Though we often think of victims of violent crime and terror attacks as “people in need of help”, in reality, being faced with the worst of human behavior is a source of tremendous creativity. To counter the isolation created by an unimaginable encounter with evil, survivors often need to reach out to other survivors or place their experiences in a larger world context. They are a fertile hot bed of social innovation.
This innovation ripples outward in ever greater concentric circles of influence. It starts with the survivors (or in some case murder victims). Then it moves on to their friends and families who both grieve with them and try to find meaning in what should never be. The wisdom and courage of these primary and secondary survivors ripples out yet further to professionals that work with them, both to help them tell their story and to provide a hand of compassion to those still overwhelmed by the aftermath of the unthinkable. Sometimes the casual observer is so moved by someones courage or inspired by their insights. They too are inspired to creative efforts to organize people and resources to improve our society and the way we live as individuals within it.
Communicating truths about the unthinkable to others is a centuries old challenge. It requires a close integration of observation, self-honesty, and the best skills available. At its both it is both universal and deeply personal. There should be no surprise that many survivors are drawn to develop or use existing professional skills to communicate their experiences and wisdom. Below are just a few of the survivors who have made successful and sometimes award winning efforts to help others learn from their experiences with the unimaginable.