I watched an old clip of the first Saturday Night Live episode to air after September 11, 2001 (three weeks later) and mused on how completely well done they did it.
It opened with Rudy Giuliani flanked by NYC Chief of Police and NYC Chief of Firefighters with a crowd of personnel behind them. They were solemn and sincere and the audience honored them profusely with a long stream of applause. Something everyone needed.
Major Giuliani spoke a chunk of heartfelt words, after which Paul Simon sang a heartfelt song, with his sweet voice and poetic lyrics.
Then Executive Producer Lorne Michaels came on stage. Giuliani essentially told him the show must go on as they are a NYC institution. Only at this point did the comedy begin with Michaels asking Giuliani “Can we be funny?” To which Giuliani replies “Why start now?” And everyone got to laugh.
People sometimes ask me “Is it ever inappropriate to laugh?” This scenario is the answer. Take whatever time is needed to honor the tragedy, and then and only then, let the laughter begin; for everyone needs the healing more than ever.
I attended my first program on Laughter Yoga just after 911. The leaders handled it well. They spoke of the timing and confessed that they considered cancelling the event but chose not to. It was something we all needed. For me it was tender timing to the start of this vocational journey of bringing more laughter into the world.