Column: 9/11 and COVID

Ted Wiard

This weekly column seeks to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. List a first name that grants permission for printing.

Dear Dr. Ted:

I was in New York City on 9/11/2001 and I remember running for my life and there being such enormous chaos in every direction. Many people lost their lives that day and some continue to die due to that day. I often feel an eerie feeling about the present time with COVID-19, systemic issues, politics, elections and rage. Some wild confusion that just does not stop and seems to come from every direction I look. Have you heard anyone else speak of these types of feelings or correlations?

Thanks, Ana

Dear Ana:

I see your timing for this letter coincides with the anniversary of this horrendous event in history.

Yes, all levels of safety were shattered as approximately 2,977 died: 2,606 at the World Trade Center, 125 at the Pentagon and 265 in the airplanes. This does not include the many people who have died since due to complications from that day or the emotional and/or physical wounds that continue in to today.

I will light a candle on the anniversary for all of those who were impacted by 9/11. Your body and consciousness (as well as unconscious) mind remembers these events. For most people, over time and with conscious healing, these types of traumas and losses do not confine and define you, but are still part of you and you may feel different emotions arise, especially around those anniversary dates or other triggering times in your life.

Similar to 9/11, COVID-19 came in and caught most people off guard and destroyed perceptions of safety and dismantled most people's ways of life. It has also continued to wreak havoc due to its high level of being contagious and so many unknown variables.

Unlike 9/11, the pandemic continues to wreak its havoc, causing trauma, fatigue and a new norm is not being reestablished. This longevity of pressure has kept people in a state of hypervigilance and a certain level of survival mode, as nothing quite seems safe.

As the pressure of lack of stability and being hyperaware, other systemic and problematic issues have bubbled up to a higher level of consciousness with a demand that they, too, be examined and changed. Issues that have been ignored for centuries are screaming for healing.

9/11 saw many people come together in spite of differences to help rebuild a safer world. I'm sorry to say we are not seeing this on the same level, and there seems to be a higher percentage of splitting rather than collaborating, but there are also amazing acts of love, collaboration and teamwork going on that just aren't as visible.

I have heard many people speak of the correlations with 9/11 as well as the emotions that are arising every moment. I also hear a lot of hope of taking this crisis and using it to build stronger systems that are equitable to everyone, and find ways to improve and strengthen a humanistic approach that brings people together rather than ripping them apart.

When safety is shattered, normalization of a new safety is possible. Each person doing their part to help build safety within their family and their community is a great starting point to rebuild and use the lessons of 9/11 to strengthen rather than retraumatize. I believe we can do it. How about you?

Thank you for the question. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.

Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, founder of Golden Willow Retreat, at

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