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In Their Own Words: Westwood Residents Share Memories of 9/11

Westwood residents and officials weigh in on how things have changed.

With the 10th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 looming on the horizon, Westwood Patch recently sat down with a handful of residents and officials in town to gather their stories and memories of that day.

Views from Westwood also reveal how things have changed since that dark Tuesday 10 years ago, both nationally, internationally and on the local level.

Below, find out how two residents dealt with Sept. 11 first-hand:

Kevin Becker

A psychologist and former director of The Trauma Center in Boston, Becker says he's seen all types of traumas and crises. After the attacks on Sept. 11, Becker was involved in at least six different projects providing services to victims in Massachusetts and in New York City.

"However," he said, "Sept. 11 was a day when many in the U.S. got a closer look at the fear and life-changing impacts that accompany traumatic events."

On the morning of the attacks, Becker said he and his colleagues couldn't do anything but watch the news reports. But by noontime, they all received their first call from an organization at Logan Airport requesting help in supporting passengers, staff and family members.

"We sent our first team of therapists to that site," Becker said. "They were there for the next several days."

About two hours later, Becker said they received another call from a group looking for support for people attending a conference in Boston, all of whom were managers and administrators of the largest bridges, tunnels and turnpikes in the world, and included representatives from the New York and New Jersey Port Authorities, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Lincoln Tunnel and the London Bridge.

"It was clear that high visibility targets had been selected by the terrorists and these managers all feared their facility would be next," Becker said, adding that police raided the hotel many of the attendees were staying at later that day, as it was thought that some of the terrorists involved in the attacks might be there.

"We sent several therapists on site, set up shop at the convention center and provided support for a lot of people through education, consultation, groups and individual sessions over the next couple days," Becker said. "Remember that all air travel was stopped and thus many of the attendees were stranded in Boston."

Becker's group later helped to organize a way for employees at one of the buildings at the World Trade Center to come together in a hotel in New York City. Becker and his peers traveled to New York every other week for the first six months, then on a more spread-out basis after that.

"In the beginning, we witnessed a city with deserted streets, funeral after funeral, and the smell of death and destruction all around," he said. "By the end of our time there, we saw what it meant to be resilient."

Paula McLaughlin

Currently serving as 's public relations director, McLaughlin remembers stepping into the office of a new job she began the day before the attacks, which was also a week after her children went back to school.

"I had decided that I needed to go back to work full-time after several years working part-time from home," she said. "Like most parents returning to work, I was already worried that I wouldn't be there quick enough if my children needed me."

She added, "I heard some rumblings in the conference room and some co-workers were gathered watching a small television, a scene I'm sure that was played out in offices all over the country. We watched with disbelief as the first plane struck the tower, and then of course with complete horror as it happened again."

Her boss continued with a staff meeting, though, and McLaughlin was then asked to give an introduction of herself to the team.

"The office was right in the heart of downtown Boston and you could hear the sirens and chaos outside," she said.

The distraction of what was taking place in New York City was too much and McLaughlin told the group she needed to head home to be with her family.

"I apologized and left the room and every other mother at the office followed, including my boss," she said. "We learned later that the Governor had declared a state of emergency and called for everyone to go home 10 minutes before."

Having been involved in various Westwood Parent-Teacher Organizations, McLaughlin said she immediately contacted the schools to see if any help was needed; she later went to the administration building to pick up flyers for parents and delivered them to the town's schools.

"The message my children all repeated to me after school was that they were told, 'Something very bad happened in the world today, but we will be safe in Westwood,'" she said.

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