Long Island Teens Turn 9/11 Grief Into Positivity & Empowerment

common bonds
Project Common Bond members standing group shot (left to right): Leen Dawoud (Palestine); (back row) Monica Meehan McNamara (Project Common Bond Curriculum Director); Casey Hargrave (USA); Nafeesa Dawoud (Pakistan); Mijal Tenenbaum (Argentina); Adrien Asbescat (France); Jessica Wisniewski (USA); Aitor Bacabo (Spain); Francesca Picerno (USA); and Robert Pycior (USA). Photo by Mike Greene.

Juliette Scauso transformed her bereavement into empowerment following a retreat with 60 young adults brought together in the most heartbreaking of ways—all lost a family member to an act of terrorism.

Project Common Bond, as the symposium that includes young adults from around the world is called, was organized by Manhasset-based nonprofit Tuesday’s Children, which serves the sons and daughters of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“The opportunity to be part of such a wonderful and empowering program has been life changing for me,” said Scauso, of Melville, who was 4 years old when her father—a firefighter—died on 9/11. “I want to help heal, and to bond with others who feel the way I do.”

Launched in 2008, Project Common Bond involves young adults from Algeria, France, India, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Macedonia, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Palestine, Spain, as well as Americans who lost a family member on 9/11, and children of military personnel killed in post-9/11 active duty. This year, 27 Americans participated, including seven from Manhasset.

“They asked this program to be initiated because they wanted to learn more about people from all over the world who go through the same tragedy and circumstances,” notes Danielle Coon, the director of programs at Tuesday’s Children.

The young adults, who are reminded of their loss on the anniversary of the attacks, shared their unshakable pain and traumatic grief with one another, embracing dramatic differences and transcending language boundaries.

“For these teenagers, the sudden, violent and public nature of their loss becomes an overwhelming and defining characteristic of their lives,” said Terry Sears, executive director of Tuesday’s Children. “Project Common Bond helps them turn their personal tragedy into strength and create positive change within themselves and their communities.”

Matt Jordan, from Westhampton, returned to the international project for a fourth year, and walked away thankful for the global perspective.

“Project Common Bond has allowed me not only to meet new people from across the world, but to enrich my understanding of foreign cultures and experience firsthand the impacts of international affairs,” he said. “I now have a more mature outlook onto other cultures and I have developed a greater understanding of the issues that impact the lives of their people.”

He noted how a Middle Eastern participant shared a large notebook she used to document extremist violence and its aftermath in her community.

During their eight days spent at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania from July 26 through August 3, campers participated in therapeutic group work, leadership sessions, conflict resolution and peace-building projects, as well as team events designed to foster trust, healing and communication. The initiative also had participants in a daylong adventure-based expedition run.

The camp curriculum was designed by Harvard Law School’s Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program and incorporated the Dignity Model, designed by Donna Hicks of the Weatherhead Center of International Affairs. The model’s core principles stress engagement in dialogue, a fundamental tenet of treating humans with dignity.

“What has shaped me as an individual is the idea that you cannot fight hate with more hatred, that it will only add fuel to the fire,” Scauso said. “Knowing what it is like to have a loved one taken from you by inhumane acts of others is what fuels me in the fight against terrorism.”