September 15, 2021
As the country was preparing for the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, individual memories of that day surfaced for many area residents. With the date's approach, various people no doubt reminisced about the question from Alan Jackson's country song: "Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?" Now that the date has passed, we still reflect-our memories tumbling in a fashion similar to the water cascading into the two enormous reflecting pools at Memorial Plaza in New York City.
Patrick Campbell, son of Walt and Elaine Campbell and a 1984 graduate of Chinook High School, was in New York on September 11, 2001.
Drawn to New York City (NYC) from a very young age, Campbell found fascination there. In 1991, while visiting his sister Colleen and his girlfriend-who were both actresses in New York-he received a dance scholarship from Jazz Dance Master Luigi. Campbell would go on to teach for six years at the Luigi Jazz Dance Center.
Campbell began studying ballet at age 19 in Missoula at the University of Montana (UM) and danced professionally until the age of 33. While studying under Ballet Master William F. Christensen (aka Mr. C), he danced in the Utah Ballet as a soloist in Salt Lake City. He also performed as a soloist with the Metropolitan Repertory Ballet while at Lincoln Center in NYC.
Over the course of his professional dancing career, Campbell studied, performed, and taught in Portland, New York, Salt Lake, throughout New England, and in Los Angeles where he performed at The Friar's Club in Hollywood for actress Martha Raye's wake. He also danced, choreographed, and directed for the Firestorm and Orenda Theatre Companies. "Both theatre companies were housed at Robert DeNiro's Tribeca Lab Theatre on Leonard Street. We performed original works and danced to rock music. Imagine ballet and jazz dance to Metallica," Campbell invited.
Campbell still teaches and dances with his students at Hi-Line Dance Studio (Montana Academy of Dance) located in the Atrium Mall in Havre. When he travels to Mexico, he teaches at studios in Toluca and Metapec.
However, on September 11, 2001, Campbell wasn't dancing. He had recently graduated from the Helix Training Institute, a four-year psychotherapy program, and was beginning a private practice. As he transitioned to that practice, he was employed as a certified hypnotherapist in Brooklyn at Dynamic Changes Hypnotherapy Clinic. His interest in counseling bloomed after working with homeless at-risk youth in 1993 at Covenant House Crisis Center in NYC.
So, when Campbell experienced the devastation on 9/11, one of the darkest days in U.S. history, he responded to a spiritual voice that told him to volunteer, to step in-using his skills to provide comfort.
Years later, while attending graduate school at UM and participating in the Creative Pulse Program in 2006, Campbell wrote "Officer Vincent from Brooklyn," a creative non-fiction piece dedicated to all firemen and policemen. In it Campbell describes the sea of people that walked down the West End Highway as torrid sirens drowned out those not deep in thought:
"If there was a mantra to be chanted by the shuffling crowd, it would have been: 'What's next?' The occasional sound of fighter planes screaming overhead broke up the hard siren's monotony. We were under attack. This was for real. Everyone was on foot and could not leave Manhattan Island. The subways, trains, ferries, and busses were halted. New York City was locked down."
He also recalls an announcer for the emergency broadcast system asking for mental health professionals to volunteer at hospitals and Red Cross Tents located on the western most roadway of Manhattan Island. These professionals would treat survivors for trauma intervention and for psychological screening of first responders coming off Ground Zero. "This recently graduated therapist thought about it, locked up his pad, hit the streets, and joined with the exodus on the West End Highway, looking for a large red cross."
Although New Yorkers have a reputation for being rude and impatient, Campbell saw first-hand the heart in New Yorkers who care for one another when needed and can pull together. "This day was an example of that heart. Before joining the southward migration, I was in a bank where a lady offered an elderly woman money due to the ATM's not working. Blew my mind."
The fire of the burning towers became clearer the more southerly Campbell walked. "It looked like an oil refinery fire-black smoke with licking flames beneath. At around 11:00 a.m., I reached the Red Cross Tents. The complex was enormous, covering approximately a football field. Walking in there, I saw rows of stretchers, gurneys, and medical supplies waiting for the injured. A group of mental health workers was congregating, ranging from a Columbia University Professor to this lower-tiered, raw therapist. A FEMA officer stuck medical tape on our clothing that said 'Counselor' written with a Sharpie."
Most of Campbell's day was spent waiting. He learned from a FEMA supervisor that there weren't that many injured since most of the people in the Twin Towers that could not escape, died, and the survivors were being treated at Saint Vincent's Hospital. "At around 6:30," Campbell reported, "a line of stunned, smoke and dust-covered, oil-drenched, ripped-uniform wearing firemen and policemen showed up." Campbell was assigned to screen Police Officer Vincent from Brooklyn.
"We sat at a table, and I got him some coffee. He spoke of his squad going into Tower One. He was outside of the building, looking up and beginning to see the tower collapsing. He yelled and ran into the tower to warn his squad. They all got out of the tower, but Vincent could not locate his squad commander. He dove into a squad car with his partner, preceding a hail of concrete, glass and steel pounding the car. He spoke of the guilt of not being able to save his commander. Of knowing he had lost friends-some missing and some dead. Of not being able to do anything. He felt helpless, stating that the ground at Ground Zero was so hot it melted the bottom of their shoes.
"During the telling of his story, he appeared calmer. He said he was able to go back to work. He appeared mentally stable enough to do so. He thanked me and left."
The year that followed haunted Campbell with reminders. He recalls walking by firehouses or police stations and seeing memorials to half or almost all of the personnel either being killed or missing in action. "I worked in Brooklyn, and for a year, the local funeral home held two-three funerals a week for the police officers and firemen who had lost their lives on 9/11. Walking downtown, we experienced a constant dust raining down-wondering whether it was paper, concrete, or the ash of human remains."
The intervening years have continued to provide lessons about human nature and about terrorism. "I find most of the time that anger is a secondary emotion. The primary emotion of anger is fear. I think in the terrorist's mind, s/he is encompassed by a fear so great that they fear for their existence and their culture's existence. Concerning terrorism and human nature, I think we are becoming more aware of why terrorism happens, as domestic terrorism is becoming more prevalent. Sadly, we are beginning to attack ourselves," Campbell stated.
To prevail over setbacks-whether those are everyday anxieties or a tragic act of terrorism-we can turn to dance with its gifts of strength. Whether it is the pure athletic exertion of dance or the endorphins brought forth by exercise, dance-like many of the other arts-has the power to help us cope with trauma. Dance is magical, primal, communal, and-excluding those pushing their bodies to the extreme-a healthy way to exist in harmony with one's self and others. Dance gives us family when we might not have one. It also allows some cultures to settle their differences peacefully.
Campbell defines dance as "prayer with the body." He adds: "Indigenous cultures understand this. Due to dance being a physical art form, it can be a vehicle to release pain. I was attending graduate school in 2005 during a time when my father was dying. I put my grief into my dancing. I remember making the large dance studio at U of M shake from the rhythmic stomping I was doing."
Through the athleticism of dance, the body experiences lift movement while the mind benefits from learning intricate combinations and applying them rhythmically to the music. Although we might suffer with grief, sickness, or isolation-anxious about the state of the world today and tomorrow-if we dance together, we can also heal together.