Recently, a foreign correspondent contacted me to ask what thoughts I had about the impact of the 9/11 conspiracy trials on New Yorkers. Her question invited thinking of the specific event of these trials as well as broader issues of recovery from trauma. For me, in addition to the hope that justice can be served in a just way are the issues of bearing witness and resiliency in the face of uncertainty.
Yael Danieli (2009) who has addressed the role of reparative justice for massive trauma, reminds us that while public justice is necessary for healing, true healing must always involve more than legal and political dimensions. Healing and the integration of unthinkable loss take place in all aspects of the individual (physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual and psychological) and across all the social connections -couple, family, community, national and international – that he or she shares. Much as we have seen with those who have waited years for the trial of the accused when a family member has been murdered, or the courage of a rape victim willing to face a courtroom, seeking public justice, while important, is never easy. Justice served can often re-traumatize and invite more pain. It is part of the process of healing and closure – not the final answer.
Having worked with 9/11 survivors, family members of victims, firefighters, spiritual and mental health caregivers, I would say that for most the reaction to the the trial of the 9/11 conspirators will be personal and complex. The location and meaning of the trial as well as world-wide media coverage interfaces with what has unfolded for them and those they love since 9/11.
For many in New York and throughout the world, the trial of the conspirators and the public witness of accountability promise the possibility of social justice for social injury. For some New Yorkers it feels appropriate that the trial will take place on the soil where so many were killed.
Other have strong feelings against this. The revisiting of 9/11 brings for them a resurgence of the traumatic loss and horror of that day. While they have gone on despite …