The Firehouse Project
New York City Post 9/11
Laura Barbanel, Warren Spielberg, Rachelle Dattner, Elizabeth Goren, Ian Miller, Tom McGoldrick and Nina Thomas
On September 11th, the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil occurred. Its impact reverberated throughout the country, but most specifically in and around New York City, a major site of the attack. It was frightening, and 6 months later people were still feeling the effects psychologically (Silver, Holman, Mcintosh, Poulin, & Gil-Rivas, 2002). It had caused special pain for those who lost loved ones; often there was no knowledge of how the individual died or why. There were no bodies to retrieve. First responders, including firefighters, New York City police, and Port Authority police were particularly affected, both because of their role in the rescue efforts and in the losses that their departments sustained. It was also a time when psychology and psychologists were called on to work in places and in contexts in which they do not typically function. Psychologists were called on to develop new techniques and new models.
This chapter describes the “Firehouse Project,” developed by two of us (LB & WS) in conjunction with the counseling services of the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY), which each of the authors participated in from its inception. Paragraphs marked with initials note each author’s personal experiences with the project.
This paper is based, in part, on a presentation: The Firehouse Project, at the American
Psychological Association Division 39, 23 Annual Spring Meeting, Miami, March 2004.