The New York Times
Sept. 11, 2002

The community I've been concerned about and working with is the West Side of downtown: Tribeca and Battery Park City. I have two sons, ages 9 and 6, who were attending P.S. 234. On the morning of Sept. 11, I had just dropped them off and was returning home when I heard the crash and looked up and saw the debris flying. Many of the children in the school as well as other schools downtown really saw everything, including people falling or jumping out of the buildings.

The research shows that family and community support are the most important factors in preventing long-term mental health problems and P.T.S.D. after a massive, traumatic event like this. One of the first things we did in the school was have all the mental health professionals who were also parents set up a family support network so that people could drop in any time to talk about different problems they were facing.

This was at a time when almost all the focus from the school board was on screening children for P.T.S.D. and on offering counseling to the kids who'd been identified as having a problem. Which we know from other situations is not the best way to approach this problem because it's very difficult to identify which kids are having the most problems. Just because they're speaking about it or showing some behavioral difficulties doesn't mean they're eventually going to have problems. The best way to help all kids is to support the adults who are taking care of the kids.

We also created community recovery forums, a collaboration among parents' associations at the different schools. One goal was to affirm the competency of the parents and teachers and make them feel that it's not only experts with some trauma specialization who know how to help these kids.

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Lara Solt for The New York Times

JACK SAUL Psychologist and director of the International Trauma Studies Program at New York University.