Woman Wednesday: Helaina, 911 Survivor

*Note: Woman Wednesday is a part of our blog. Each Woman Wednesday post will feature a woman who would like to share information in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other women. Comments are welcome below.        


Helaina Hovitz from New York, New York

Helaina Hovitz was twelve and in middle school three blocks from the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.

“I started trying to put myself back together—first, in 12-step programs, where I learned to stop relying on substances to quiet the chatter in my mind.”

 

Anyone who has survived a horrific event knows that just because a body remains in motion does not mean everything will simply “go back to normal.” The chemistry of the brain and the body changes, impacting our relationships, our choices, and how we experience the world around us. Yet, we rarely find out what actually happens to people as they try to move on from a life-threatening experience—especially children, who are just beginning to develop an understanding of the world around them.

 

You remember where you were on September 11, 2001. We all do. For me, it was the second day of seventh grade at I.S. 89, the middle school just three blocks from the World Trade Center. My first-period teacher, Mr. H., was beginning a lesson when what sounded like a giant whirring motor interrupted him. Moments later a teacher knocked on the door and told us that someone had bombed the World Trade Center. We were quickly ushered to the cafeteria.

No one at the school knew what had really happened, but shortly after the second plane hit the South Tower, the bomb squad burst in and announced that we had to evacuate. Droves of hysterical parents arrived to take their kids. My mom and dad were stuck at their offices, but I spotted my neighbor Ann and her son Charles, whom I walked to school with every day. I wanted to go home. They could get me there. Through the oppressive smoke and ash, we tried to make it back, but police blocked our usual route. The street under us rumbled. Shards of glass and concrete screeched down all around. “Cover your faces!” Ann shouted. “Don’t look back, and run!”

 

At 22, I identified as an alcoholic and was often the youngest one in many of the 12-step meeting rooms (I didn’t need to go to rehab). I never picked up a drink again. Life became more fun than it had ever really been because my feelings were real. Girls my own age wanted to be friends and hang out with me, do things like go to the movies or have brunch. There was plenty to do that didn’t involve drinking when you knew where to look for it, and about two years into sobriety, when I had worked on myself, not just through CBT, DBT, meditation, and the steps, I had rebuilt the life and identity I never had the chance to when my world came crashing down at age 12. Like the woman I had only imagined, I would be my wildest fantasies—calm, patient, clever, understanding, selfless, and rational—I began to build a life and welcome people into it who made me feel happy.

Most of all, these tools made me feel safe in the world again, and safe in my own skin. Safe in my own ability to be “okay” no matter how painful or stressful things got. Changing my perspective and expectations for “fun” also changed the game—when I started thinking about what I could bring to or contribute to a situation, how I could help someone else laugh or feel happy, rather than what I could “get from it.”

A wise teacher once told me that before you can feel happy, or loved, or give love or make someone else happy, you have to feel safe. And that was when life became fun: because I had the capacity to feel it.

Through meditation, I found peace between my thoughts. Through yoga, which can still be a challenge, I began to focus on the moment. Now, when the subway stops suddenly, my adrenaline doesn’t surge. I distract myself with emails, listen to my favorite song, or think about what’s for dinner. Panic wants to creep in, but its seduction doesn’t work anymore. I can let it go. [Eighteen years ago] today, more than 3,000 people died and more than 6,000 were injured. Thousands more survived but were forever changed—myself among them. But today, I’m finally able to move on. I’ve learned the best way to work through my fear is simply to stay still. No more reaching, no more fighting. And no more running.

I have shared my story with the world.

In many ways, After 9/11 is the story of an entire generation growing up in the aftermath of America’s darkest day. It is the story of a group of children who directly survived September 11th, 2001, and bore its invisible scars for the rest of their lives. And, for one young woman, it is the story of a survivor who, after witnessing the end, got to make a new beginning.

 

The events and experiences that are now common knowledge to everyone were a very real part of Helaina’s life, and are still as vivid in her memory today: the sickening thud of falling bodies hitting cars, the crumbling towers, running for her life as she tried to get home, her universe engulfed literally in a cloud. Hundreds, including Helaina, were stranded in the neighborhood, also just blocks from the fiery remains of the Towers, without phones or electricity or anyone to help. For fear of subsequent attacks, not to mention the toxic substances in the air, everyone was urged to stay inside their debris-filled apartments.

 

Helvaina’s page

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Thank you for reading. What’s your experience or memory of 9/11?

Comment below.

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Woman Wednesday: Helen

*Note: Woman Wednesday is a part of our blog. Each Woman Wednesday post will feature a woman who would like to share information in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other women. Comments are welcome below.        


Q and A with Helen, Phoenix, Arizona

“Cherish every moment with loved ones as much as possible and also go for the dreams, feel through the fears, and make moves anyways.”

 

Q: What are you passionate about?

A: Great question! I am most passionate about the inspirations all around us and through us in this life experience. I’ve come to a point in my life that it doesn’t matter where I’m physically at, whether that be at home, at work, at a business event, in traffic, at a social event, etc; that I have the opportunity to inspire others through pure gratefulness of being alive in that moment. The thing that most ignites my passion is music. When I hear music, my heart gets excited and my body just wants to move. I often remind myself of pain and suffering around the world and of my own trials and tribulations to keep me humbled and grateful to keep moving forward. I’m consistently working on creative projects simultaneously that can inspire people from all walks of life to keep moving forward themselves.

 

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Click here to watch her awesome video!

 

The passion has always been in me since I was a kid. I foresaw myself as a teacher of some kind one day, I just didn’t know what kind. It’s been an amazing ride to see the visualizations from childhood come true throughout the last ten years. I have been public speaking since 2008 and in 2018, I became an international author of my book, Nothing Sexier Than Freedom. I have two businesses, Sexy Freedom LLC and The Wild Movement LLC, which I co-own with my business partner, Sara Brooke Wolf. I’m also the host of my podcast, Sexy Freedom Media Podcast which is on 8 platforms, including Spotify and iTunes and is on it’s second year.

 

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Click here for video.

It’s crazy to think all of these were ideas or suggestions I’d heard to “try out” and then I did and that’s how it all came into existence. Currently, Sara and I are only weeks away from leading our fourth retreat, Wild Woman Alaska and only months away from leading our first co-ed all inclusive Wild Movement Mexico Retreat.

Q: What were your younger years like?

A: I think the best way to describe my younger years is to say that it was unpredictable. My mom was a free spirit, a gypsy woman, a dreamer, and a fighter. She raised five kids on her own when she fled my abusive dad. My dad was a drinker, party animal, very strict, but also a teacher in his own way. Although there was much suffering and pain in my childhood, both my mom and dad played a vital role in my belief system. I dropped out of high school, got married, and had a baby. I eventually realized how important school was and got my diploma. My education really came from my love for books. Self-learning and self-study have been my education for life. The first time I ever finished a program from beginning to end without dropping out was Yoga Teacher Training in 2015. Yoga definitely was the tipping point for me. I was already in the process of writing my book and even included a whole chapter of the challenges I faced while in the program. I have now combined my personal experiences, rituals, and yoga practices by leading retreats in tribal yoga, warrior awakening, and self-development.

 

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Click here for second video. 

 

Q: What is something valuable you’ve learned that you’d like others to know? 

A: I’ve learned that everyone has their shit. Everyone has an ego. Everyone has intentions, desires, and choices. It was a valuable lesson to suffer because it taught me how to be truly thankful for love around me and how easily it can be taken away. Therefore, cherish every moment with loved ones as much as possible and also go for the dreams, feel through the fears, and make moves anyways.

 

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My full story is written in my book, Nothing Sexier Than Freedom. I hope it continues to inspire as it has been, for people to live courageously sexy, wild, and free.

 

Q: What does feminism mean to you? 

A: I think the best way to explain what feminism means to me is more in visual action than in words and the best visual I can give is my mother. She was molested, she was beaten, she was a single mother of five kids, though she fell, she got back up and kept moving forward. Two years ago, my only brother took his life and I watched my mother take the biggest heartbreak of her life. Once again, though she fall, she got back up- this time on her Harley Davidson bike, at 60 years young, she rides long distance into the wind as the wild free gypsy spirit she has always been. She is courageously uplifted, self motivated, and determined to live her life the way she chooses no matter what anyone has to say about it. To me, my mother is and has always encompassed what feminism means—freedom.

 

 

For more information about me:
Helen Edwards, International Author & Entrepreneur
Book Available on Amazon & Barnes N Nobles

 

Connect with me! I’d love to chat with you! 

Comment below!

Woman Wednesday: Steph

*Note: Woman Wednesday is a part of our blog. Each Woman Wednesday post will feature a woman who would like to share information in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other women. Comments are welcome below.


“I want others to know that it’s OK to do more than one thing. People thought I was crazy in college for playing more than one sport, and people think I am crazy now for having three jobs. I love what I do, and I enjoy all of it. If you can find a healthy balance, do everything. Be a jack of all trades. Know a little bit about all things.” 

Q and A with Steph, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

 

Q: What are you passionate about? 

 

A: It’s difficult for me to identify just one thing that I am passionate about. To start, my full time job is being a high school math teacher. I work in a small alternative school, and I find joy in encouraging my students and helping them to be comfortable and successful in a modified school setting. It’s challenging, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. There is nothing better than seeing a student succeed when others thought they wouldn’t.

Another passion that I put a majority of my time into is coaching. I am an assistant coach for a cross country team and a lacrosse team. I was a 3 sport athlete in college, so athletics are something that keep me driven and focused. I love being able to share my love of sports with others and helping them to learn life lessons through them.
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Lastly, but certainly not least, is my passion for photography and videography. I, along with my fiance, run a small production company called Ollie Productions. When we first met, we discovered that we had serious overlapping loves for the arts and most things dealing with visual design. It was inevitable that a business would be formed between our skill sets and our shared joy of working with people. Our business is something that we love working on together and have found success in. We have the opportunity to help people promote businesses, capture weddings, and simply create.
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Q: What were your younger years like? 

 

A: I was very active growing up. I was always doing something. My parents and family were very supportive of this (driving me everywhere and bringing me wherever I needed to go). I believe that this formed who I am now. I love to be busy, and if I am not working or working out, I am planning my next move. Something that impacted me more growing up than I ever thought, was running cross country. It taught me that I was powerful in my own unique ways and that literally anything is possible if you put in enough work and effort. I understood that being successful is painful. There are sacrifices that need to be made, but it is possible. Growing a business with my fiance has not been easy, but putting in those extra hours and finding the time to plan our success has made it a fast growing endeavor.  Most of my passions showed in me at an early age. Sports were an everyday thing that I loved to do, teaching was something that everyone else saw in me well before I saw it in myself, and my first camera as a kid pushed me to want to capture every moment in the way I saw it.

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Q: What is something valuable you’ve learned that you’d like others to know? 

A: There are two things that I think are important for everyone to know. Teaching has taught me an immense amount of patience. You truly have no idea what any person is going through or what their story is, so be patient and take everything with a grain of salt. I think it is important to remember that we are all different, and it’s important to learn as much as you can about others in order to be the best for them and yourself. The second thing is that you are more powerful than you think and more prepared than you know. If someone asks you to do something or be somewhere, it is because they believe in you. Believe in yourself, and everyone else will as well.

Q: What would you like others to learn from your story? 

A: I want others to know that it’s OK to do more than one thing. People thought I was crazy in college for playing more than one sport, and people think I am crazy now for having three jobs. I love what I do, and I enjoy all of it. If you can find a healthy balance, do everything. Be a jack of all trades. Know a little bit about all things.

Q: What does feminism mean to you? 
A: Feminism to me is a broad and encompassing word. To me, it means empowering others and yourself to be our best in whatever situation. It means being kind and compassionate and loving, but also strong and willful and driven. To me, feminism means seeing where there are few females and asking why. It is being inquisitive and looking for changes where possible and wondering how if it’s impossible.
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