By Joe Tash
For the past 15 years, Ken Druck has helped grieving families move on with their lives. On Sunday, Sept. 11, he stood at a spot where the entire country’s grief was focused — the memorial park at “Ground Zero,” where New York City’s World Trade Center towers once touched the sky.
Druck and his girlfriend, Lisette Omoss, traveled to New York to meet with families of people who died in the Sept. 11 attacks, and Druck also delivered a talk on promoting resiliency at a “Day of Remembrance” event organized by the nonprofit group Voices of September 11. Keynote speakers at the event also included Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Druck, a Carmel Valley resident and founder of the Jenna Druck Center, also attended the ceremony on Sept. 11 marking the 10th anniversary of the attacks and the unveiling of the memorial park, which includes pools where the towers once stood, and low walls engraved with the victims’ names.
“I was feeling like I was in the presence of something so honorable that had been given to the families of those who were lost, including police and firefighters and first responders, and the overwhelming sense of love,” said Druck of the ceremony.
Druck was inspired to launch a nonprofit foundation dedicated to helping families through the bereavement process after his older daughter, Jenna, died in a 1996 bus crash while studying in India. The Jenna Druck Center offers support groups, grief education and other services for people whose loved ones have died. The center also has a program that offers mentoring and leadership training for teenage girls.
Over the years, Druck — who was trained as a psychologist but no longer practices — has been called to assist at numerous tragic events, from airline crashes to school shootings. In 2001, he received requests to help families of the Sept. 11 victims deal with their loss. Over the next four to five years, he traveled back to his native New York to meet with families, consult with the New York Fire Department and help set up programs for the bereaved.
He has also worked with North County residents and others from Southern California who lost relatives in the Sept. 11 attacks.
His approach, said Druck, is to deal with grief on a human level.
“Our orientation is to normalize and humanize grief,” he said. “Grief is a human, normal response to loving somebody and losing them.”
The Sept. 11 commemoration, he said, offered a bittersweet opportunity to reconnect with people he has worked with over the years, and also to experience the newly opened memorial in person.
He recalled one man who came up and hugged him, because an inspirational CD Druck had recorded about dealing with the loss of a loved one had helped the man deal with his own grief.
Druck said he spoke with Hillary Clinton, who along with her husband, President Bill Clinton, helped clear the way for Jenna Druck’s body to be transported back to the United States after her death.
Druck continues to serve on the board of the Jenna Druck Center and also run support groups and teach grief education classes. His for-profit business, Druck Enterprises, Inc., provides such services as executive coaching, organizational consulting and team-building support.
He said he is proud of the role the Jenna Druck Center has played in helping victims of the Sept. 11 tragedy, along with helping others dealing with the loss of friends or relatives.
“Our challenge as a community and a nation is trying to become more grief-literate. Our challenge going forward is to turn painful memories into expressions of love for what we’ve lost,” he said.
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