those his age, the depression was being treated, the troubled relationship caused anger, but was just an unfortunate chapter in his life story, the financial issues would eventually be resolved ...

Even the worst of the situation, the drug use, which was a constant source of contention -- with many family members counseling him to stop -- didn't seem to point to suicide. There's always another answer. Boys will be boys … He’ll snap out of it … This is just a rough patch …

My main point is … you just don’t think of SUICIDE. Everyone has difficult times and most recover over time. But if you having a difficult time right now, go ahead and get some help for it. Talk to your doctor, call a hotline, phone a friend … take some kind of action to make things better … and do it now, before you change your mind. Just take a deep breath and pick up the phone.

If you notice any warning signs or risk factors of suicide in your friends or colleagues, take action. Have the courage to help them. Ask them how they are doing and listen to the answer. If you suspect things are worse than what they tell you, tell someone. Get them the help they need.

Worst case scenario is getting some additional help for something that wasn’t as serious as you thought. This is a happy ending. The worst case scenario for not getting help could be much, much worse.

Not sure where to get help? These resources are here for you:

Toll-Free Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is staffed by trained professionals 24 hours a day to help in an immediate crisis.

Veteran’s Suicide Prevention Lifeline Online Chat
You may use Veterans Chat without identifying yourself or revealing any personal information unless you choose to do so. Mental health clinicians on the Veterans Chat do not provide treatment or care. The clinicians will only provide information on services, guidance and assistance, and helpful online resources via Veterans Chat.

DCoE Outreach Center
The DCoE Outreach Center is a 24/7 call center staffed by health resource consultants to provide confidential answers, tools, tips and resources about psychological health and traumatic brain injury. The Outreach Center can be reached toll-free at 866-966-1020 or via e-mail at

Army Well-Being Suicide Resource Page