Fort Myers crisis counselor shares experience helping those affected by 9/11

One Fort Myers woman went to New York City 18 years ago because she wanted to help people impacted by the attacks on the World Trade Center.

“When I got there, I would say to them, ‘New York is an Island, but you’re not alone,'” said Abbe Finn.

Finn deploys around the country to counsel individuals in need. She sat down with WINK News reporter Melinda Lee to share her experience and advice to us all.

“I’ve always had a interest in helping people,” she said.

It was inside a hospital in the 1960s that a teenage Finn found her passion for counseling people through trauma.

“There was a young man about to have heart surgery and his family lived far away…so I went in and sat with him,” said Finn.

She would spend the next five decades traveling to communities in crisis: To Oklahoma City after the bombings; to Haiti after the earthquakes; to Parkland after the shootings; to volunteer her time, to open her ears and her heart to people in need.

“Sometimes just listening is what they need,” she said. “As I near the stories, I’m thinking to myself, ‘How can I help this person?'”

In September 2011, Finn went to New York City.

“September 11th was on a Tuesday; I flew in the following Monday,” she said. “We flew directly over the smoldering wreckage. But, it was also amazing to see out of every window, there was an American flag, and in front of every, single fire station, police station, bouquets of flowers and letters of appreciation.”

Finn said she was there a week talking to individuals and groups from seven or eight in the morning until about 10 at night.

After hearing hundreds of voices of people who just experienced trauma, she says the greatest reward of being a crisis counselor is seeing the power of the human spirit.

“It’s the resiliency, it’s the caring, it’s the depth of care that we have in this country that is inspiring and it’s endless,” she said.

As Finn directs the mental health counseling program at Florida Gulf Coast University, she encourages everyone: “If you see someone that you think is in need, reach out.”

Wise words from a woman who has witnessed the power people have to come together and overcome the unimaginable.

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