Strength to Strength: Survivors Healing Survivors

Sarri Singer experienced the first of two life-changing events on September 11, 2001, and had she not overslept, she would have been at work a few blocks away from the World Trade Center in New York City. Realizing that “we’re not safe anywhere,” she decided to move to Israel to help victims of terror. Then, on June 11, 2003, while riding Egged bus no. 14 through downtown Jerusalem, a Palestinian suicide bomber, dressed as an ultra-Orthodox Jew, detonated his explosives, killing sixteen people, including all those seated around Sarri, and wounding over one hundred.

Pieces of metal and glass went through Sarri’s left shoulder, breaking her clavicle bone; both her legs were cut and bleeding; her face was bruised and burned; and both eardrums were blown out from the impact of the blast. After her release from Hadassah University Hospital–Ein Kerem, she stayed in Israel for an extra five days “just because I didn’t want to be afraid to go back to Israel.”

Sarri then spent three weeks back in the United States, ironically traveling with twenty Israeli victims of terror whose visit to the United States she had been arranging, traveling around the East Coast and speaking in different communities, with victims of 9/11, with New York Mayor Giuliani, and in Washington to congressional leaders. Having been in a terror attack and being very involved in the Jewish community, people felt more connected. She believes her storytelling has to come from the heart. “I think that what strikes people is the sincerity of the story. When I speak about it, they really understand what I’m saying and they connect to it and relate to it.”

After the attack, Sarri thinks that “I have more motivation and more of a desire to just keep doing – to live up to whatever potential I’m supposed to have. It’s taught me that life is precious and we don’t know how much longer we are going to be here. Obviously I have a larger purpose here and there’s more that I need to be doing. I believe that God put me in a certain situation to do something positive,. Obviously, I’m still here for a reason. So I want to make sure that I’m living up to whatever I’m supposed to be doing while I’m still here. I have to keep on going and moving.”

And that is what Sarri has done. To feed her passion for helping others who like her survived terrorism, Sarri went on to found and direct Strength to Strength, a nonprofit organization based in New York City and dedicated to supporting victims of terrorism and their families around the world and enabling victims of terrorism to share experiences and empowering them to live life to their best potential and move forward with their lives despite the trauma they have been through. Their motto is survivors healing survivors.

In memory of those sixteen innocent people murdered thirteen years ago today, Sarri asks that we “please take a moment today to do something good in memory of those that are no longer here and in honor of those that survived. Showing love and kindness is the best way to show the terrorists they cannot win.”

About the Author
Zieva Dauber Konvisser, PhD, is a Fellow of the Institute for Social Innovation at Fielding Graduate University. Her research focuses on the human impact of traumatic events, such as terrorism, genocide, war, and wrongful conviction. She served on the National Commission on American Jewish Women and is currently on the international board of the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma and the advisory board of Strength to Strength. She is the author of "Living Beyond Terrorism: Israeli Stories of Hope and Healing" (Gefen, 2014). The book can be ordered here:
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