This writing is about my ongoing process in mourning the death of my son, Eric Adam Eisenberg, who died in south tower of the WTC, as he and another AON employee assisted people in evacuating. And, it’s about how I’ve found some peace.
I was up at 6 am in Gallup, New Mexico, baking bread for a sick friend. As usual CNN was on. When the first plane hit the WTC I assumed it was an accident, but not being sure which building my son worked in I picked up the phone to call him. Just as I picked it up the phone rang; it was Eric calling to tell me he was alright. He had not been in the building that was hit but they were evacuating. I don’t remember if I told him that I loved him but I hope so.
I was still watching CNN when, some 20 minutes later, the 2nd plane hit the South Tower. I could not remember what floor Eric worked on. I remember dialing Eric’s cell phone over and over and getting only his recorded voice.
There were phone calls all day. My daughter and I spoke every couple of hours and there were endless calls from friends. People in NYC were out looking for my son. At some point late in the day I called my 83 year old parents to tell them that Eric was missing. But mostly the day was just a haze of fear and pain.
We finally determined that Eric had probably been on the 89th floor.
On September 11th, 2001 I was working as a Social Worker/Counselor in a Boarding School on the Navajo (Dineh*) Nation. Tho the school served some six hundred plus children (grades K thru 8) I primarily worked with the younger children in their Dorm. I returned to work on Thursday (9/13) mostly because I couldn’t control my compulsive watching of CNN and MSNBC and it was making me crazy.
The children were afraid and upset. Since so many of these children have lost relatives (in higher numbers than any other culture I’ve ever worked with) there was poignancy to their empathy and condolences. The staff would meet me in the halls at the school and stop to be with me. The women cried with me and the men clapped me on the shoulder, shook my hand and told me to be strong. I have never felt more loved and cared for.
But by the afternoon I was starting to feel hysterical and I did not want to go into that space. While meeting with 2 other Counselors, Lucia Mitchell and Patrisha Todechine, I spoke about how I was feeling. They promptly suggested a Medicine Man and took me next door to speak with Isadore Begay who was also one the school’s Academic Advisors.
At the time I had been blessed with several good Dineh friends and had been taught some of the culture and a bit about their spiritual practices. I had also been to several healing and blessing Ceremonies and Meetings. Fortunately, if offered with love, I am easily able to integrate diverse spiritual perspectives.
Isadore asked me what I wanted him to do. After a moment I told him that I wanted to know how Eric had died, and if he was alright now, and that I wanted this hysterical feeling that was starting in me to go away. He looked into my eyes for a very long time and then told me that he thought he could help me. There was then a discussion about when and where the Ceremony would be; Lucia offered her home.
The next night, after dark, we assembled a Lucia’s home and ate the food that she had prepared.
I do not consciously remember a lot of the ceremony. I remember Isadore trying to show me Eric in the coals into which he was gazing. I remember that in answer to my question, he told me that it took a long time for Eric to die, as he was falling thru the floors while on fire. I was sorry I had asked that question. Finally, Isadore told me that Eric was now alright and would come to me in different ways.
He then proceeded to do aspects of sacred Dineh healing ceremonies intertwined with other traditional cures. Thru out, he spoke the ceremonial words in Navajo and then translated them for me. At the end of the ceremony he said “I have done all I can do for you today”. At the end of the Ceremony, when I stood up, I felt better, lighter, less burdened, then I had felt on September 10th.
I believe that this was the beginning of my healing.
I remained in Gallup thru August of 2002 and my Dineh friends provided many gifts, blessings and healings. The Navajo have been truly generous to me, offering me love and assistance.
I found Peaceful Tomorrows in the Fall of 2002. It was the next major healing gift in my life. I think the whole experience might have been truly unbearable if I had been unable to turn this personal devastation to some kind of positive energy.
Peaceful Tomorrows is a place of like-mindedness about one of the vital ethical issues of our time. It is a place where we don’t need to feel defensive about our efforts to turn our grief into actions for peace. It feels like a place where empathy meets reason.
Peaceful Tomorrows provided an instantly empathic network for me. Not only have we all suffered a devastating loss, but, for varying reasons, we have all chosen to use our pain to seek solutions that will prevent another from experiencing loss as we have.
While starting slowly, I’ve become more and more involved with PT. It allows me the opportunity to turn my pain into passionate action.
I don’t know that Peaceful Tomorrows will change the world but I do know that speaking to and acting on ones principles is psychologically growthful and healing and I believe that turning pain to a positive force must surely impact the spiritual universe.
More pragmatically, “The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows”. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
*- Dineh is the what the Navaho call themselves in their own language, it means “the people”. Navajo means thief in Spanish and was what the invading Spaniards called them.