By Alene Keenan
When I heard about the atrocity in Nice during the Bastille Day celebration in mid-July, I recalled the many times I was in port there, and the many times I walked along the Promenade des Anglais and admired the city. I wonder how many yachts were there that day and how many crew were out enjoying the evening celebration.
My thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the victims, and to anyone who is feeling the aftershock.
My heart aches at the news of every act of terrorist violence. I always think back to how it felt to be in New York City for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the Twin Towers. I learned some lessons since 9/11 that I wish I had been aware of at the time.
There is a wide range of physical and emotional responses that people may experience after a trauma, and they are completely normal.
Common immediate reactions are disbelief, denial, and then disorientation. Some people panic, while others feel completely frozen and numb and have to be helped to move out of the danger.
Survivor guilt, feelings of grief, helplessness, and fear of future events may come up later, and may preoccupy those touched by violence longer than they expect. They may see changes in themselves or in the people around them. Mood swings are normal, going from laughing one minute to suddenly crying. It can be hard to concentrate, while some will constantly ruminate on the experience, and have recurring nightmares.
Some people become withdrawn. Others become angry and might lash out inappropriately. It’s common to feel anger toward a particular religion or belief system. Sudden headaches, stomach problems, rapid heartbeat, anxiety attacks, or digestive issues can develop. Some people might turn to alcohol, drugs, or food to feel better.
The most important thing I learned is to take care of yourself and stay connected to loved ones after something like this. Don’t be afraid to talk about the impacts of the violence.
Be gentle with each other. Keep active by alternating hard exercise with yoga and relaxation. Get a massage.
Cry. Have a good laugh. Go to a museum or art gallery to remember the beauty of the world.
Pray. Keep a gratitude journal and write something positive and meaningful every day.
Keep work, play, sleep and diet balanced. Write about the event, and share it with others.
Take the time it takes to heal.
As sad as these events are, it is human nature to help. Whenever there is a crisis, there will be people who help. Look for the helpers, and chances are, yachties will be among them. With help comes hope and, eventually, healing.
During a time of healing, people develop compassion and inner strength. Feel grateful for any moments of joy and peace. Bless others, and have hope for peace. Hope is a simple word that we take for granted until we really need it, but hope is what keeps us going. There is so much darkness today; offer as much light and hope as you can.
Alene Keenan is a 20-year veteran chief stew on yachts. In the fall of 2001, she was the new chief stew on the 163-foot M/Y Mystique docked at Chelsea Piers in New York City and witnessed the events of Sept. 11. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.