The attacks on September 11 took the lives of 2,753 at the World Trade Center and left 3,051 without a parent. Terry Sears saw the impact firsthand.
“I had four children in schools in Manhasset. In each and every one of my kids’ classes there were family members who had suffered a loss,” said Terry Sears. Thirty-eight families in Manhasset were affected by the attacks.
Sears, who has lived in the Nassau town her entire life, knew many of the deceased personally. It was a no-brainer for her to get involved with Tuesday’s Children, a response and recovery organization started by some of her former high school classmates to help children who lost a parent on September 11. She became executive director in 2005.
Sixteen years later, Tuesday’s Children is one of the only 9/11 organizations that still remain. (Hundreds had launched following the tragedy.) Sears credits the organization’s focus on longterm healing as the reason for its sustainability. Tuesday’s Children aims to be there for families affected by September 11 when traditional types of therapies run their course. “We are there when the casseroles stop coming,” she said.
The casseroles stopped coming a while ago. But the crisis and grief counseling with mental health professionals hasn’t. Neither has a life management program focused on skill building and career guidance or a “healing by community” mentality. Tuesday’s Children connects families impacted by 9/11 by hosting community events like an annual gala (taking place on Sept. 14 this year), picnics and ball games where they even get to mingle with Yankees and Mets players.
“So many of the 9/11 kids have said to us they were a kid growing up in a community when all of a sudden they became a 9/11 kid,” Sears said. “That attention can make kids feel different and no kid wants to feel that way. When they are together with other 9/11 kids, it then normalizes that experience.”
After finding peace with Tuesday’s Children, many of these families expressed desire to use their experience to help others. This has helped Tuesday’s Children expand. The organization now aides in other tragedies around the country, including the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook and the Orlando nightclub shooting in 2016. The same goes for international communities impacted by violence connected to terrorism. The organization, which is now in the UN Portal for Victims of Terrorism, has served teens and young adults from 26 nations. Tuesday’s Children travels with the UN to convey its longterm healing mode to these other countries. To date, Tuesday’s Children has helped 15,000 individuals impacted by terrorism.
Another successful program is Heart to Heart, a three-day retreat connecting widows from September 11 with military widows.
“For the military community, there’s a lot grief based programs but not a lot of resiliency programs,” Sears explained. “All of our programs are about moving forward in a positive way—not about the grief.”