On 9/11/01 I could see holes in the towers. From our office at 24th and Madison’s 26th floor, we could see the whole thing. We watched the towers fall.
I did not personally know anyone who perished. I do know people who were close with many people. And I know direct stories, friends who should’ve and could’ve been there.
The loss I connected to then, and have continued to over the years, was Peter Alderman, the son of my mother’s friends Dr. Steve and Liz Alderman. Peter worked for Bloomberg News and was at Windows on the World.
A few years later, I got to know both of them better when I was caring for my mother while she was dying of cancer. Steve was a retired prominent oncologist, and guided me through that very difficult journey. I am not quite sure what I would have done without his generous wisdom.
During that time, he and Liz shared with me plans on the foundation they were creating in Peter’s name. It is an impressive story. Life has been busy and I’ve been out of touch with Steve and Liz, but this September 11 evening, I was somehow comforted to open CNN.com and see a photo I recognized — Peter, along with their story about the impact their foundation has had.
In searching for a way to honor his life, we learned that 1 billion people, almost one sixth of humanity, have directly experienced torture, terrorism or mass violence. Victims are left with lifelong emotional wounds preventing them from leading productive lives. In sub-Saharan Africa, the incidence of traumatic depression and PTSD exceeds that of HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB combined.
Peter loved life; he was compassionate and caring. There was nothing we could do for Pete, but returning survivors to life in his name was the perfect memorial. In March 2003, we created the Peter C. Alderman Foundation.
People often ask: “Why are you dealing with traumatic depression and PTSD when there are so many greater problems in the world?”
Our response is simple: Billions of philanthropic dollars go into fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria and poverty. But if people don’t care whether they live or die, they will not follow through with their medication regimens, walk that extra mile for potable water or take advantage of microfinance. If you can restore hope, a person is less likely to strap on dynamite and kill innocent people.
Amen to that.
Heal the trauma. Create a new foundation. RIP Peter Alderman.