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Post-9/11, some found healing by helping others

As Americans and the world observe the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks tomorrow, a religious organization is delivering a message of hope.

Jehovah’s Witness Regional Spokesperson Jamie Dunjey noted that after the attacks, the organization is sharing the message that some survivors who are still mourning the loss of family and friends, have found a degree of healing by helping others.

As stated in a press release, Dunjey reached out to several individuals who recalled the events that unfolded on that fateful morning.

Take for instance Diane Coxe, whose mind could not accept what her eyes were seeing.

Running late for her job at a law firm in the World Trade Center, Coxe had just emerged from a train station when a plane struck the North Tower, the release noted.

“For a second, I thought, maybe they’re filming something,” she said. “I didn’t think it was really happening.”

In the chaos that followed, Coxe only vaguely recalls making it home.

Twenty years after 9/11, though, she’s never forgotten how she spent that night.

“I did a lot of crying and a lot of praying,” she said.

Relief came from reaching out to help others who were struggling as she was.

Sharing comforting words from the Bible “was like medicine for me,” said the Uniondale, New York, mother of two.

The ministry that she had shared in for years as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, took on a new role for her and many others.

“What I was telling my neighbors was sounding down my own hope for the future and helping me deal with my feelings,” she said.

The ministry of comfort was carried from Ground Zero to the rest of the world.

In fact, Trachette Starkley of Las Vegas, recalls sharing the Bible’s message with those in her community.

“The comfort I shared from the Bible helped not just them, but it helped me to focus on a solid hope only found in God’s Word,” Starkley said.

Helping others has long been linked to better emotional well-being in psychology research.

Dunjey noted that the book “The Healing Power of Doing Good: The Health and Spiritual Benefits of Helping Others” describes “powerful” effects, even for helpers who’ve experienced trauma themselves.

The trauma Dunjey said in the release was all too common among the many volunteers at Ground Zero.

Roy Klingsporn, a Brooklynite who volunteered at Ground Zero nearly every day for two months, recalled on one occasion approaching a man who sat slouched in a golf cart near the site’s makeshift morgue in Lower Manhattan.

“When I asked him how he was doing, he burst into tears,” said Klingsporn, now of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “He said, ‘I’m tired of picking up body parts.’”

In the aftermath of the attacks, Jehovah’s Witnesses set up teams that spent hours each day in Lower Manhattan.

With Bible in hand, the teams consoled everyone from the families of victims to first responders battling physical and emotional exhaustion.

“It was a work that changed how the organization approaches disasters, with an organized comfort ministry now being an integral part of its response to natural disasters and even the pandemic,” according to the release.

Recalling the gut-wrenching days he spent as one of those volunteers near the smoldering remains of the Twin Towers, still stirs deep feelings in Robert Hendriks, now a U.S. spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“It was very emotional and extremely difficult for me, but the faces of those I passed on the street said it all,” Hendriks said. “They needed comfort, and the best thing I could give them was a hug and a scripture.”

According to Brown “Butch” Payne, the events of 9/11 tore open old wounds, and brought back vivid wartime memories the Vietnam veteran had tried to forget.

From his East Village apartment, Payne recalled the crowds of frantic people streaming north from Lower Manhattan, according to Dunjey.

“That sight stirred up a lot of emotions in me, and it shook me to the core,” Payne said.

Payne found relief in rendering aid the best way he knew how, which was sharing the Bible’s message of hope, which softened the blow for him.

Meanwhile, offering a shoulder to cry on, brought Klingsporn comfort too. “It was satisfying to be of help to my community,” he said.

Two decades later, Dunjey said Diane Coxe continues to find comfort from reaching out by talking with pandemic-stressed neighbors while coping with the death of her sister in February.

“With every trauma I’ve been through, the ministry has soothed my heart,” she said.

Although now doing so through letters and telephone calls instead of going door to door, Jehovah’s Witnesses paused their in-person preaching in response to the pandemic in March 2020.

Brown “Butch” Payne feels the same.

In 2016, after 50 years of marriage, he lost his beloved wife to cancer.

On the days when his grief feels overwhelming, Payne writes heartfelt letters that lift his neighbors’ spirits, as well as his own.

He shares scriptures and resources that have helped him, such as articles on coping with trauma and loss on the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“Encouraging others to look to the future helps me to do the same,” Payne said.

For more information on the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses, visit their website, jw.org

Content is available in more than 1,000 languages.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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