Life Transformations after 9/11

Friday, June 24th, 2011
Rev. Dr. Willard Ashley

Rev. Dr. Willard Ashley

The Rev. Dr. Willard Ashley was driving to the doctor’s office in Englewood, N.J., when the planes hit the World Trade Center.

The senior pastor and founder of The Church of Abundant Joy in Jersey City wasn’t quite sure what had happened. “I thought maybe a crop duster had hit,” he recalled. By the time he pulled into the parking lot, the radio news was reporting a terrorist attack.

As a pastor and psychotherapist, he had mixed feelings about whether he should even bother with his doctor’s appointment. It all seemed so inconsequential now.

“As the caregiver, I was more worried about people in the doctor’s office,” he says. “I wondered if my physician and the staff and patients knew. I felt like I should be the caregiver of the doctor’s office.”

This feeling would be one that would define Pastor Willard throughout the recovery efforts and for years afterwards as he counseled not only his congregation members, but also fellow clergy.

His transformation would include becoming the public face of care for the care-givers after 9/11, and co-authoring the book “Disaster Spiritual Care: Practical Clergy Responses to Community, Regional and National Tragedy.”

He shares his story with me in my book coming out this summer, “Life is Too Short: Stories of Transformation and Renewal After 9/11.”

Transformations and renewal happened to all of us following September 11. As you approach the 10th anniversary of that tragic day, how have you been transformed?

Approaching the 10th anniversary of 9/11

Thursday, May 12th, 2011
Jennifer Adams

Jennifer Adams

Before September 11,  Jennifer Adams described herself as a “very normal person working in a very normal career.”

Up to that point, perhaps the only unique situation the financial consultant had experienced was living through Hurricane Andrew in 1992 as a teen in Miami.

Today Jennifer manages a museum and an almost 4,000-member non-profit organization in New York that supports families who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001.

As the chief executive officer of the September 11th Families Association, Jennifer has been a leader in family advocacy, communications, and rebuilding after the disaster.

With offices overlooking the World Trade Center site, the organization’s mission is to support victims of terrorism through communication, representation, and peer support, and to unite the September 11 community, present evolving issues, and share resources for long-term recovery. It also operates The Tribute WTC Visitor Center, a museum and visitor center across the street from the World Trade Center site that attracts 500,000 visitors each year.

This unique career change was a surprise in her life. “Before this, I knew nothing about non-profits,” she says with a smile. “I thought they were places where you donated clothes.”

But after ten years in non-profit work, Jennifer has found a new vocation, one in which she has earned a national reputation.  She says, “I never said that this is what I wanted to do. But I was in the right place at the right moment, and it was clearly the right thing to do.”

Many people found themselves in unique circumstances after September 11. Many found ways to turn the evil into good. More than a dozen have shared those stories with me in my book that comes out this summer, “Life is Too Short: Stories of Transformation and Renewal after 9/11.”