Peoria Journal Star
September 11, 2006
Memorials may help families cope
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The memorials and other special
programs observing the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks may help those who are still wrestling with the
"One of the things that helps people recover is to feel
understood," said disaster psychiatrist Edward Kantor of the
University of Virginia School of Medicine. "If people are not
paying attention . . . it could have an impact in terms of if you
feel connected or not."
That's especially true in the case of those who lost loved ones
at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, which are usually
overshadowed in the news by the World Trade Center attacks, which
killed far more people and destroyed iconic towers.
". . . Sometimes I wonder if they've forgotten there were lives
lost in three different spots," said Patricia Grooss-Getzfred,
formerly of Morton, whose husband died at the Pentagon that day.
Most people who live through disasters recover fully after
going through the grieving process, Kantor said. Only a small
percentage are affected by post-traumatic stress disorder or
depression, which affects their ability to function.
Disaster psychiatrists are recognizing that there isn't a
one-size-fits-all treatment program.
Sept. 11: Five Years Later
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know what you think. Check in each day to share your
thoughts on remembering Sept. 11.
"The reactions tend to be very individual. No two people
respond the same way," Kantor said. "Some people do better with
support from their church. Other people follow a psychotherapy
model and want to talk about it. Others who are pushed to talk
develop more symptoms and get worse."
Because the Sept. 11 attacks were broadcast repeatedly
throughout the world, a large number of people, even television
viewers, were affected.
Yet that coverage also brought wide support for the survivors
and the acknowledgment that "it's OK to feel bad," which is key to
recovery, said Kantor, who is a co-author of the recently released
"Psychological First Aid Field Operations Guide," approved by the
U.S. Surgeon General's Office.
"Every disaster is unique, and we try to learn from one and
then extrapolate it to the next. Each time, we find there are
characteristics that we didn't expect, or things or nuances that
make it a little bit different," he said.
Since 9-11, disaster psychiatry experts have rejected the once
commonly used technique of debriefing, in which people are
encouraged to recount in detail their experiences. After the
terrorist attacks, debriefing specialists were sent to New York
City to encourage firefighters and police officers to recount
their experiences in an effort to prevent PTSD.
"As evidence evolved, we learned that some people are actually
harmed by that," Kantor said.
Dori Meinert can be reached at (202) 737-7686 or firstname.lastname@example.org.