It takes maturity and courage to forgive after a tragic event. For Brenda Larsen, who lost her firefighter dad in 9/11, anger and hate were never options.
“I’ve always felt I’ve seen the world differently since then,” said Larsen, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in child study from SJC Brooklyn in 2014 and 2017. “But I hope to show others that we don’t win with hate, we must love and care more.”
Larsen was 8 years old on Sept. 11, 2001, when her father, Scott Larsen, died while trying to rescue people trapped in the World Trade Center, following the unprecedented terrorist attack on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Throughout the years that followed, Larsen found solace and friendship in the families and children of other fallen firefighters from her father’s firehouse, Ladder 15 at the South Street Seaport. She also became involved with Tuesday’s Children, a non-profit organization established in the aftermath of 9/11 to provide personalized support and a safe landing place for traumatized, grief-stricken children, families and communities left reeling from terrorism or traumatic loss.
Photos courtesy of womenrising.com
Last year, through Tuesday’s Children, Larsen was invited to share her story for a documentary about children of 9/11 victims.
“Working on “We Go Higher” was my first time getting to meet so many other children of 9/11 victims,” Larsen said. “A lot of them were children of the office workers, so it was my first time meeting kids from the other side rather than fellow children of firefighters.”
Nearly 16 years after losing her father and two uncles on 9/11, Delaney Colaio went in search of other surviving children to allow them to become the narrators of their own lives and tell their stories, their way. Her video project, “We Go Higher,” aims to explore the different routes taken in dealing with loss, ultimately finding that all roads lead to hope.
“Delaney’s idea for the documentary gave us a chance to discuss our hopes for the future and what we took from our experiences,” Larsen said. “Throughout the process, the filmmakers were patient and didn’t rush anything. I created a lot of lasting connections with the other kids in the film and the crew members. Most importantly, telling my story keeps my dad’s memory alive.”
For Larsen, it was a life-altering experience that taught her about resilience and overcoming hard times.
“I want people to see this is what happened to me but now I’m a teacher and I have a positive outlook on life,” Larsen said. “I learned a lot through tragedy and people can overcome anything. It takes time but every day, you just keep moving forward and doing what you do.”