Friday, June 18, 2004


(A letter to the editor concerning an article on the ten thousand grief and stress counselors that showed up in NYC following 9-11)

In 1985, my parents were among the American hostages aboard the hijacked Achille Lauro cruise ship. Following the ordeal, families gathered at Newark Airport to greet the hostages on their return.

While we waited, a Navy psychologist spoke to us about symptoms of post-trauma stress we might observe---bad dreams, sleeplessness, and so on---but assured us that lingering effects were unlikely. “No matter how horrible it was,” he said, “most people will be fine after a week or two. Psychologically, we can recover from anything. If that weren’t true, our species would never have survived.”

A few minutes later, my parents emerged, and the family rushed to embrace them. My 70-year-old father had not slept for 48 hours. A few days before, facing imminent death, a rifle barrel pointed at him, he had whispered “Goodbye” to my mother. He had been through hell, and he looked it.

Nevertheless, when our hug ended, he put his hands on my shoulders and gave me a long look. “You know,” he said, “I never thought I’d see you again. But now that I do, isn’t it time you got a haircut?”

Copyright 2004 Michael Kubacki