Abduction of Innocence


...When the second tower was hit I knew that our nation had been forever changed.


In this post, I look at the first of the three points in the “After Shock.”

1) When you are handed an unexpected blow, a challenge you are forced to face, you need to also know that your life has forever changed.


 There is no more contemporary and universal example of this truth than that of September 11th. I’m going to use, however, the Greek myth The Abduction of Persephone to help me illustrate my point. Because we are very much like a Persephone in the time that follows a shattering experience. We’re like her mother Demeter, goddess of the harvest too but we’ll talk about her in the next post.



Artwork by Rachel Z. Cornell

Artwork by Rachel Z. Cornell

In this piece of art a parallel between the myth and symbolism of Persephone and the zeitgeist of a nation after a trauma is drawn. According to Greek Mythology, Persephone lived a carefree and protected youth, until the earth opened and Hades, god of the underworld, abducted her. Zeus, Persephone’s father, and Demeter, her mother, eventually negotiated their daughter’s return. Persephone, however, once having experienced the horrors of her abduction, was forever changed.


There’s a mirror in the top portion of this work of art because like Persephone, we as a nation, lost our carefree and protected youth. Our innocence lay in the dust, emotional rubble and confusion of September 11th. There was no way that we could rebuild what had been brought down.


 Why is this important? Why do I keep drilling this point?  Because once something has been broken, it can not be rebuilt.  If you use all your energy working to rebuild, you are working on an imposable task and you will remain stuck and being stuck hurts really bad. That’s why this is important. 


I don’t want you to stay stuck.  Stuck can look like PTSD.  It can look like hyper doing, addiction and/or depression. 

Is there reason why some people are determined to rebuild and in so doing remain stuck? Yes, because they are afraid to grieve, the important second step in the “After Shock.” 

 Staying stuck is “constipated grief” 



13 responses to “Abduction of Innocence

  1. Rachel,
    Interesting comparisons. What word would you choose rather than “rebuild”? What is more accurate?

  2. That’s deep and very well said, Rachel. When it comes to grief, there’s no evading it without a high payment. You cannot put it down until you’ve first picked it up. Thank you for saying it in this new way.

  3. What a beautiful work you’ve created! Any way to make it bigger?

  4. GREAT question Sharon,
    I am hunting for a better word. I’ve played with design your life, new growth, birthing…non have rang true yet. Might need to coin a word… “Chaptering” maybe? Have any suggestions?

  5. Thank you Barbara. If you want to see the work larger. Click on it once. Then you can click on it again to make it bigger still.

    There are details that will still be hard to see. Here’s some of my thinking when building the piece.

    Look closely and you’ll see a number of images layered one on top of the other in that main part of the piece.

    There’s a torch, a symbol of Demeter, goddess of the harvest and represented in this piece as our own Statue of Liberty. The eagle, an emblem for the United States, also represents Zeus, Persephone’s father and those two images are layered with an iconic image from September 11th.

    On the outside of the piece (can’t really see it in the photo) corn turns to pomegranate seeds. Corn representing the world Persephone’s mother is from and pomegranate’s are the fruit of the underworld.

    At the bottom of the piece then is a broken mirror, suggesting our collective shattered selves. Raped of her innocence, Persephone was forced to eat pomegranate seeds, making the fruit of the underworld her symbol. So along with the broken mirror are six seeds, representing the time she spent with Hades.

    I used an old photo mat to “frame” the experience and I burned the edges of the image, for all the reasons you might imagine.

  6. I should add that the piece itself has a lot of open space and is kind of bleek and minimal in it’s color tone and composition.

    I think this both gives the viewer space to think and also a bit of uneasiness.

    The eye would much rather see something more compositionaly tight and bright….And so would the “I” but that’s not always where we’re at.

    To stay with where I’m going with the posts: If you are willing to be with the uneasiness when it’s necessary, you’ll see all that is bright and sound much more easily too.

  7. Thank you for sharing, Rachel.

    A loved of mine fell with the towers on that day. It is still with me.

    My family and I have “chaptered” forward, but, as in any book of life, I re-read my favorite chapters from time to time.

    Your post helped me do that.

  8. Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom Rachel.

    My father died unexpectedly when I was 35.
    His death was a devastating shock. A friend of my husband’s, someone I really didn’t know very well, sent me a card with a very simple, yet profound statement. He said, as hard as it is, the only way over the grief was through it.

    It is so strange, but I think very much human nature, to think that if we ignore the grief we can just get over it and move on. Or that if we give into it, we won’t be able to handle it and it will shatter us. And yet, the only way to move on, is to really go in to it.

    Even knowing this, I have so much resistence to giving in to the feelings. And, I am always surprised that when I do follow it to the depths of the well, there is an unexpected gift, that is the sweetness that comes in the surrender to life.

  9. Ken,
    I thought this conversation might hit people very close to home. Thank you for being willing to talk about it.

    This is a good place for me to say that just because you have “chaptered forward” doesn’t mean that experiences of past chapters are not with and of you. What you “make of” what’s happened in your past is what creates you as you chapter forward.

    We’ll talk more about this in upcoming posts.

  10. Patricia,
    >>>the only way over the grief was through it.<<>> I have so much resistance to giving in to the feelings.<<<
    Ah resistance…As you know Patricia, and for those of you who don’t know, there’s a Queen in the art of dealing with resistance, her name is Barbara Sher. Look her up! http://geniuspress.com.

    Barbara is a New York Times Best Selling Author and in her book “I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What it Was” she has an exercise she calls “Jet Clarity” to help you lock on to that resistance. Brilliant stuff.

    You can find the book in any bookstore and I highly recommend it.

  11. This is an awesome posting, Rachel. Your references to Persephone, 9/11 and your art piece are very thought-provoking.

    Also a glimmer of hope that life will go on after a tragedy. Although it will be different, ultimately it may eventually be better in some ways.

  12. The collage is stunning, bleak around the edges and coming to a clear, still point in the center. It so exactly mirrors what you are writing about.

    As I take in the piece, I am thinking about how important it is to remain open, to mourn without fear of falling apart, to eschew self-protection, because it really doesn’t protect.

    I think that is implicit in what you are saying….letting the real way people have loved us be present without fear that missing them will cause us to fall apart.

    My favorite book after my mother died was “A Grief Observed” by CS Lewis. He condensed thousands of pages of anguished journaling into a slim book of 62 pages that recounted how his late-in-life 3-year marriage to a close friend dying of cancer completely upended his intellectualization of life and faith. I believe he said that that love was greater than all the writing he had devoted his life to, that all the writing of religious faith he so passionately did was nothing compared to loving an individual person…and yet at the end of the book he wrote of his acceptance that she was no longer here, that she had other work to do now. He was able to let go of her as she was and let something new be there in his heart.

    Hewing to that openness is quite a project. Your post makes me realize that I have been slacking off. What a wonderful way you have of expressing yourself, both visually and with words.

  13. You know there is another loss of innocence happening now in this credit meltdown. We’ve lived above our means as a nation for 20 years, consuming more than we produce. A lot of pain is coming down the pike that people are not ready for. Unrest, revolution, war all grow from the seed you describe, trying to get back what is gone forever. I believe it comes from seeking someone to blame rather than, as you so clearly state, accepting that change and awaiting the sweet juice of life that is the only reliable source of self-protection.

    I actually got an e-mail invitation to a “millionaires club” this morning that suggested I should be “ecstatic” and “transformational” all the time now that the economy is in trouble and if I send a check for……..they will show me how. OMG! I am blogging and writing about how to think about and have more money and your blog articulates the sound emotional core that I hope I can write about in terms of money, where there is so much hooey and BS being spread around.

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