Kayla Bergeron, a 9/11 survivor, at the Special Equestrians of Georgia center in Alpharetta, Georgia

“Life is fragile. It can change in a second. I went from the dream job with a view of the Statue of Liberty on the 68th floor in the north tower. And it was taken away.”

“I guess I’m supposed to be lucky. I don’t think anybody was lucky that day, but at least I got some help. (There are) civilian survivors, people who just went to work that day and narrowly escaped. No one’s been in touch with them. Many of them haven’t even been diagnosed (with PTSD, addiction, etc.), and so the government has failed, failed the civilians. There’s no equity at all, and that’s what makes me angry. That’s why I’m speaking out for those reasons. The people need the help, and no one knows their names or anything like that. It’s a failure.”

I was undiagnosed for 17 years. I didn’t know what PTSD was, and as long as I stayed busy it was okay.”

“My case manager for the World Trade Center said I was doing individual therapy, and group therapy, and all that other stuff, but I need(ed) something else. So, I came out here very nervous, and the first day I was out here, I’m just petting one of the horses, and all of a sudden this horse just puts its head (on my shoulder). It just happened so fast, but all this I’ve been carrying, it went up in the air and dissipated.”

“When you have PTSD, your brain stays in high gear, and because I work at a fast pace, I didn’t know I had PTSD. It was 17 years before I got the diagnosis. And so all this stuff is about slowing the brain down.”

“It’s not about riding the horses. It’s about the bonds. I like to watch the relationships. There’s something very calming about it. I’m so grateful I met these folks. It’s changed my life. Positive, it’s really positive.”

Photo and interview by Basil Terhune as part of the Advanced Photojournalism course at the College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. 

 

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