Here we are, the day after the tenth anniversary of terrible events that shook the world. I found myself wondering all weekend whether I should join others in writing something to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11. Instead, I’ve decided to write about a topic that ultimately helped me and many others get through that dark time: inspiring acts of heroism.
9/11 resulted in many heroes, both sung and unsung, throughout the world. These are the stories I cling to when watching images of those towers falling and hearing stories of families torn apart. In my ongoing quest for happily ever afters in a world that so rarely provides them, it is in looking to the heroes of the world that helps me maintain my positive outlook.
I’ve met many heroes. Oh, they might not seem to fit the definition at first glance. Social workers, foster parents, youth mentors, teachers, doctors, therapists, advocates…everyone with genuine compassion who touches the lives of youth in need falls into this category, in my opinion. While a child being removed from his home due to alleged abuse might not seem like an earth-shaking event to the general public, it is to that child. And those people who help him get through that event are his heroes.
My experience lies with kids who didn’t have typical upbringings. Years of working with children and adolescents with severe emotional disturbances and behavioral challenges gave me much insight into the lives of today’s youth. And what I learned is that these particular kids require more than twice the love and attention of their “average” peers, but there isn’t always someone willing or able to give it to them. They need heroes.
One of the first kids I worked with as a placement specialist was a 17-year-old young woman who I’ll call Nicky. Nicky had been in and out of foster and group homes for most of her life. She had a file full of mental health diagnoses and was on psychotropic medication. She was eight months pregnant. And when she came across my caseload, she had just been hospitalized for attempting to take her own life.
Needless to say, Nicky’s path was a hard one. In fact, in her seventeen years, she had experienced more hardship than many people twice her age.
But the one thing Nicky had going for her was a group of people–indeed, heroes–who cared about her future. I worked with the exceptional hospital team and an invested home for pregnant teens to create an environment where Nicky could feel loved. Although, as these kids tend to do, she tested the waters, no one gave up on her. And today, Nicky and her son are both doing remarkably well.
In my writing, one of my goals is to pay homage to heroes, including youth like Nicky. Amber Hopkins, the protagonist in my novel Becoming, is a character written with this goal in mind. She represents the strength and courage it takes to make something of your life when that life has been filled with uncertainty and adversity. She also demonstrates that heroism comes in many forms.
Yesterday, we needed to recognize the important anniversary of 9/11. We needed to mourn the losses we experienced and herald the heroes who emerged in the aftermath. Today we should acknowledge how far we’ve come, and recognize the heroes in our lives who might not otherwise ever be noticed. Hats off to all of you!