Stories from Dr. Yukari, Story 36, Resilience

[ Stories from Dr. Yukari ]

Guided by the hope of St. Nichiren, we continue to work towards a peaceful society. Honolulu Myohoji Mission collaborates with Psychologist Dr. Yukari Kunisue, a trained and experienced therapeutic life coach, to offer a safe online space: Stories from Dr. Yukari

A new NYC firefighter Scott and his father Scott who lost life at the September 11 Attacks

Photo: New York Times ,September 24, 2019

Brittany was a 5th grader at the time of the incident. It was during her English class when she felt a sudden jolt within the building. It was around this time when a classmate screamed, “look outside! Look! Look!” Other kids yelled shouting, “it’s the world trade center! It’s burning!” This image seemed so unreal as if it was a scene directly taken out of a movie.


Brittany saw the airplane fly from behind the North Tower and directly hit the South Tower shortly afterwards. While she believes that this is what she witnessed, it could have very well been her vivid imagination. The only thing she clearly remembers at this time is thinking about her little brother Brandon. His school is only one subway stop away from the World Trade Center and it was only about a week ago when Brandon started attending kindergarten. He often complained about going to school just like a whiny baby. Nonetheless, his Dad grabbed Brandon’s blue lunch box with Thomas the Tank Engine on it and Brandon would soon comply. Brandon gripped onto his Dad’s neck like a little monkey. Before leaving, Dad got into his NYPD uniform and gave a little wink to Brittany. This was the very last time she saw her father.


Later, Brittany learned that an emergency call took her father to the World Trade Center. As soon as he dropped off Brandon at school, he rushed to the site of the terrorist attack. Everyone frantically rushed down through the buildings but he went in, along with other police officers and firefighters in hopes of rescuing people. While Brittany did not see this with her own eyes, but the image of her father covered in ashes, going up the hundreds of stairs he climbed was seared into her memory.


There were roughly 3,000 child victims from the attack known as the Children of Nine Eleven. Around 100 of those victims were unborn children who never had the chance to experience the world with their fathers due to this tragic incident. Also, the youngest brother Mike never met his Dad because he was still inside of his mother at the time of the incident. Now Brittany is almost 30 which is close to her father’s age when he passed away. Mike also became a firefighter last year in honor of his father. He was one of the 21 children who was a part of the Children of Nine Eleven group who went through the firefighter training program.


The fact that their father lost his life in order to save others drastically changed the lives of Brittany, her family, and many of the surviving families. Despite the hardships that they experienced, they developed an ability known as resilience. The concept was originally used in physics, often described as a type of elastic power. Later, the term was used in many of the psychological research conducted on child survivors of the Holocaust after World War II. Are the children of 9/11 also gifted with resilience?


This does not just apply to the children from the Holocaust or from 9/11, but according to psychologists, resilience is an ability that anyone can learn and cultivate. We all live with difficulties, problems, and also extreme trauma especially now during a pandemic. Who could have predicted two years ago that the general population would be wearing masks, not allowed to socialize in large groups, or even go to school. Resilience is something that we need to learn more about to deal with difficulties that arise in our day to day lives.


One of the American Buddhist leaders by the name of Jack Kornfield shared a story. A kindergarten age child of his friend who lives in NYC was drawing a picture of the WTC shortly after the incident. The little boy witnessed many people jumping out of the skyscrapers which emitted black smoke. His drawing also showed a large round circle at the bottom of the building, where people rushed to towards in hopes of staying alive. Kornfield asked the boy what the circle was in his drawing. The boy explained that it was a trampoline. He believed that if there was always a mega-sized trampoline at the bottom of buildings, it could be used to save people. Kornfield explained that this was an example of a boy finding the ability to find hope in even the most tragic incidents.


According to researchers, a person who tends to fall into an emotional rabbit hole when they experience difficulties is also someone who has emotional ups and downs. Someone who tends to give up easily and thinks negatively in life is also someone who struggles to develop resilience. On the other hand, when you find meanings or goals in your life, you may acquire this skill more easily. Positive and flexible ways of thinking also helps as well. When you can see difficulties as a challenge that one must get past, you are already a step ahead of cultivating that resilience.


Let us see more hope over disappointment in our lives. We should let resilience come forward to lead our life.