The emotional and psychological effects of this were profound. The American Journal of Epidemiology reported that over 95% of the evacuees of the World Trade displayed at least one symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 15% of survivors screened positive for PTSD three years after the disaster. A research study by the Century Foundation following the 9/11 terrorist attack found that 14% of all New York City residents exhibited symptoms associated with diagnoses of PTSD, depression, or both. Even more significantly, 18% of children living in NYC experienced severe PTSD reactions in the months following the attacks; 66% had moderate reactions.
The psychological effect of the attacks extended far beyond the New York area. In a nationwide survey conducted in the days following the attacks, 90% of adults reported that they were experiencing at least one symptom of mental stress. Unfortunately, the nation’s mental health community was ill prepared to assist in easing a nation's psychological strain. Additionally, many individuals who could have benefited from mental health treatment did not seek it out. The worst news is that he researchers concluded that our mental health system still remains largely unprepared for the psychological consequences of national disasters.
Trying to Make Sense of the Senseless
There are four emotionally positive lessons that all Americans should have learned from that tragic day.
- Heroes can be anyone; police officers, firefighters, flight attendants, soldiers, co-workers, volunteers, or even strangers on the street. Americans are generous with their courage; we are surrounded by heroes. Anyone can be a hero.
- Nationally, we are at our best when times are at their worst. Americans came together in this time of need.
- Life is fragile; it can be lost in a heartbeat. What we have experienced as a consequence of 9/11 is to remember to live each day fully.
- Community involvement and service are essential components of our American society. September 11 has been designated a National Day of Service and Remembrance. All Americans are encouraged to participate in service projects in their community in honor of 9/11.
To All the First Responders of 9/11
One of the first lessons I learned when I started riding as a psychiatric nurse with law enforcement is that first responders run into dangerous situations, while everyone else runs out. 343 firefighters and 72 federal, state and local law enforcement officers died doing exactly that 10 years ago.
I have worked with several survivors of the worst terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil. They were all grieving. They were also all grateful to all the first responders who gave their lives to protect them/their loved ones, as well as to all the first responders who lived to help them.
The following open letter was written anonymously, but signed by People of the United States of America.
Dear Fellow American:
“Thank you for your efforts. September 11, 2001 was a difficult day for this country. We have had many difficult days in our history and most of them have made this country stronger and more resilient. These United States are built on strength, wisdom and a burning desire for freedom.
We thank the first minute man that sacrificed his life to foster an idea and new way of life. To the unfortunates that fought against their brothers and fathers during the War Between the States, we feel your pain. To those that took to the skies and ships following the attack at Pearl Harbor, we are thankful. To those that have gone forward into conflicts amidst ongoing debate. While many argued the merits, you did not hesitate. To the many that have served in times of peace, your courage has touched us. To those who help defend the ideals and principles of liberty and justice, we are inspired. Lastly, to those that gave their lives in war or conflict, we honor your ultimate sacrifice. You have awed us.
We are a nation of many. We are of many religions, backgrounds and colors. We have different wants, different goals and different views. Whatever we are and whatever we may achieve, we could not do it without you. We humbly go forth and strive to keep this country free to follow the ideals that you died to protect. We are a grateful nation.”
“People of the United States of America”
About The Author:
Pamela Kulbarsh, RN, BSW has been a psychiatric nurse for over 25 years. She has worked with law enforcement in crisis intervention for the past ten years. She has worked in patrol with officers and deputies as a member of San Diego's Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) and at the Pima County Detention Center in Tucson. Pam has been a frequent guest speaker related to psychiatric emergencies and has published articles in both law enforcement and nursing magazines.