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What I've Learned About Resiliency from Being a Victim of Terror

What I've Learned About Resiliency from Being a Victim of Terror

Two people holding hands over mugs of coffee

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 15 years since the day that changed my life forever. On June 11, 2003, I met evil personified: I was on bus #14 in Jerusalem when an 18-year-old terrorist, strapped with explosives, boarded my bus and detonated them.

But a bomb was not enough for him. He loaded that bomb with nails and shrapnel with the singular goal of inflicting as much damage and pain as he possibly could. He killed and maimed many people that day; 17 innocent people, including all those sitting closest to me, were murdered, and more than 100 more were injured, myself included. Hundreds of lives were forever shattered.

After that day, I realized that I wanted to be someone who helps others heal after experiencing acts of terror. I started the organization Strength to Strength to create a space where victims of terrorism can share experiences and empower each other to live their lives to their best potential. From my own experience, and from learning with the Strength to Strength community, I’ve learned some lessons about what it means to survive and thrive. 

1. Draw inspiration from those who help others – and be one of those people.

It’s hard to imagine the hate and evil that would drive someone to sacrifice his life just to cause misery to others, but I contrast that with the response and the resilience of the people of Israel. 

After the explosion, a man I’d never met ran several blocks toward the carnage and pulled me out of the smoldering bus. He didn’t know anyone on that bus, yet he risked his life to save others. Such selfless acts are just a few sources of inspiration, showing that everyday people can become sources of light – and have encouraged me to do the same.

2. Sometimes being resilient is just surviving – making it to the next day.

Resilience can mean so many different things. For many Holocaust survivors, resilience meant heroically rebuilding their lives, starting families, and proving the Nazis wrong. That is true for many survivors of terror and their families, as well.

After the trauma of a terror attack, it can be extremely difficult just to continue living – yet many survivors do exactly that. Having been in such a position myself, I am here to saw that we must support these survivors long-term as they deal with everyday life, even after the initial shock of their experience has passed.

3. Remember how fragile and precious life is.

I often wonder why I was spared that day. While I obviously can’t know the answer to that question, I do know that from that day forward, I have and will continue to do everything I can to vanquish terror and support victims and their families. 

I am only here today because of my miraculous survival, and in response to the terrorist, I choose love and kindness over hate. After my harrowing experience, every day of my life has a renewed sense of meaning. Life is truly a fragile and fleeting gift.

4. Indeed, helping others can be an act of resilience.

I’ve been called resilient for turning my personal experience into a platform to help victims of terrorism and their families. While I appreciate the thought, it is too kind; I am simply using my abilities to try and help others and make the world a better place. I am not risking my life, like the man on the street in Jerusalem who saved me – but I think the real lesson is that regular people can accomplish amazing things. 

We don’t have to wait for a life-changing moment to make a difference. All of us should strive to use of our skills and opportunities to help others, to pursue justice, and to make the world a better place for everyone. 

Sarri Singer is the founder and director of Strength to Strength, an organization that connects victims of terror from around the globe and assists them with long-term psychological needs. She has addressed audiences throughout the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, and Israel and continues to share her unique insight into the ongoing struggle for victims of terror in Israel and around the world.

Sarri Singer
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