Reflections for 9/11: Part I: Broadening Empathy

On September 12, 2001 this newsletter started with the following:

“After yesterday’s horrific deaths due to terrorist action, this email endeavour would be remiss if it remained silent. Remembering that these emails are simply a forum for action and not in-depth analysis and discussion (needed as they are and available elsewhere), the following actions are given for your consideration:”

A link to the full email is below. But I wanted to highlight two notions for reflection as the tenth anniversary coverage unfolds, largely by posing questions. Here is the first snippet:

“We can help bring a broader, more solid perspective into the overall dynamics . . .

(a) EMPATHY: Even as a Canadian, the sight of the massive towers collapsing, the loss of life, the vulnerability of even the Pentagon, was traumatic and jolting. And yet I had a hard time saying that “this email would be remiss” unless it is thus always remiss – violent deaths of innocent people occur daily around this planet. I am generally so insulated from all the suffering and violence . . . but at least here is an opening for empathy. We can try to channel the reaction to one of empathy and understanding for all those who are innocent yet traumatized for whatever reason . . . We have a gut-wrenching glimmer of what some people constantly face. Let’s use it to build bridges and understanding and action.”


I recently saw a little TV coverage of 9/11, focused on the personal stories of sorrow and heroism. A few people were still traumatized by the event. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a well-known phrase that tragically gets remedied far too seldom. For sure, we must do what we can to help such people heal. But while remaining genuinely focused on them I can at the same time broaden that sense of empathy. It made me think of a recent report which found PTSD criteria in 75% of Darfuri children in IDP camps (Reuters article based on Lancet study) – in front of their eyes, unspeakable acts of terror were committed before they entered the camps. Both groups remain genuinely traumatized, as are many people around the world – the question is whether I can find the above openings and thus find my world enlarged.

So as I ponder these last ten years I will be asking myself: in what ways and from where has my empathy been broadened? And in what ways and from where has it been the opposite? And as 9/11 coverage unfolds, because I am quite susceptible to the tug of the video images and reports, I will be asking: Why did they choose {whatever} images? Who is trying to evoke what response in me and why? Is it fair coverage? In what ways is it helping broaden my sense of empathy and in what ways does it diminish it? And so on. As indicated in earlier newsletters, our sense of the world is shaped by many factors, media being one of the most prominent. We must seek that which expands and deepens our sense of life and also name that which diminishes it (recall in the Previous Newsletter, there was an article, Fear Inc. on a $40 million deliberately funded group that spreads inflammatory, distorted views on Islam).

Authentic empathy requires our clearest perceptions of reality. It is already clear that such empathetic connections will be readily and rightly available to the victims and heroic people of the World Trade Center buildings collapse. During the unfolding anniversary events of such a world-pivotal event, may we all also examine how easy or difficult it is and has been to broaden that empathy, examine what factors have been at work, good and bad, in that process, and endeavour to use the insight to build a stronger, more human global fabric.

Original Email:


Original Full Essay:


Original Skepticism of Iraq War Talk:

5 thoughts on “Reflections for 9/11: Part I: Broadening Empathy

    • Since you were one of the First Responders, may you feel the support and gratitude of all those thankful for your gritty, dangerous work! If you lost friends, may it also be a time of healing.

  1. May I suggest a further resource to learn more about empathy and compassion.
    The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy
    The Culture of Empathy website is the largest internet portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, definitions, experts, history, interviews,  videos, science and much more about empathy and compassion.

    Also, I invite you to post a link to your article about empathy to our Empathy Center Facebook page.

  2. I comment each time I especially enjoy a article on a site
    or I have something to add to the discussion.
    It is a rssult of the sincerness communicated in the article I
    browsed. And after this post Reflections for
    9/11: Part I: Broadening Empathy | Blog for "Until All Achieve Well-being" Newsletter.
    I was moved enough to drop a thought 😉 I actually do
    have 2 questions forr you if you don’t mind. Is it simply me or does it seem like some of these remarks look lie they
    are coming {section DELETED due to violation of basic dialogue principles}? 😛 And, if you are posting
    on other online social sites, I would like to
    follow you. Could you list alll of all your
    social pages lije your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

    • Sorry, but I don’t allow gratuitous or generalized slurs on people, and thus that section of your comment was deleted. If you want to criticize anyone’s stance, that of course is welcome and you can resubmit your comment accordingly.

      As for social media, that is a good idea – I will put it in the About section. You can follow @UntilAll, although I seldom have time to post.

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