Discussion Guide for Students and Educators
* A special note: Discussing trauma with students can in and of itself be a triggering event. It is important that students participate voluntarily in discussions and activities and that they are aware of mental and emotional health resources that are available to them.
The members of September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows have worked for 19 years to turn the trauma and grief their families experienced into action for peace. We see a similar need for resiliency, merged with advocacy, arise as our lives are besieged by institutional racism, violence, and COVID-19.
In recognition of the 19th commemoration of 9/11, members of Peaceful Tomorrows joined with international allies in a virtual roundtable discussion to acknowledge our common experience with everyone affected by violence throughout the world. Together, panelists considered how engagement in advocacy helped them heal. In sharing their experiences, they sought to give hope to others who are experiencing their own trauma and grief.
Marina Cantacuzino, founder of The Forgiveness Project
Father Michael Lapsley, founder of the Institute for Healing of Memories
September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows members Andrea LeBlanc and Iryna Muha.
Before You Watch
- Review Key Vocabulary: commemoration, advocacy, institutional racism, justice, forgiveness, apartheid, resiliency, trauma
- What do students already know about these terms?
- Provide a Purpose:
- In your educational setting, what is the purpose for students to watch the roundtable? What do you want them to get out of this experience?
While You Watch (If Watching Together)
- Pause Frequently:
- After each panelist responds to the moderators’ question, consider pausing to check for understanding and to conduct an informal wellness check.
- Ask students to watch and listen for themes. What do the speakers’ responses have in common?
After You Watch
- Questions for Oral or Written Discussion/Reflection:
- Panelists were asked to share their journey and how their experiences with grief or pain changed their life and brought them to peace and justice advocacy. What resonated with you with their stories? Did you find any connections to your own life journey?
- In Iryna Muha’s response to the first question, she discussed how American pain is sometimes perceived to be more important than international pain. What do you think is meant by that? Why might that perception exist?
- The panel explored the idea of experiencing rage or anger as a stage of grief. Why might individuals or communities experience the stages of grief differently? What lessons could be learned from how each panelist experienced and channeled their anger, rage or grief?
- Panelists described their advocacy work and how it has personally helped them. Have you had that experience in your life? Who or what have you drawn strength from?
- Marina Cantacuzino spoke about how writing, particularly storytelling, became an outlet for her. What outlets do you have in your life to process emotions or traumas?
- Michael Lapsley spoke of how he “changed the optics” about how he viewed himself after losing his hands. How can one turn survivorship into a strength?
- Andrea LeBlanc shared her thoughts about the notion of closure. Where does the idea of closure come from? Do you think that closure is possible?
- How do stories and storytelling contribute to the process of healing?
- What do you think Father Lapsley means when he talks about “taking back agency” for your life?
- One of the questions posed to panelists asked: How do we heal the wounds of history and the pain of the present? What steps do you think we need to take individually or as a community to heal wounds that are due to violence, institutional/systemic racism, or pandemics?
- What alternatives to violence were mentioned by the panelists? What role do our choices play in responding non-violently or ensuring a socially just response to injustice? (Note to teachers/facilitators: You may want to direct participants to review our resource page at: https://peacefultomorrows.org/promoting-peace/)
- Father Lapsley mentioned the important principle in liberation theology of “See, Judge, Act.” This phrase arose from Pope Paul VI in 1968, as he pressed clergy to address growing inequality and corruption in Latin America through both their actions and words. How does the cycle of “See, Judge, Act” help as a tool for activism for social justice? (Learn more at: https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/introduction-%E2%80%98commonweal%E2%80%99-and-liberation-theology)
- Forgiveness and justice are two very powerful terms that often mean different things to different people based on their beliefs and experiences. What do these terms mean to you?
- One way that Iryna Muha, a Peaceful Tomorrows member, honors the memory of her father and expresses her emotions about 9-11 is through her music. How do you find healing during difficult times? What rituals and experiences help you to express yourself?
- Father Lapsley lived during the time of apartheid in South Africa. How is apartheid similar to and different from the experiences of black Americans in the United States? What can we learn in the U.S. from South Africa about racism, justice, and healing?
- As you listened to the panelists, what themes emerged? What thoughts or experiences did the panelists have in common? How did their thoughts or experiences differ?
- The concept of forgiveness can be a controversial and highly personal idea. Why do you think that is? Must one forgive? How do the ideas of forgiveness, justice, and healing overlap?
- A chant often heard in marches for racial justice, as a slogan used to protest the murder of African Americans by white Americans is: “No justice, no peace!” Do you think there can be justice without peace? Peace without justice?
- Not everyone experiences trauma in the same way and it can have short and long term physical, emotional, social, and mental effects. What effects did trauma have on the panelists and what strategies did they use to move forward?
- Projects for Further Exploration/Calls to Action
- Take action in your community. How can you become an advocate in your own community? What projects or causes are you passionate about and how can you get involved?
- Educate yourself on a social justice minded organization or movement. Research the work of Peaceful Tomorrows, The Forgiveness Project, The Institute for the Healing of Memories, Black Lives Matter, or other social justice-minded organizations and movements. What do these organizations seek to do? How can you be an ally or start your own movement?
- Become an ally. Research the experiences of communities that are different than your own and use social media and your voice to stand behind them and support their efforts.
- Continue your own journey. Reflect on your own habits, attitudes, and beliefs and take steps to eliminate your own prejudices.