Disaster Management in 9/11 Attacks and Hurricane Katrina
The United States has faced several catastrophic challenges over the last few years. While some have been orchestrated by acts of human beings, others have been natural. The man-made incidents include the 9/11 terrorist attacks, while natural calamities include such disasters like Hurricane Katrina. After these two incidents, different bodies took on their responsibilities to rescue the injured and the affected, while others were concerned in determining the way the incidents occurred to come up with ways to mitigate their effects in case they reoccurred. Some people have drawn criticism on these bodies ranging from their response and even managing the welfare of the victims after they were rescued. The victims suffered from psychological and physical injuries that required the various agencies assigned to look after them to help recuperate. This paper will evaluate the symptoms of the effects of the two incidents on their respective victims trying to determine the roles of the different agencies in helping the rescue teams, victims, and survivors.
The September 11 Attacks
The September 11 terrorist attack was a terror attack that was carried out by terrorist group Al Qaeda on New York and Washington (Alavosius, Houmanfar, & Nischal, 2005). It was carried out by 19 Al Qaeda terrorists who perished in the four different incidents, where over 3000 civilians lost their lives. During the well-orchestrated attacks, the terrorists hijacked four planes and flew them into buildings, which collapsed causing a lot of deaths. Two of the aforementioned planes flew into the World Trade Center in New York, where each of the two hit either side of the building, leading to its collapse. Two hours later other buildings that were near it destructed as well. The other plane hit the Pentagon, the building that housed the Department of Defense in Washington City. The fourth plane was crashed in an open field; it is believed that the passengers overpowered the terrorists and forced it to crash instead of hitting its destined target. The effects of the attacks were immense both economically and socially. Wall Street was closed until September 17th, while some of the affected airline travels were halted. In 2004, the Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for the attacks, which he had denied earlier (Alavosius, Houmanfar, & Nischal, 2005). He cited the reasons for the attack as the US support for Israel and US sending troops to the Middle East among other reasons. They all were centered around the involvement of the United States in the fight against terrorism. It could, therefore, be termed as a retaliatory attack.
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Hurricane Katrina is said to be one of the most severe and deadly storms that the US coast has experienced over the last century. It lasted 7 days between August 23rd and 30th, 2005. During landfall, it had sustained winds moving at a speed of about 125 miles per hour. Huricane had Category 3 intensity on Saffir-Simpson Scale (Weisler, Barbee, & Townsend, 2009). The devastating effects were felt throughout the central Gulf Coast with cities like Mobile, New Orleans, and Gulfport being the most affected. The storm had a pressure of about 920 mb, while its highest wind speed was 174 mph. The hurricane caused over 1800 deaths and about 1.5 million citizens were displaced. It also created a huge negative impact on the economic status of the regions it hit as well as the United States as a whole. Its destruction was estimated at over $100 billion with $31 billion being from insurance. Though not the strongest ever, it is said to have caused the most serious damage and destruction in the history of the United States. The oil industry in Katrina was severely affected in the end as well as travel and power infrastructures. The rescue team was blamed for its slow response, which eventually led to the resignation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown, as well as the Police Department Superintendent of New Orleans, Eddie Compass.
Hurricane Katrina victims showed the symptoms of psychological effects of the disaster. Stephens, Hamedani, Markus, Bergsieker, and Eloul (2009) assumed that about 33% of those who suffered from the hurricane had post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the main symptoms of the latter is that most of those who were displaced declined to go back to their original homes. This is a good indication that they have bad memories and do not wish to have any reminder of the occurrences of the day. In the study, it was determined that only half of the total displaced persons had returned to their homes several years after the disaster. This is a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom, it makes a person avoid the contact with anything that caused them suffering.
The increased number of overweight people after the disaster could spell psychological effects. In the study conducted by Stephens et al. (2009), they noted that there was a sharp increase in the number of overweight people in Katrina after the disaster. One of the psychological effects of PTSD is withdrawal from activities and general occurrences in life. Once someone withdraws from the activities in life, they are highly likely to experience poor physical health and dietary deficiencies that could be manifested by being overweight.
The distress levels between the people in the affected areas have risen significantly after the hurricane. Children could no longer play with their friends because a great number of the latter had been displaced. Moreover, some families decided not to return and left their properties for good. Experts warn that if the children are not carefully taken through therapies to forget about the ordeal, they might end up experiencing more traumas later in life (Weisler, Barbee, & Townsend, 2009).
Unlike the high number of survivors who experienced PTSD, the 9/11 attacks had significantly less psychological victims (Alavosius, Houmanfar, & Nischal, 2005). Those who were there manifested their stress. First, there still remain a large number of people who feel insecure and anxious about the state of security in the United States. This was determined after the study that was conducted in New York among students who were not directly affected by the attack. These people remain unsure about their security status and have often recoiled whenever there are threats of attack.
Since the incident, there have been a lot of negative comments about people of Arab origin. Discrimination was reported in many instances where people hold a view that the people of Arab origin were related to those who carried out the attacks. This shows that the fact that the Al Qaeda launched the attacks and killed many people still has a profound influence on everybody and people still have a grudge against the attackers. The people of Arab decent are the victims since the Americans cannot get to the real attackers. What is more, Americans have become very aggressive towards people of Arab origin and keep reporting that they suspect such people to be terrorists.
Since the attack, there have been a large number of films that have been released to try and appreciate all those who were involved in the rescue team, as well as calming down the people who perished in the attacks. These films have been sold in large numbers, which is an indication that people still have the aspect of terrorism in their minds, even if the attacks occurred years ago.
After 9/11, a large number of people were subjected to therapies and treatments that ensured their psychological safety. These therapies and continuous assessments are still ongoing, years after the attacks. This is an indication that a lot of people are still suffering, which has kept the systems going and trying to heal the people who were affected by the attacks (Alvarez & Hunt, 2005).
Resources Available to the Survivors and Rescue Workers
The world Trade Center Health Program
It was established by the federal government through the Zadroga Act of 2010. It was set up to help the responders, volunteers, and those who had helped the rescue and recovery teams in the clean-up after the attacks. The program also includes the survivors and those who were within the vicinity of the disaster area. It treats those people who have mental conditions that emanated from the attacks. Those eligible people receive treatment at no cost. Professionals would also monitor progress of their patients.
The 9/11 Healing and Remembrance Program
It was established to help the survivors as well as those who lost their loved ones. The program seeks to help its beneficiaries heal, even after the annual national remembrance events are held. While such events may open up wounds and bring suffering, the program seeks to console the victims and use such events to continue healing the wounds. This program is funded by the Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, and the Office of Justice Programs.
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund
It was created by an Act of Congress, System Stabilization Act, and the Air Transportation Safety (49 USC 40101). It was aimed at compensating the victims of the 9/11 attacks to discourage them from suing the airlines that were involved in the attacks (Alavosius, Houmanfar, & Nischal, 2005). Before the Hurricane Katrina, residents of the affected areas lived in poor conditions and had little access to healthcare. This situation worsened after the hurricane, where only less than 20% received professional treatment, even after the traumatic experience of the hurricane (Wang, et al, 2007).
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) introduced a grant to help in restoration of health among the victims of the hurricane. The grant, which amounted to $100 million, was supposed to provide primary care support to the victims as the larger Katrina population was under employed. This fund was distributed to 25 health organizations in New Orleans and was mainly sourced from the federal government. It was referred to as Primary Care Access and Stabilization Grant (PCASG) (Virginia, 2009).
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Long-Term Mental Effects of the Disasters on Survivors and Rescue Workers
The victims and rescue teams in these two disastrous incidents will have long lasting effects. The hurricane Katrina victims who survived had most or all their property destroyed. Most of these people were low income earners, and it will take a long time before they restore what they have lost. It will, therefore, have long-term effect, because their losses will discourage them to accumulate more wealth, as they might look at it negatively that they will ever manage to get back where they were before the disaster struck. Some lost family members who they depended on for survival, children lost their caregivers and mentors (Alvarez & Hunt, 2005). These losses that may never be recovered will torment them for a long time. Further, since most of these families were poor and could not afford therapies, they may never recover from the stress, and their lives would deteriorate all along.
After the 9/11 attacks, some studies show that the rescue teams were more affected than the survivors. These workers saw people in agony, witnessed injuries and deaths more than they could mentally handle. They may not have realized how immense their task was and how complicated it would later become, leaving them with an equally bigger task of fighting off trauma. Most of them have been diagnosed with PTSD, and the government introduced them to therapists to help them recover (Alvarez & Hunt, 2005). The general population was, however, not very helped by the government to recover as they sought for therapies privately. Further, for any of these workers who felt like they made a mistake during the rescue operation and someone lost their life, the rescue worker would be left with self-blame every time the disasters are revisited on media or during conversations. These two disasters are among the worst in the recent past, and it will be consistently used by politicians, rescue teams during training, policy makers among many others because they act as the reference point for the modern United States.
As a result of the incidents, experts have also highlighted that young adults might develop new trends of resentment and mistrust, geared towards both other people and the government (Alavosius, Houmanfar, & Nischal, 2005). Some of them may engage in risky behavior on their own and others may even turn to drugs to help them escape from difficult thoughts. They may even drop out of schools.
Such tendency is rather worrying. In both cases, there will be immense long-term consequences on the mental health and well-being of both the survivors and rescue workers. All of those who could not fight the trauma effectively lose concentration and develop a passive personality. Eventually, their general well-being would become worse-off and, eventually, it will be transmitted to their families.
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Effects of the Trauma on Children
Children are the main psychological victims of the two disasters. During hurricane Katrina, most residents were forced to run away from their homes where they had lived for years. Some never made it out of the storm and some of those who managed to get away refused to go back there. Children lost families, friends, homes, and most of the things they could remember (Alvarez & Hunt, 2005). This could have resulted in mental illnesses. Some experts warn that the latter could explode after some time. Some children have been declared as vulnerable to distress; therefore, parents and other caregivers have been tasked with ensuring that these children do not experience new incidents that could affect them mentally. By losing their play partners as well as parents, the stressed children face the danger of poor mental and social development. Some would retreat and fail to engage in activities that they are expected to participate. Further, some may develop a dislike to nature and weather patterns, especially with respect to oceans and winds. Overall, a withdrawal from the natural occurrences would be imminent amongst these children.
The stress experienced by parents and guardians may as well be transmitted to children. When the parents are mentally disturbed, they do not fully commit their time and mental awareness on their children. This would, eventually, lead to negligence and little care, thus, poor mental and social development.
The discrimination against people of Arab decent after the 9/11 attacks could have far reaching effects. Stress among the children who were directly affected is easily transmitted to their friends. Studies have shown that there have been a large number of children who have had stress, despite not being directly affected by the attacks. This shows that there has been transmission of stress as a result of empathy (Alvarez & Hunt, 2005). Eventually, disharmony amongst the children may have developed which creates a danger of increased hostility towards children of Arab origin. This would eventually lead to fights, discrimination, and injuries.
Role of Media
The media has had a dramatic impact on the psychological effects of the two incidents. Both were widely reported and follow-ups were made (Alvarez & Hunt, 2005). Coincidentally, the effects of the 9/11 attacks are not as immense as those during hurricane Katrina, a move that has seen people point fingers at the way the media reported it. First, those people who died from the 9/11 attacks were seen and portrayed as heroes. They were praised and their names written on epitaphs on the scene of their death. A lot of reports from the media insisting on the way the government and its agencies should ensure that there was little suffering from the victims after the incident were well broadcasted. About six months after the disaster, most of those workers who had been involved in the rescue operations had undergone therapies to reduce their chances of suffering from trauma. This was reported and ensured that the survivors and rescue operators felt recognized and, eventually, helped in healing of the experiences. The media, however, kept on repeating the story increasing the prevalence of the stress among the survivors (Alvarez & Hunt, 2005).
On the contrary, the media did not put a lot of emphasis on the Katrina victims (Virginia, 2009). While it was expected that there would be more psychological effects on the hurricane than on the 9/11 attacks due to the differences in their nature, the media did little to recognize the victims and survivors. Those affected by the hurricane were simply seen and taken as just survivors. There were few reports over the way the survivors should have been handled and the exercises to ensure reduced stress levels from the media were diminished. While they acknowledged the large number of people who lived with fear and stress, the media has up to date done significantly little to help the victims. In this case, the net effect of media was negative.
Generally, the two unfortunate disasters were widely reported in media. However, it showed imbalances on emphasis between the two cases. It also failed to have total commitment in helping the victims of both disasters heal of their psychological illnesses. Though on different magnitudes, the media failed to help the victims forget their ordeals, while, at the same time, increasing the remembrance of the same. Children and adults alike suffered from these reports, yet the media did little to mitigate the effects of their broadcasts.
The two disastrous incidents brought effects that may take a generation to completely eradicate. The institutions that are tasked with minimizing the effects of the disasters on the people should balance their actions so that both groups of victims would not feel underserved. Evidently, there was more media and responsive activity after the 9/11 attacks than after the hurricane Katrina disaster. This has led to criticism and insults hurled at the government that there is favoritism within the government towards its citizens. Such sentiments by minority groups are dangerous to national cohesion and integration. The Katrina residents feel ignored and the matters are made even worse by the fact that there have not been a lot of efforts from both the government and the non-governmental organizations in their fight to recover from their mental conditions.
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