Ok, so I’m a Firefighter, so there are no apologies for a personal reflection on this 20th anniversary of 9/11.

When the planes hit, I was sat with my dog ‘Carla’ in The Traveller’s Rest, enjoying a pint of Mansfield Bitter.

By early/mid 2002, I joined Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service, and also the 3rd (Volunteer) Battalion of the Worcestershire & Sherwood Foresters Regiment.

As I look back now I think I was looking for a purpose; I had recently emerged into the light following years of drug addiction, and a new friend (a former Paratrooper and inspirational man) inspired me to take the shilling.

Purpose did appear in the form of playing a very small part in Saddam’s downfall in 2003, and upon returning to Fire & Rescue I continue to have a sense of purpose that suits me today.

If 9/11 hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have had that sense of purpose, and my life (and of course the lives of millions of others) would not be what it is now.

I am who I am, because of 9/11.

You are whoever you are, because of 9/11.

We’re all who we are because of 9/11.

Even if you were born after 9/11, it has helped shaped your life. Even though you probably haven’t been aware of it.

Of course, the lives that were so viciously and cruelly ended that day were violently robbed of any further purpose, and their human potential annihilated along with them.

Those lost since due to disease acquired during the protracted rescue and recovery operations, are no doubt further victims of terror, whose sense of purpose was to rescue any life they could from that unthinkable mess, and to repatriate the remains of any victims they possibly could.

Especially the remains of their fellow Firefighters, Cops, and Medics.

Later in life, where Eudemonics began and I started learning about how to help people recover from trauma, I was lucky to have enjoyed the supervision, friendship and intellectual generosity of former Firefighter turned Psychologist Dr John Durkin. John had helped in the aftermath of 9/11 within NYFD providing support to the battered, beleaguered and exhausted Firefighters who’d survived, and were now endlessly picking through the rubble of the WTC.

Again, 9/11 had made its presence known to me in the form of the Doctor who was (and still is) determined to support the psychological well-being of Firefighters.

A determination I seem to have inherited.

As a direct result of meeting John, I was also introduced to another former Firefighter, Andy, who (back in the day) had travelled to New York voluntarily to help with the dig. Unfortunately, Andy returned from Ground Zero overwhelmed and traumatised.
Considered a lost cause by the psychiatric profession, John helped Andy fully recover from his PTSD, so much so that Andy went on to join the RAF Regiment and safely complete a tour of Afghanistan. Much to his credit.

The method John used to resolve Andy’s trauma was ‘Traumatic Incident Reduction’, a highly effective system of support which produces amazing results, and to this day is ignored by the powers that be in UK psychiatry. Much to their shame.

So once again, 9/11 had made its presence felt.

In the here and now, whilst I’m training delegates on our CrISIS Schema® workshop, I’m reminded of 9/11 because I often use the YouTube vlog of a lady whose father was lost in the attack.

The video was recorded 5,113 days post 9/11, and is difficult to to watch. It shows students succinctly how trauma can so easily keep the past firmly in the present, and usually, ruin the future.

There must be thousands of similar people out there enduring similar pain, and I wish we could help them.

Every year I change my Facebook profile picture to that of a battered helmet once belonging to a Firefighter of 9/11, and simply comment ‘343’.

That’s my small tribute and thanks to those Firefighters whose loss changed my life.

For the better.


Posted by:Sean McCallum CTIRt CCt

Crisis Intervention & Trauma Consultant