In 2007 I interviewed 24 older adults between the ages of 65 and 93 in three senior centers in Lower Manhattan. All of the seniors interviewed were living within a 2.7 mile radius of Ground Zero at the time of the terrorist attacks. Ninety-two percent of those interviewed witnessed directly the attacks on the World Trade Center, and 8% were vacationing outside of the country when the attacks occurred.

The purpose of the interviews was to learn about the perceptions and recollections of these seniors of September 11, 2001 and of how they coped in the aftermath. Their reactions included horror, disbelief, denial, numbness, grief, sadness, depression and anxiety. Their primary ways of coping included helping others and keeping busy. The majority of the seniors expressed no longer feeling safe and having a more permanent sense of vulnerability since September 11, 2001.

Thinking about September 11, 2001, I wondered how those 24 older adults were feeling today. I was also reminded, once again, that, for me, one of the most important things in life are the connections we have with others, particularly those people closest to us.

Janet Baumann, Ph.D, LCSW
September 11, 2011

Janet Baumann is author of Older Adults and Their Recollections of September 11, 2001

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