Blazers reflect on terrorist attacks

Sept. 29, 2004, midnight | By John Silberholz | 19 years, 8 months ago

Mixed reactions to tragic events

A plume of acrid smoke billows skyward from a monstrous tear in the World Trade Center, signaling the premature death of thousands. A gaping hole and a collapsed school roof mark the tomb of hundreds of Russians, many of them children, who are victims of just one in a series of massive terrorist attacks spanning the globe.

It is difficult to escape the graphic images and descriptions of these brutal murders, which have filled television screens and newspaper headlines worldwide and triggered a range of psychological reactions. The Blair community, though hundreds of miles from the World Trade Center and over ten from the Pentagon, also feels the aftershocks of these terrorist attacks and has reacted diversely, either by expressing extreme reactions or by displaying little emotion at all.

Sept. 11 from a distance

This past month marked the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Emotions toward the disaster have generally become more muted with the passage of time, and for many, a tragedy which once elicited intense sorrow and anger now evokes quiet sympathy for the victims and a feeling of detachedness from the attacks themselves.

According to an informal Silver Chips survey of 100 students on Sept. 14, 24 percent of students still consider themselves greatly impacted by the Sept. 11 attacks, while the more recent Russian hostage situation, in which terrorists killed hundreds of schoolchildren, deeply affects nine percent.

Former President of the American Psychological Association (APA) Frank Farley explains that this apparent lack of impact is normal, especially for students distant from attacks. "It's understandable that somebody in a high school that's far removed from terrorism won't have huge feelings towards [the terrorism]," he says. "Human beings are innately resistant. Unless someone had someone directly related to a terrorist attack, they won't have a permanent problem."

Some Blazers, like junior Barun Aryal, don't consider themselves at all affected by the Sept. 11 attacks. "As a nation, I think America was affected, but I don't feel any personal effects from the attacks," says Aryal. "I don't have anyone in New York; I don't have anyone in the Pentagon. It just seems distant."

The pain remains

Many students, however, were hit hard by Sept. 11's tragic events, even if they knew nobody in the World Trade Center or Pentagon.

Junior Maykel Vasquez describes his pain and increased awareness of terrorist threats following the attacks. "I was really shocked and hurt when I saw the people falling [and] the planes flying [into buildings]. I feel much more precarious after the attacks and feel more danger to myself," he says.

Even though most Blazers were not directly linked to the Russian hostage situation, many were stunned by the bombings. "I was shocked. I was really amazed that people could kill kids like that," says sophomore Senay Tekle.

While many students like Vasquez and Tekle initially felt great emotional repercussions from Sept. 11 but were able to resume their normal lives, Farley explains that, rarely, others feel the aftereffects of terrorist attacks much more acutely. "Some kids are going to have huge problems," he explains. "Some high schoolers may be worried that there are terrorists here. If it gets really bad, they might say, 'I don't want to go to school.'"

Students aren't the only ones deeply affected by the terrorist attacks. Social Studies Teacher Amy Thomas remembers the pain and confusion that she felt as she witnessed the events of Sept. 11 from her home in New York City. "It was upsetting and surreal," she says. "I didn't really believe it at first. Who would do that? Why would that have to happen? We were shocked."

There are still emotionally affected Americans three years after Sept. 11, but the number of patients receiving psychiatric care because of a terrorist attack can't be quantified due to confidentiality concerns, according to the APA. As a result, the true scope of the lasting psychological damage caused by terrorist attacks nationwide is largely undocumented.

Though specific numbers about the disorders suffered do not exist, those who simply watch televised news of a terrorist event may develop a Critical Incident Stress Reaction (CISR), in which the viewer experiences slight to moderate emotional and physical distress, according to psychologist and author Terence Gorski. Infrequently, viewers develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a serious psychological condition requiring counseling or medication.

Though reactions to all terrorist attacks, including the Sept. 11 assaults, have varied, there is one contention with which few Americans disagree. "After 9/11, our nation was the strongest it had ever been," says Thomas. "While it was horrible, the attack really brought us together as a nation."


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John Silberholz. The Chips PRODMAN (and editoral board member), John enjoys basketball, tennis and biking, looks forward to yet another year on Chips. Among other things, he enjoys climbing trees (even though he has a weird tendancy of falling off of them), biking like crazy, playing basketball, … More »

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