Reverend David Parsons: Healing in the Wake of Tragedy
by Ashley McDaniel
Reverend David Parsons began his ministry during what would later be known as “The September 11th “ attacks. He didn’t plan it that way or shy away from the experience, rather he dived in headfirst and helped others during a dark and unsettling in America. A reverend at St. John-St. Matthew-Emanuel Lutheran Church, in Brooklyn New York, I hear the concern in his voice, concern for those affected by 9/11.
It is often said how a person reacts in the face of adversity shows true character and grit. During this tragic event unsung heroes began to emerge. Reverend Parsons is one of those heroes.
It was his third day at work, when the planes crashed into the world trade center devastating a city and the nation. He quickly decided to become a red cross chaplain, and recalls the process of signing up to be “amazing”. After just two weeks of experience he was given a badge, and from there he went to ground zero.
Reverend Parsons arrival at ground zero was nothing short of life-changing. “When I got out of the subway, I didn’t know where I was. I came to an intersection and there was [ground zero]. My knees buckled and I almost fell; my mind was being so taken up. There were not enough synapses to handle it. I was astonished.” He also recalls the supreme realness of the experience. “There was a cruise ship providing food for everyone. I was on a luxurious ship, and in one direction it looked like a normal day and the other direction looking like hell.”
This is also where he learned the importance of debriefing . “I saw an impeccably dressed man who was very distressed, and I said hello. He was the recruiter for the lawyers at ground zero. His lawyers were distraught and upset. As a red cross chaplain we had debriefing, and your shift isn’t over until this takes place. I told him [the lawyers] also needed that, and as soon as they started things were much better. “ Debriefing allows the mind to unload and possibly negate some of the effects of exposure to trauma.
Rev. David Parsons played a unique and pivotal role in assisting first hand with the aftermath of 9/11. The shared connection in a sense of tragedy can unite and even heal in the wake of tragedy. “People who survive trauma need to know what to do and what not to do, you don’t re-visit the site of the trauma.”
Images taken by Actual Beliefnet members