The September 11 2001 attacks and the Hurricane Katrina disaster have been among the world’s deadliest disasters that the human population has experienced in the last century. These disasters have been grave in the sense that their impact has had tremendous negative effects on not only the affected population but also the entire world. Their impact ranges from thousands of deaths to destruction of billions worth of property; from long-lived psychological and health complications to strained political relations between states. The two disasters are both natural and man-made disasters. Political and geographical reasons/ explanations have thus been used to describe/ explain the causes of the disasters. This paper will evaluate the psychological impact of each disaster on those affected, the manner in which various state and non-state agencies handled these impacts and the role played by the media in the recovery from psychological trauma for the victims.
Summary of the September 11 2001 Attacks and the Hurricane Katrina Disaster
The September 11 2001 Attacks
This was a man-made calamity on September 11, 2001 in which terror attacks occurred on the soil of the United States of America. These attacks were a series of well-planned and co-ordinated attacks that were directed by the Islamist terrorist group-the Al Qaeda on the United States Government. They were launched in New York City and the Washington D.C on the 11th day of September 2001 (Robert A. (2005). The Al Qaeda planned the entire disaster by hijacking four passenger airliners two of which crashed in the World Trade Centre Complex in New York City.
A third plane crashed in the Pentagon (United States Department of Defense) and a fourth plane targeted at Washington D.C crashing in a field after a futile attempt. (Robert A. (2005). The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks had a terrible impact resulting in the deaths of 19 hijackers and 2,977 victims. It is estimated that 55 military personnel also perished from the Pentagon attacks with majority of the victims being civilians. The deaths resulted from the impacts of the crash, smoke inhalation and panic falls from the tall towers to evade the billowing smoke and flames. In addition, it was impossible for most of those around the towers to escape to safer grounds thus perishing alongside.
The damages caused estimated to be worth millions of US dollars. These included the twin towers and other buildings surrounding it such as St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church , the Deutsche Bank Building, and the Marriott Hotel alongside others. In addition, the Pentagon building which housed the United States Department of Defense was terribly damaged. This was a huge blow to the United States’ economy. (James 2002). In addition, numerous health repercussions have arisen from the attacks with a number of victims succumbing to the extremely toxic air pollution caused by the smoke and dust. A number of health complications have also been witnessed alongside the psychological impacts on the surviving victims, their friends and relatives.
The Hurricane Katrina Disaster
This was a natural disaster considered one of the deadliest natural disasters of its time. It was caused by the Atlantic tropical cyclone. It is one of the deadliest hurricanes in the history of America. It is considered the sixth strongest overall of the recorded hurricanes. Hurricane Katrina is also considered the most costly natural disaster owing to the number of casualties and the million dollar worth of properties destroyed. It occurred on the August of 2005. It was a series of very strong hurricanes that developed over the Bahamas, crossed to Southern Florida, over the Gulf water then finally to Louisiana. On its destruction course, it caused heavy flooding and swept boats, cars, buildings/ homes, trees and humans alongside. It is estimated that the waters from the ocean reached between (10–19 km) from the beach. A significant area of the states of New Orleans and Louisiana suffered extreme flooding due to several hours of storm with the floods lingering for weeks thereafter. (Brown, 2005)
It consequently led to a number of deaths, estimated to be at least 1,833 people dying in the hurricane and subsequent floods. The highest number of deaths was reported in the two states of New Orleans and Louisiana due to the greatest storm and extreme flooding In addition, it caused destruction of homes and property worth millions of dollars. Thousands of victims were rendered homeless with a number suffering from health and psychological complications. The states affected included: the state of Mississippi, New Orleans, Florida, Louisiana, Southeast United States and Canada. The victims got assistance from both the state and non-state agencies although a number still experience psychological complications. (Brown, 2005)
Psychological Symptoms and Complications of the Disasters’ Victims
Psychological Symptoms from the September 11 2001 Attacks
Terrorist attacks have a number of mental effects on victims and communities affected. It is considered that after the September 11 attacks, majority of the survivors and the victims received psychological care. Thousands of people were killed and scores injured. In addition, millions who were friends and families of the victims were left behind to deal with the bitter truth of losing loved ones and the horrific trauma of the ill-fated attack. Many of the survivors were left to struggle with the psychological aftermaths. Notably, an army of counselors and mental health experts have been on the forefront in trying to help the victims and their friends and families, recover and grow from after the traumatic incident. Other categories included to be suffering from the psychological trauma include firefighters, the military personnel and the police among others.
The direct victims who survived the September 11 terrorist attacks suffered the most psychologically. Most of the victims and the communities have had short-lived mental impacts with a few experiencing long-term mental effects. The most common psychological symptoms in victims include stress/ depression, and trauma. A report by the New York Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) indicated the various symptoms of the September 11, 2001 victims and the affected population. They found out widespread psychological and emotional effects in individuals from various states affected by the terror attack. The statistics by BRFSS demonstrated the various symptoms portrayed by the victims and affected individuals in one way or another.
From the participants in the survey, approximately half the respondents participated in community memorial services with about 13% attending a funeral or memorial service for a relative or an acquaintance. Moreover, nearly half are reported to be having anger problems related to the effects of the attacks. A significant number of the respondents confessed to be smokers and alcohol drinkers due to the terror attack related stress. Notably though is that the impact of the attacks varied by age, sex, race and educational level among other factors. (BRFSS Report) The findings of this report documented the widespread emotional and psychological effects of the terror attack in which stress/depression was a major symptom of mental breakdown. Majority of the victims engaged in stress relieving habits such as smoking and taking alcohol in a bid to contain the stress within.
In addition, the terror attack survivors showed signs of neurological disorders and trauma. Most of these symptoms were seen to be evident weeks after the terror attacks. The survivors who survived the traumatic injuries demonstrated psychiatric disorder symptoms such as anxiety, unexpected headaches and mood disorders. (Armour S. 2006). It should be noted that these were symptoms alongside the physical injuries on victims carried along after the attacks.
Psychological Symptoms from the Hurricane Katrina Disaster
The Hurricane Katrina disaster attracted thousands of deaths and scores of casualties. It further left behind painful mental injuries on the survivors and the community around. The psychological damage that was caused by the Katrina disaster lasted months with victims undergoing hard times mentally. Several studies have focused on the psychological impact of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
The psychological symptoms notably vary with demographic variables such as age and sex; other variables such as educational background and race have also influenced the impact and duration of the mental/ psychological injuries. Data relating to the Hurricane Katrina disaster effects indicate that majority of the hurricane’s victim suffered acute stress disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The rates of post-traumatic stress disorder in the affected population/ victims were seen to be high during the first weeks of the disaster but sharply as weeks went by, the PTSD in the victims declined sharply. (Kullgren, G. (2001).
In essence, the victims of both disasters and the affected communities suffered psychological injuries. Most of them portrayed symptoms associated with the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which included anxiety, depression, insomnia, emotional numbing and drug abuse among other symptoms. The symptoms however vary with the various factors indicated above such as age, sex, race and educational level. The worst symptoms however included drug abuse depression and general stress.
Resource Used in Assisting the Disaster Victims
The two disasters; the September 11 2001 attacks and the Hurricane Katrina disaster affected various individuals, organizations, the American government and the world at large. The also had tremendous impact on the political, social and economic fabric of the American population. In response to the attacks, a number of individuals and organizations in collaboration with the American government provided technical, moral, financial, health and expert assistance in treating the victims and the affected communities. The American Red cross for instance provided a substantial support in treating and counseling the disaster victims. In addition, a number of non-state organizations further provided recovery counseling services to the victims and the affected communities.
Resources Used in Assisting the September 11, 2001
The September 11, 2001 terror attack was quite catastrophic. The American government in collaboration with other stakeholders such as the American Red Cross provided medical assistance and counseling to the victims on the ground. Statistics indicate that from the Emergency Relief Fund, the American Red Cross granted cheques totaling 54.3 million dollars to approximately 2,776 families (Heilprin, J. 2003). The American Red Cross further provided various hospitals with blood from their blood banks. Furthermore, it aided in the preparation of medical records of the various patients thereafter referring certain cases to mental health attentions. Precisely, statistics indicate 172,612 cases were referred to mental health contact due to the nature of their medical case. The American Red Cross also steered collection and distribution of emergency supplies from volunteers and well wishers
In addition, charities and various relief agencies within and outside America raised over 657 million dollars in a short span of three weeks. These went directly to assist the immediate survivors and their respective families. It was an act of solidarity and nationhood since Americans stood united and offered the so much needed support to the terror attack victims. (Heilprin, J. 2003).
Moreover, the American government, the most affected, offered monetary, health and moral assistance to the victims and the nation at large. Through the congress, a federal fund for victims and the airline industry was established with a huge budget of approximately seven billion dollars being allotted to the victims and their respective families. Various government departments were also on the forefront of curbing the terror attack. The military, the police, the fire department, the medical practitioners, psychologists and other relevant professions from the American government were committed in their quest of saving lives and property from the terror acts. Furthermore, a number of memorial funds and other charitable drives were steered by the USA government with some funds coming from individuals with others from organizations.
Resources Used in Assisting the Hurricane Katrina Disaster Victims
The Katrina disaster was a natural calamity which claimed many lives. It was a national disaster which attracted the attention of the entire world. Various governments offered their support to the American government in a bid to assist the Hurricane’s victims. In the Hurricane Katrina disaster, federal government agencies such as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), non-governmental organizations, local level agencies and private individuals responded to the disaster in their respective potential/ capacities. The National Disaster Medical System for instance had activated all medical teams around America. (Brown A. 2005)
The US Government also played a crucial role in relief since it was the most affected politically. Through the Congress, the government approved approximately 51.8 billion dollars for relief purposes. Although monetary donations fell below the expected the relief needs, a number of countries provided their support towards the US government through grants and donations for the same purpose. These included Canada, France, United Kingdom and Germany. The military also played a crucial role through providing relief services and assistance for the Hurricane victims for several weeks by airlifting survivors to dry places. Medical and food supplies were also airlifted to the affected areas by the military. There were also thousands of volunteers also engaged in providing assistance to the affected victims in different ways such as erecting tents, distributing relief food among other necessities.
Long Term Impacts of the Two Disasters on Victims, Rescue Workers and Children
The two disasters on the US have had long lasting impacts on the victims, rescue workers and most delicately, the children. The traumas from these disasters have affected the victims and rescue workers. The most affected group with trauma is the children. Thousands of victims are haunted by the demons of the September 11 terror attacks and the Katrina Hurricane. The victims and the rescue workers do not suffer from the mental injuries alone but also a number of physical disabilities and a number of health complications such as the risk of cancer, chest complications and long term post-traumatic stress disorder. Among the permanent health complications include heart disease and cancer. The general health status of the victims and the rescue workers has been a poor one due to the toxic elements emitted from the smoke and flames as is the case with the terror attacks. In the Hurricane disaster, most victims/ survivors have adverse psychiatric disorders.
Worth noting is that the mental health of direct victims is worse since the tragic events keep playing in their memories as long as they exist. Majority suffer the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) mentioned earlier due to their direct involvement in either the terror attacks or the Hurricane calamity. The rescue workers on the other hand, though not directly involved in the attacks, also experienced horrific sights and situations during the rescue missions. These included terrible and bloody sites of casualties and dead bodies. These horrific sights have lingered in the memories of such workers and have consequently had a terrible effect of causing long term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as is the case with direct victims. (DE Salvo, 2007). A number of direct victims have also suffered permanent disabilities out of the events surrounding the disasters and the rescue missions.
Children have had the worst (PTSD) due to their tenderness in age. Most of the affected children directly or indirectly were at a growing stage and the disasters have had a negative impact on their psychology. Children who lost their parents or had their parents handicapped in one way or the other had a rough time absorbing the harsh new realities. Consequently, some have broken down resorting to substance abuse and other social evils as consolations. (Armour, S. 2006).
The Role of Media in Media in the September 11 2001 Attacks and the Hurricane Katrina Disaster
The media has played a major role in the broadcasting the ill-fated terror attacks and the Hurricane Katrina disaster. By doing so, the media has either aggravated the effects of the disasters on the victims or helped in healing the psychological traumas. In the case of the September 11 2001 attacks, the media was used as a propaganda tool by various government opponents who had a plan of downplaying the government’s capability to handle its defense objective. This in effect worsened the psychological status of the victims who were made to perceive the government negatively. (Robert A. 2005). On the other hand, the media played a positive role in the Hurricane Katrina’s disaster since it provided an avenue for solidarity of providing relief for the flood victims. The media also supported a number of charitable activities in which case helped to contain the calamity. (Brown A. 2005). In this case, the media helped in improving the psychological state of the victims as it provided the moral support the victims needed. In addition, it provided the victims with a sense of protection since the nation and other countries supported America during the disaster.
- Pape, Robert A. (2005). Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. New York: Random House.
- Parrott, James (March 8, 2002). “The Employment Impact of the September 11 World Trade Center Attacks: Updated Estimates based on the Benchmarked Employment Data
- Brown, Aaron (August 29, 2005). “Hurricane Katrina Pummels Three States”
- Hurricane Season 2005: Facts and Figures”. American Red Cross
- Caldera, T., Palma, L., Penayo, U., & Kullgren, G.(2001). Psychological impact of the Hurricane Mitch in Nicaragua in a one year perspective. SocialPsychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, DeSalvo, K. B., Hyre, A. D., Ompad, D. C., Menke,A., Tynes, L. L., & Muntner, P. (2007). Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder in a New Orleanswork force following Hurricane Katrina. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine,
- Armour, Stephanie (June 25, 2006). “9/11 Health Troubles
- Heilprin, John (June 23, 2003). “White House edited EPA’s 9/11 reports
- Office of the President, The Federal Response toHurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned (Washington, DC:Office of the President, 2006).