Laughter Turned to Prayers

Laughter Turned to Prayers

written by: Florence Ditlow
by: Florence Ditlow

My work as an RN placed me on 9/11 at 5th Ave. and 25th, then known as a resource center, Healing Works. I had an ongoing workshop for laughter therapy and on that day ten people joined to laugh, breathe and play improv games. As we began, the secretary told us about the first plane on tv, which "may have crashed." When reality set in, our group returned to our circle to pray for those harmed.

Those people in the building chose to go home and one soon saw a steady stream of pedestrians walking uptown on 5th. The smoke that was to dominate the view for weeks was in the air as well as endless sirens heading for the towers.

I "knew" where my husband was. He rode the last subway that went under the World Financial Center and he worked next door. I knew he didn't get there before the plane hit- and figured he'd call when lines were available. At 9am his train pulled in, and passengers were greeted by the announcement about a bomb scare alert, to exit the station. He told me people were doing that slowly til a man on the sidewalk pointed at the tower saying, "Get away fast!"

He started to head for home, Roosevelt Island but soon noticed someone jump out of the tower, which he called horrifying. Paper and debris rained down; about half an hour into his walk in a narrow street, he saw a chunk of what appeared to be engine fragment, smoking. Miraculously it fell on pavement, no longer a danger. He walked amid people like himself, sadly trekking in work shoes and he wore on ten miles, telling later of people giving out water along the way.

Back on 25th, I joined a social worker for lunch in a diner, which was full of people who seemed as stunned as the legions still pacing their ways home. Now at 1pm there was smoke stench as we exited and she invited me to stay the night. I recall little except at her apartment, the tv footage showing towers collapsing. Her daughter of eight seemed to take it well but I sensed she might have a nightmare. It was one, I thought.

I had my regular meeting for humor therapy at Healing Works , two weeks later. I did many groups over years where people laugh and cry or laugh away pain. I'm glad to say my post 9/11 groups used humor to release a backlog of anger. They devised a foot stomping laugh and I can recall a circle of politely bereaved people sitting in a circle laughing as they pump shoes, pounding the floor for their loss.

Florence Ditlow

written by: Florence Ditlow

share this