I met a number of survivors and responders in the weeks and months following the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma in 1995. Over the years a number of iconic images associated with that traumatic incident and far too many since remain quite vivid. The one image I will never forget related to Oklahoma is that of fireman Chris Fields coming out from the rubble carrying the young Baylee Almon in his arms. She died shortly afterwards. She would be 20 years old if she were living today. This image was a frequent lead into the numerous news broadcasts in the months that followed. Although I never met Baylee’s mother, I often wondered how she managed such a horrific loss. When doing some research for Trauma In Schools and Communities: Recovery Lessons From Survivors and Responders http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9781138839502/ I came across this brief article (Boyle, 2013) that speaks to the resilience of Baylee’s mom.
The world can seem so random. It could have been a different child, or a different firefighter, or a different photographer. But on that day, in the face of that tragedy, for that time, everything came together for that one photo to define the Oklahoma City Bombing. Her mother said, ”I feel like Baylee was put on this earth to do what she did, and that was to represent everyone who died in the building that day.”
Our efforts to assist victims must be directed at helping them discover their inner resilience, to find meaning, purpose and strength despite what they have endured. In 2012 Dr. Lennis Echterling http://www.psyc.jmu.edu/gradpsyc/people/echterling.html shared with me what he refers to as “countless nuggets of resilience.” He was in Lebanon working with adult survivors of land mine explosions. The purpose was to train theses survivors to promote resilience in peer-to-peer relationships with other survivors. At the very start of the program one land mine survivor introduced himself and then said, “I am not a victim of a land mine. The land mine is a victim of me. I survived-the land mine did not.”
The iconic images of war, terror, trauma are never forgotten and yet these survivors demonstrate the strength and resilience of the human spirit. I would love to hear your resilience stories as they can be used as a source of hope for others.
Boyle, Louise (2013) Extraordinary bond between grieving mother and firefighter, who was the last one to hold her dying baby in iconic Oklahoma City bomb photo. Retrieved 1/15/14 from
Steele, W. (2015). Trauma In Schools and Communities: Recovery Lessons from Survivors and Responders New York, Routledge: A Taylor and Francis Group.