Philadelphia (CNN)She faced her father’s killers in a courtroom, and realized the al Qaeda militants held no power. He put Osama bin Laden’s image on a punching bag and let loose.
Philadelphia (CNN) Inside the group’s sacred circle, a young Muslim visitor adjusts her salmon pink hijab, clears her throat and asks the question that could shatter trust:
Children stung by terror: Stop the hate
Philadelphia (CNN)They are teenagers and young adults. Yet in their short lives they each have been touched by terror.
Zoe Jacobs, 16, Kinnelon, New Jersey
Javier Aparicio, 18, Madrid, Spain
Brendan Fitzpatrick, 17, Tuckahoe, New York
Astrid Boeyum Kloven, 17, Oslo, Norway
Morgan Rodriguez, 14, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
In today’s world, parents are faced with the challenge of explaining violence, terrorism and war to children. Although difficult, these conversations are extremely important. They give parents an opportunity to help their children feel more secure and understand the world in which they live. The following information can be helpful to parents when talking through these issues with children:
Listen to Children:
- Create a time and place for children to ask their questions. Don’t force children to talk about things until they’re ready.
- Remember that children tend to personalize situations. For example, they may worry about friends or relatives who live in a city or state associated with incidents or events.
- Help children find ways to express themselves. Some children may not be able to talk about their thoughts, feelings, or fears. They may be more comfortable drawing pictures, playing with toys, or writing stories or poems directly or indirectly related to current events.
Answer Children’s Questions:
- Use words and concepts your child can understand. Make your explanation appropriate to your child’s age and level of understanding. Don’t overload a child with too much information.
- Give children honest answers and information. Children will usually know if you’re not being honest.
- Be prepared to repeat explanations or have several conversations. Some information may be hard to accept or understand. Asking the same question over and over may be your child’s way of asking for reassurance.
- Acknowledge and support your child’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Let your child know that you think their questions and concerns are important.
- Be consistent and reassuring, but don’t make unrealistic promises.
- Avoid stereotyping groups of people by race, nationality, or religion. Use the opportunity to teach tolerance and explain prejudice.
- Remember that children learn from watching their parents and teachers. They are very interested in how you respond to events. They learn from listening to your conversations with other adults.
- Let children know how you are feeling. It’s OK for them to know if you are anxious or worried about events. However, don’t burden them with your concerns.
- Don’t confront your child’s way of handling events. If a child feels reassured by saying that things are happening very far away, it’s usually best not to disagree. The child may need to think about events this way to feel safe.
- Don’t let children watch lots of violent or upsetting images on TV. Repetitive frightening images or scenes can be very disturbing, especially to young children.
- Help children establish a predictable routine and schedule. Children are reassured by structure and familiarity. School, sports, birthdays, holidays, and group activities take on added importance during stressful times.
- Coordinate information between home and school. Parents should know about activities and discussions at school. Teachers should know about the child’s specific fears or concerns.
- Children who have experienced trauma or losses may show more intense reactions to tragedies or news of war or terrorist incidents. These children may need extra support and attention.
- Watch for physical symptoms related to stress. Many children show anxiety and stress through complaints of physical aches and pains.
- Watch for possible preoccupation with violent movies or war theme video/computer games.
- Children who seem preoccupied or very stressed about war, fighting, or terrorism should be evaluated by a qualified mental health professional. Other signs that a child may need professional help include: ongoing trouble sleeping, persistent upsetting thoughts, fearful images, intense fears about death, and trouble leaving their parents or going to school. The child’s physician can assist with appropriate referrals.
- Help children communicate with others and express themselves at home. Some children may want to write letters to the President, Governor, local newspaper, or to grieving families.
- Let children be children. They may not want to think or talk a lot about these events. It is OK if they’d rather play ball, climb trees, or ride their bike, etc.
War and terrorism are not easy for anyone to comprehend or accept. Understandably, many young children feel confused, upset, and anxious. Parents, teachers, and caring adults can help by listening and responding in an honest, consistent, and supportive manner. Most children, even those exposed to trauma, are quite resilient. Like most adults, they can and do get through difficult times and go on with their lives. By creating an open environment where they feel free to ask questions, parents can help them cope and reduce the possibility of emotional difficulties.
RIDGEWOOD – When Joseph Palombo laces up his running shoes for the United Airlines NYC Half-Marathon on Sunday, he will be participating in his first competitive race.
His decision to run 13.1 miles from Central Park to Wall Street has meaning. Palombo is a junior board member with Tuesday’s Children, a non-profit serving families who suffered loss on Sept. 11, 2001, first responders and, more recently, victims of violence and terrorism nationally and internationally. With every mile he runs, he will raise funds and awareness for the organization.
However, Palombo is one of those fateful Tuesday’s children.
“Being somebody whose father died on Sept. 11, my family and I have been helped by a lot of these organizations,” said Palombo, “where they really look out for and support and care for the families who lost a loved one that day.”
Palombo was just 12 years old when he lost his father, Frank, a firefighter who served more than 20 years with FDNY Ladder Co. 105 in Brooklyn. The now 27-year-old plans to run in the memory of the man he described as a “very caring, loving” guy and father.
“He was always happy to play with us,” said Palombo, who is the third of 10 children born to Frank and Jean Palombo. “I remember playing football in the park, and him coming to my hockey games and always giving me advice.
“It’s not that he only gave his life on Sept. 11,” he added. “I think he gave his life for people around him every day of his life.”
His father’s selflessness and devotion to others reverberates through Palombo as he uses his spare time from his job as an accountant to volunteer with Tuesday’s Children.
“I got involved in October or November because I’ve always known people involved in it,” shared Palombo. “I’ve been to a couple events, but a good friend of mine, who’s also on the junior board, invited me to go [to an event] for new members and I went. I loved it.”
Tuesday’s Children, located at Rockefeller Center, was formed in the aftermath of 9/11 in 2001. Since its inception, the recovery and response organization has expanded to accommodate international families and communities impacted by terrorism and traumatic loss. One of Palombo’s favorite programs is Project COMMON BOND, which was launched in 2008 to meet those needs.
“It takes people from many different countries who have been affected by terrorist attacks and it brings them all together,” said Palombo. “They have a camp together.”
The camp focuses on global leadership activities in which participants acquire peace-building and negotiation skills, as well as collaboration in music, drama, movement and sports.
“The kids who I’ve met at COMMON BOND come together and talk to each other,” said Palombo. “And they can relate to each other on a level that maybe you can’t relate to certain kids from school because they haven’t experienced what you’ve experienced.”
And Palombo understands how important it is to find kinship with others who lost a parent that day, and not just a perished 9/11 hero.
“I guess for me, my dad was always a hero before he died,” he explained. “That’s how a lot of the kids feel.”
To Palombo, seeing his 46-year-old father on the morning of 9/11 was just like any other day in their Brooklyn household. Even when his mother picked him and his siblings up at school, and said, “There was a terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, and your dad was there,” it didn’t occur to him that his father could die.
“In my mind, nothing’s going to happen to him,” recalled Palombo. “He’s probably just saving people.”
He was not fazed until his family members and neighbors were coming over his house, stricken with worry. He went to bed that night, but awoke the next morning to hear his mother tell him that “they haven’t found him yet and nobody knows where he is.”
“There was still that uncertainty I guess for a couple days,” said Palombo. “Nobody knew if he was coming home or not, or if he was just helping people to the hospital. It was such a crazy time, but I think it really hit me the next morning, after Sept. 12, that my dad’s not coming home.”
The Palombos found solace in their family, who stayed with them at the house for an entire week.
“They were feeding us, they were taking care of us and really showed me how much people loved my mom and my dad,” he said.
His father’s colleagues would also drop by regularly, cooking the family dinner and bringing over the fire truck so the kids could play on it. The constant support they received was comforting, he said.
“I knew life goes on,” said Palombo. “It was a new normal. It was always going to be different, but I still feel my dad’s presence in my life.”
The family relocated to Ridgewood in 2006, but tragedy hit once again when Jean passed away from cancer a couple years ago. Palombo continues to put one foot forward, bearing the kind of resilience Tuesday’s Children looks to impart to families with its programs. And he is more than willing to help with that.
“I try to go to as many events as I could possibly go to,” said Palombo, already having served as a mentor to kids who need help with their resumes and finding jobs at Tuesday’s Children’s LinkedIn workshops.
He is also looking ahead at future events like Kentucky Derby Day and Rise Up Downtown, a commemorative gala held during the weekend of 9/11 in downtown New York to benefit Tuesday’s Children. But on his plate right now is getting through his first half-marathon, which he will be running with three other Tuesday’s Children endurance team members. He hopes his family will be there early in the morning, cheering him on.
“I’m going to try to get them to wake up,” he said with a laugh. “They’re heavy sleepers.”
Taking after his father, Palombo has never been a big runner. But his desire to raise funds for Tuesday’s Children — Team Tuesday’s has raised $900,000 in endurance fundraising since it was founded — has made him sign up for the Berlin Marathon in September. It’s his way of giving back to organizations that helped him cope and “become who I am today,” he said.
“It’s something that I think I benefitted from,” said Palombo. “And I’m happy to, at this point in my life, let people receive what I’ve received.”
His parents would certainly be proud.
Program begun by children of 9/11 victims helps kids who’ve lost family in violent conflicts
By Bryan Llenas
People often wondered what happened to her father.
Mijal Tenenbaum’s father died, but she didn’t like talking about the circumstances. The simplest questions: “Why?” “How?” would bring her down an emotional path few others have experienced as victims of terrorism.
The fact is her father’s death was widely publicized, plastered in news headlines throughout Argentina. Mijal was just 3 months old when a van packed with a bomb drove into the local Jewish Center in Buenos Aires killing her father and 84 others in Argentina’s worst terrorist attack. It’s referred to as the South American nation’s Sept. 11.
“While a lot of people can understand loss, it’s kind of weird having that loss be a spectacle in certain ways,” Tenenbaum said of the constant media attention.
For the past five years, the 21-year-old has traveled to Pennsylvania in search of others who can understand the pain elicited from losing someone at the hands of terrorism and global conflict. This year Project Common Bond brought together 60 teens from 12 different countries – from Israel and the West Bank, from both sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland and from Kenya. Most of the participants lost their fathers in terrorist attacks – one brother and sister were in a café in Saudia Arabia when a bomb went off killing their father in front of them. Someone else had lost their father in a suicide bomb attack in Pakistan.
The goal at its surface is to remind these young adults that they are not alone. For eight days at Pennsylvania’s Bryn Mawr College, they participate in therapeutic group work, leadership sessions and conflict resolution with the common ultimate goal of turning their tragedy into positive change back in their home communities.
“These teens are the most vulnerable to the narratives of violent extremism that we see throughout the world and these are the teens who are making the change and being the change that we want to see in the world, they are the ones that are moving forward with strength and resiliency and they are bringing that message back to home,” said Danielle Coon, Director of Project Common Bond.
The program was founded eight years ago by Tuesday’s Children, an organization started by the children of victims of the 9/11 attacks. Children like 22-year-old Robert Pycior. Pycior’s father Joseph died on 9/11 while working at the Pentagon.
“When I was younger I had a lot, a lot of anger, and the anger wasn’t geared towards specific people or a specific group,” he said. “It was just a lot of anger and wondering ‘why me,’ that’s a very common threat that other participants will say ‘Why me? Why’d it have to happen to me?’”
It’s not all fun and games at camp, following a Harvard curriculum and assisted by facilitators, campers openly address their trauma and experience with terrorism and teach diverse participants how to resolve conflicts and disagreements in a dignified way.
“Our communities all grieve for what happened to us but they don’t grieve in the same way,” Tenenbaum said. “It’s hard for us because we have to accept that grief and support that grief while also taking care of ourselves.”
This program can be emotionally tough, especially for those from either side of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. Tomer Avisar, an Israeli 16 year-old, lost his uncle in an army tanker accident. Avisar says meeting Palestianins at Project Common Bond has shattered stereotypes and inspired him to foster peace back in Israel.
“I try to become friends with all of them, it is tough” Avisar said. “I still haven’t fully grown up. It is tough for me, especially since I am going into the army in two years. Can I befriend them? Sure I can. I get to know their stories, and they are good people.”
Project Common Bond says the goal isn’t to create friendships but to create understanding, and make sure the emotional anger and sadness that comes from losing a loved one in a murderous attack fuels a positive change rather than a continuous cycle of revenge and more extremism.
Palestinian Tamera Abuzant is from the West Bank. Tamera lost her uncle before she was born. Her family told her was killed by Israelis. Meeting Avisar though at camp has changed some of her perspective.
“When I see Tomer, I dont think of the stereotype we used to have, ‘Oh, he’s an Israeli. He will come kill you. I know now for sure that not all of them are bad,” she said. “I respect his loss, I respect him as a person as a human being, and I have nothing against him as a person.”
As Tenenbaum said while sitting outside surrounded by other campers eating lunch in Pennsylvania, “We are all here for the same reason. We all want to make it better, and because we want to end these horrible events that happened to us. We don’t want them to happen to other kids.”
Inside the Summer Camp for Teens Who Have Lost a Family Member to Terrorism: ‘Sometimes It’s Just About Listening’
Mijal Tenenbaum was just 3 months old when she lost her father in the 1994 AMIA (Argentine Israeli Mutual Association headquarters) bombing in Argentina.
Growing up, she rarely spoke about losing him. Most of her friends had no idea how he’d even died. “It’s not that I was scared to talk about it, but I definitely avoided bringing it up,” Tenenbaum, now 21, tells PEOPLE. “It was a part of my life that I tried not to let interfere with my day to day.”
But then in July 2010, Tenenbaum met Terry Sears, the executive director ofTuesday’s Children, an organization founded to help families that had lost a loved one in the 9/11 attacks. Tuesday’s Children had recently developed a program called Project COMMON BOND (PCB), which sought to bring together teens victims of terrorism from across the globe.
While speaking at the anniversary of the AMIA bombing in Argentina, Sears asked if there were any teens in the audience who might be interested in joining PCB in Ireland the following week. Tenenbaum volunteered.
“I didn’t really have much time to think about it,” she says.
“She basically followed me back on the plane,” adds Sears with a laugh.
It’s a good thing she did. In Ireland, Tenenbaum met other victims of terrorism for the first time. And in doing so, she learned that she wasn’t alone.
“It was a life-changing experience,” she says. “I realized that it wasn’t just my story, but it was a worldwide issue.
“By acknowledging the effect terrorism had had on my life, I wasn’t letting it define me,” she says. “It had changed me but that didn’t mean that it defined me.”
She adds: “It’s very empowering to be able to take this experience and transform this into a positive thing. To let myself define my path and what it means to me.”
Now, Tenenbaum is one of several young adults who are returning to PCB this week, not as participants, but as group leaders. Together at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, they’ll serve as role models for the newest PCB participants, helping a new generation of teens overcome personal tragedy.
‘There Is This Unspoken Bond Immediately’
PCB was first held in 2008 with five countries involved. (There are 12 countries attending this year’s symposium.) Inspired by 9/11 children who wanted to create an international community with others who experienced similar loss, the goal of the program is to get teens talking about what they’ve been through – and to help them learn to live with the pain of losing a family member without letting it overcome them.
“Young males particularly didn’t want to talk about what they were feeling,” says Sears.
But what’s special about PCB is that no one’s forced to open up if they don’t want to. “They don’t have to have these conversations,” says Sears. “Sometimes it’s just about listening.”
For the most part, she says, the teens aren’t shy at all. “They come together and there is this unspoken bond immediately,” she says, adding that she’s seen many lifelong friendships – and even some romances – come out of PCB.
‘I Was Just Very Angry’
The chance to meet new people from different backgrounds is Robbie Pycior’s favorite part of PCB. “Last year, I played the piano with someone from Kenya who’d never seen a piano before,” he says. “After five days, he loved the piano.”
He adds: “They’re friendships that last a lifetime that you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.”
Like Tenenbaum, 22-year-old Pycior is returning to PCB this year as a group leader. Since he first attended PCB in Ireland in 2010, he says he’s grown tremendously as a person.
“My father was killed in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001,” Pycior explains. “I wasn’t angry at a certain group, but I was just very angry in general. It’s been a relief to see that other people have experienced that anger as well.”
Now, he’s learned to channel that anger away from groups of people and towards individuals.
“There are bad people that are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, white, black, doesn’t matter,” he says. “But there are also good people. Being able to realize that is important.”
He adds: “Playing Frisbee with an Israeli and a Palestinian is just amazing. Seeing that they can be in the same place together, that they’re both willing to come to PCB, it made me realize that there are bad people, but there are good people too. ”
‘You Don’t Have That Awkward Moment’
It’s Jess Wisniewski’s sixth year returning to PCB. She’s witnessed countless teens come out of their shells, and as a group leader this week, she’s eager to take on the role of a mentor.
“It’s really, really rewarding,” says the 20-year-old, who lost her dad on 9/11, just a month before her seventh birthday. “In real life, it’s so difficult to talk about. But at PCB, you want to talk about it instead of being pressured into talking about it. You don’t have that awkward moment.”
And if her kids learn one thing this week, she hopes it’s that they know they have everyone’s support. “It really is a family,” she says of PCB, “a group of people you can reach out to at any point.”
‘I Didn’t Really Think I Wanted to Talk About It’
Francesca Picerno, another veteran camper who’s returning as a group leader this week, looks forward to helping teens open up. “I’ve seen all the international kids who participate and they come closed off, but they open up by the end of the week,” she says. “I want to be a part of that.”
Picerno, 22, also lost her father on 9/11. She says she was nervous to come to PCB for the first time, but now credits it with “shaping the person” that she’s become.
“When I first went, I was very angry,” she says. “I had no closure and I didn’t think I’d ever get any. I was a very troubled teenager. Seeing how somebody else felt the same way that I did surprised me.”
Picerno can’t wait to see teens have the same experience she did. “It’s really cool to see how you can connect with someone who doesn’t even speak the same language,” she says.
She continues: “I didn’t really think I wanted to talk about it. I was really, really wrong.”
Project COMMON BOND runs from July 26 to Aug. 3 at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. You can donate to Tuesday’s Children here.
We are delighted to announce that Project COMMON BOND 2015 has been featured on Fox News. Watch the coverage below:
Parenting Tips for Anxious Kids Expectations of your child It’s important that you have the same expectations of your anxious child that you would of another child (to go to birthday parties, make decisions, talk to adults). However, understand that the pace will need to be slower and there is a process involved in meeting this end goal. You can help your child break down big tasks into smaller steps that your child can accomplish (first go to the party with your child and agree to stay as long as your child is interacting with others, next time stay for the first half hour). You can help role-play or act out possible ways your child could handle a difficult situation. Saying it out loud makes kids more confident and more likely to try the strategy when your child is alone. Build your child’s personal strength It’s important to praise your child for facing challenges, trying something new or brave behavior. Some children like big loud exuberant praises, others like a quiet pat on the back. There is a lot you can do to help build your child’s competence. Search to find avenues where your child can show he is good at something (music, art, sports). Also be sure your child has jobs around the house that show your child is contributing to the family. Letting your child learn to do things on his/her own While tempting, it is best not to take over or do it for your child. While this might help your child feel better right now, the message your child is getting is that you don’t believe your child can do it. Then your child will start to think the same way about him or herself. Try not to get caught continually reassuring your child that everything will be okay. Teach your child to answer his/her own questions and provide the reassurance him/herself. You can model how you think through and respond to your child’s questions. Helping your child handle his own feelings It is okay to let your child experience some anxiety. Your child needs to know that anxiety is not dangerous but something your child can cope with. You can let your child know all feelings are okay and it is all right to say what you feel. Anxious children sometimes have a hard time expressing strong emotions like anger or sadness because they are afraid people will be angry with them. It’s okay to take time for yourself even if your child wants to be with you at all times. You are modeling for your child that everyone needs some time to themselves. Passing on your fears Try to keep your fears to yourself and as best you can present a positive or at least neutral description of a situation. Let them know that it is safe to explore. It is not helpful to laugh or 1 / 2 Parenting Tips for Anxious Kids minimize your child’s fear. But humor does help one deal with the world, so show your child how to laugh at life’s absurdities and mistakes. Consequences Don’t confuse anxiety with other types of inappropriate behavior. It is very important to set both expectations and have limits and consequences for inappropriate behavior. Parents who have reasonable expectations of their children and clear and consistent limits and consequences for behavior along with love and acceptance have the most competent, self confident and happy children. Courtesy of WorryWiseKids.org