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The Healing Power of Words in the Aftermath of Trauma-A Lesson from 9/11

The Healing Power of Words in the Aftermath of Trauma-A Lesson from 9/11

Colonel (Ret) Terry Fobbs, PhD

In the course of our lives, we can all think back about that one person who was there for us during times of trial. It could have been during the loss of a loved one, a major disappointment, or a major traumatic event that left us reeling, uncertain and afraid. The one person or several provided words of comfort, encouragement and above all, made us feel and know within ourselves we would and could come back, even better and stronger than before.

This aspect of leadership is at the heart of emotional intelligence (Goleman, 1998) and a mixture of inspiration, motivation and individualized consideration as espoused by Bass and Bass (2008). But the important thing from all of this is the feeling of genuine love for those you lead. While you may not be able to make the situation better, you can help those you lead feel better about themselves and their ability to cope with their situation.

The tragic events of 9/11 affected all of us in various ways.  This great American trauma has left scars and wounds that are deep and for some may never be healed because of the loss of someone they loved. But, as a nation, the ten year anniversary was also an opportunity for us to realize that we as Americans are still great, kind and generous people.  Our nation is still the best place on the planet to live and that our values and resolve will not be shaken.

I had the honor of being a speaker at the City of Lansing , Michigan 10 year anniversary ceremony for 9/11. My speech was only five minutes. But in those five minutes; many who were there found healing courage, strength and hope for our future. I want to share that gift with you, and as you read, ponder on how the trauma of 9/11 has affected and changed you. I pray that my words can also be a source of healing and strength as they were that Sunday morning for the people of Lansing , Michigan. I want to thank Tresha Moreland for providing me this opportunity to share with all of you.


Mayor Bernero, Chief Cochran, Chief Szymanski, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,  honored first responders, honored members of our armed forces, honored veterans and my fellow patriots, it is indeed an honor and a privilege for this old soldier to address those who have gathered to commemorate  the anniversary of that terrible day ten years ago, where so many of us were slain and where so many of us gave their lives rushing into the jaws of death to save others during those 102 minutes that changed our country forever.

During that 102 minutes, a cruel, remorseless and ruthless enemy, 19 Al Qaeda terrorists, hijacked four airliners and using them as guided missiles launched an infamous cowardly attack on an unsuspecting nation. In New York, before a horrified America, two airliners were deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center. My friend Army Reserve Special Operations Captain Greg Amira recounts his experience in the North Tower: “I initially escaped without a scratch and ran back into the lobby of #1 to help people evacuate. When #2 came down, I was in the lobby of #1 and only 65 feet from the base of 110 floors coming down. The wave of the blast was indescribable and knocked me out only to be saved by a firefighter who helped me get to the outer perimeter of the lobby while checking bodies for survivors, which there were none. After stepping through the lobby windows, I watched as #1 came down on me and knocked me out. My picture was taken just before that and the photographer was killed right after.” Captain Amira was deployed to Iraq and during an ambush from an IED which killed several members of his unit, Captain Amira though seriously wounded fought with valor. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal for Valor and the Purple Heart. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and now walks with a cane, medically retired. We Shall Never Forget. Over the skies of Shanksville Pennsylvania, Todd Morgan Beamer, a passenger on United Flight 93, rallied his fellow passengers to stop the Al Qaeda hijackers with the rallying cry that electrified a nation: “Let’s Roll!” We Shall Never Forget. Other nameless heroes at the Pentagon, rallied to guide their comrades to safety through flames, smoke and death. We Shall Never Forget. In the days that followed, amid the mournful bagpipe strains of Amazing Grace and the bugle calls of Taps, we laid to rest the flag draped coffins of 343 heroic firefighters, 60 heroic police officers including 37 Port Authority Officers, 8 heroic Emergency Medical Technicians and 55 military heroes at the Pentagon including LTG Timothy Maude, the Army’s top Personnel Officer.  2511 honored dead from that day joined them in glory. We Shall Never Forget.

As for Al Qaeda and your confederates who still persist in threatening our loved ones and our great country, I have another message for you on this the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 so listen close. You think that by threatening us in your caves and in your other secret places you can breath easy?!! Now let me tell you something in plain and simple soldier’s language!

We ARE the United States of America and we will hunt you down like the vermin you are. We will bring your sorry butts to justice or bring justice to you and personally send you back screaming to the deepest, darkest and HOTTEST part of the miserable Hell from whence you came just like we did for Osama Bin Laden and others of his ilk! You may have destroyed aircraft and buildings and killed our loved and honored ones, but you have NOT nor will you EVER destroy America’s Resolve, America’s Spirit, America’s Patriotism, America’s LOVE for our fellow citizens and America’s Faith in GOD ALMIGHTY! For in the words of former President George W. Bush: “We will not waver, we will not tire, we will not falter and WE WILL NOT FAIL! Peace and freedom WILL PREVAIL!….” We shall NEVER Forget! Never Forget! Never, Never, Never Forget! Let this mighty sound roll forth across our majestic land and sweep across the oceans deep like a roaring tempest THIS day and every 9/11 henceforth: USA, USA, U…S…A!!!

God Bless You my friends, God Bless You first responders, members of our armed forces, veterans, my brother and sister patriots and your families and GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!! I salute you, until we meet again HOOAH!


Bass, B.M. & Bass, R. (2008). The Bass handbook of leadership: Theory, research and managerial applications, 4e. New York: Free Press.

Fobbs, T (2011) 9/11 Ten Year Anniversary Ceremony Speech, Sunday September 11, 2011, Lansing, Michigan.

Goleman, D. (1998). Working with emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam Books

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Colonel (Ret) Terry Fobbs, PhD, Consultant and Facilitator for Gailforce Resources, is an accomplished public speaker, facilitator and media commentator on human resources, leadership, motivational, national security and community issues. With a BS-Zoology, MBA, Masters in-Strategic Studies, PhD- in Organization & Management specializing in Leadership, Terry has earned the respect of his peers, employer and Gailforce clientele. Terry is an ISO 9000 Certified Lead Assessor, a Baldrige Quality Examiner with the Center for Excellence in Education and the Michigan Quality Council and a recipient of the Michigan Quality Council Quality Hero Award. Terry has served as an adjunct instructor in Business Management for the University of Maryland. He is a member of the Academy of Management and serves as a member of the Academy’s Organizational Development and Entrepreneurship committees. Terry plays active consulting and facilitating roles for Gailforce Resources, working with CEO’s, Boards of Directors, Business Owners, Municipalities and Sector Groups to turn their business strategy into execution and their people into valuable business assets.

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