9/11 – A Mentoring Story

With the recent anniversary of September 11th, the power of mentoring and the resilience of the human spirit can be seen through composer Jessica Locke’s personal involvement in post-event recovery efforts and funding.

Shortly after the national tragedy, Locke traveled to New York City planning to do research for a memorial composition, aided by a short visit she hoped to make to a local firehouse. In addition to her musical work, Locke was involved in a bodywork program called the Alexander Technique, meant to aid in muscle relaxation as well as a form of stress relief. Her hope was to bring this technique to the embattled firemen, providing comfort both mentally and physically following the traumatic events. To her surprise, the firefighters were initially reluctant to allow her to try and seemed as though they were dealing well with all that had happened. However, after some persuasion, they accepted the offer. As she began the bodywork, Locke explained, “Something occurred which I had never experienced in my sixteen years of bodywork. I felt him intuiting my own needs in the same manner I was intuiting him, but with a great deal more intensity. It was astounding, yet it was as plain as day – he didn’t want the bodywork. Instead, he was letting me work with him to make me feel better”. Although these men had been through so much and lost so much in recent days, this man was able to muster the energy and time to care about Jessica. Understandably amazed and touched by this “singular act of kindness, delivered in the shadow of the horror emanating from Ground Zero five blocks away,” Locke refocused her efforts and seemed to make a positive impact with the technique for the firehouse.

Locke returned six times to Engine 32 that year, with her realization that she was helping them just as much as they were helping her, building her own confidence and reciprocation of respect. At the end of the year, Locke explained that these firefighters had impacted her life far beyond anything she had ever imagined. Aside from the composition she wrote, Reading of Names 9/11: The Firefighters, Locke decided to devote her time to the fire department, penning a memoir of her first year with the engine company, Rescue at Engine 32. Additionally, she created the Jessica Locke Firefighters Fund, a nonprofit organization partially funded by her memoir sales aimed at supporting firefighters affected by exposure to the physical toxins and injuries as well as the psychological traumas of working at Ground Zero. For Locke, the mentoring received from Engine 32 transformed her, not only artistically but as a person as whole, “they [gave] my life meaning and a purpose worth living for.”

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