Suggested guidelines for viewing the "9/11" program, to be aired on CBS, Sunday, march 10, 9pm EST

International Trauma Studies Program at New York University

Donna A. Gaffney, RN, DNSc, FAAN

There have been some concerns as to the possible content/ appropriateness of viewing the CBS program, " 9/11." It is important to recognize that not everyone will react the same or share the same beliefs. People have different reasons for their feelings; some believe the program pays tribute to the first responders, others feel it may be too soon, intrusive or upsetting to air such a program and still others are interested in gaining a better sense of the tragedy that will live on in all Americans’ memories.

Regardless of how you feel, these are some suggested guidelines that may be helpful for everyone: families and friends of those who were lost in the terrorist attacks, those who survived by escaping, those who witnessed the events from near or far, or through the media, and especially for children. In short, we all must exercise caution and be prepared.

For more information go to the CBS website and read more about the program to help you determine if it is appropriate for you and your family. Both the New York Times (March 6th) and Time magazine have published reviews and can provide additional details. The program uses footage filmed by Jules and Gedeon Naudet with their friend James Hanlon, a New York City Firefighter. The program follows a probationary firefighter in his first months with the FDNY, the morning of September 11 and the days that follow.



If you have decided not to view the program…TRUST YOUR JUDGEMENT…do something else that evening. Be with people and stay away from television sets.

If you are not sure about watching the program, have a friend tape it and wait until you are clearer about what you want to do. Do something else that evening.

For those who plan to watch the program, take these simple steps:

Do not watch the program alone, be with friends, family, people with whom you feel comfortable.

Talk about the program during and afterwards, share your thoughts and feelings.

Understand that many people will return to the feelings they experienced on September 11th: sadness, tearfulness, shock, disbelief. This is to be expected and is common when people revisit a painful event.

Special considerations: If you are still feeling somewhat upset from the events of 9/11; i.e. experience difficulty sleeping, have a hard time concentrating at work or school, or can’t seem to get thoughts and images of September 11th out of your mind, it may be best for you to wait and see the program at a later time when you are feeling more "back to normal."

There are also some people who have chosen to "move on" very quickly, even though they may have been in harm’s way on September 11th. They tend to avoid any discussion about that day or quickly change the subject when it comes up in conversation. They should consider waiting or understand that it is possible to experience feelings that they did not recall in those first days. They may even remember things that happened for the first time.

For those who have experienced loss or another crisis since September 11th, viewing the program may bring back feelings from all events in the past six months; consider waiting to see the program.

Consider some "self care" strategies to soothe, provide relief and minimize any uncomfortable feelings: Read a favorite book before bed, have a favorite food or drink, play peaceful or relaxing music, give/get physical contact, look at calming images, and depending on your beliefs, pray or meditate.

However, if, during the program, you find you are having a very difficult time watching, turn the television off. If you are having any questions about how you are feeling, concerned about your reactions or the responses of others around you, call Project Liberty in NY (1-866-270-9857) and Project Phoenix in NJ (609- 777-0728) or call your health care provider.


Children under the age of 11 should not view the program under any circumstances.

It is recommended that children between the ages of 11 and 13 should not view this program. However, if adults in the family have already discussed it in detail and are very clear about their choice, then older children (12-13) may watch in the company of their parents. A better option is for adults to tape the program, preview it and then show it at a later time to children in this age group.

Put Them To Bed Before 9 pm! Be mindful that this is a two-hour program and will end late. This should not be the special occasion to "let them stay up late." Going to bed immediately after a program that may be upsetting can result in nightmares and disrupted sleep.

Tape Now, Watch Later:
Parents may want to first consider taping the program, viewing it later (the next day or much later) and forming their own opinions as to how their children will react, as well as how they have reacted themselves. They may even consider watching the taped program without the sound. Using the closed captions is another possibility. Saving the program for when children are older and better able to understand the events of 9/11 and have more emotional distance from that day may be a sensible choice.

Watch with Others:
It is strongly recommended that older children/teens of any age should NOT watch the program alone. They should be with caring adults, family members, and good friends.

Provide Alternatives:
Even if other family members have decided to watch the program, let older children/teens know that they do not have to watch the program. However, make sure someone is with the child. If children decide after a few minutes into the program that they do not want to continue watching, have a replacement activity ready and a person to stay with the child and talk.

Talk and Share:
Talk about the program AND reactions to it. Talk about physical reactions as well as feelings and thoughts. Observe older children and teens as they watch the program. Acknowledge that people will have different feelings after seeing the program.

Consider some "self care" strategies for comfort and relief: Read/tell a favorite story before bed, offer a favorite food or drink, play favorite or relaxing music, give/get a hug, talk and depending on your beliefs, pray or meditate. Check in the next morning; how did they sleep, were there any dreams, disturbing thoughts, etc.

Special Considerations For Teachers and Schools:

Parents and teachers should be aware that the program will be aired.

Guidelines should be available to families before the March 10th, preferably while school is in session.

Teachers need to know that there my be questions and conversation about the program in class the next day, especially for high school students.

Try not to hold discussions if there are students in the group who did not see the program, although that may be difficult if not impossible to control.

Teachers should be prepared for limited discussion.

Recognize that children/teens who have viewed the program may have some behavioral reactions the next day in school. Staff and administration should be alert to this possibility and have support systems in place.

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