by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
August 30, 2005
A SHOCK IS A SHOCK
ST SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - A shock is a shock. Your finger in a light socket, that's a shock. A person with a backpack blows himself up in front of your eyes, that's a shock. Are they the same? Well, in the sense that neither can be undone, they're the same. You can resolve never to put your finger in a socket again but the human being trained to sacrifice himself for a cause - and the cause is killing others, that is something you can't control with your will.
So, how do I handle it? I've been thinking about that. What should I do and where shall I go for answers? I know that if you're bleeding, you apply a tourniquet above the wound and pressure to the site. If you're sprained, strained or broken, you apply ice, or at the very least, cold compresses. Does this basic information prepare me for terrorist attacks? We have not lived under the threat of terror. Londoners now do, just as the Israelis and others have been doing.
Just as we were celebrating the anniversary of the landing of man on the Moon, the Londoners were celebrating the end of World War II in their city - so devastated during the German Blitz of 1942. Poppies were dropped from airplanes to remember their lost heroes. That same week, another terrorist attack struck mass transit in London. They weren't over the July 7 disaster but they were moving on and then boom. Oh, wow, they felt they were in for it now.
How was it handled? They got counseling. Those close to the bombs but surviving were counseled. They were told to expect extreme bouts of highs and lows in the coming weeks. I don't know if they were given something "to take the edge off" but if I know the English approach to life, they might reject prescriptions in favor of gutting it out.
The Brits are proud of their resilience. In an article I read this morning in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the author, Dr. Simon Wessely wrote that "politicians, civic leaders, and the media have been keen on invoking the "Blitz spirit" in recent days in order to foster resilience and remind us of our cultural scripts of defiance in the face of adversity."
I wonder if we're being "set up" to have emotional breakdowns. What I personally saw in the televised reports were not people flailing their arms and running blindly into walls. I saw the wounded consoling others, and doing what they could, saying what they felt would calm those on the brink of panic. Without preparation, they were relying on instinct. They were confident even in the face of what was right before their eyes that now the authorities will take over because they are prepared. They know all about "clean up" and how to handle any emergency. What do the victims do?
They do the only thing that comes into their heads from all they've read about emergencies: Remain calm. It's now, in the aftermath that a new problem faces us. It is no surprise to me that the media is responsible for this one. The counseling for the victims is one thing and probably very important given what they have seen and been through. But, according to Dr. Wessely, 24 hours after the bombings, the BBC was demanding that all Londoners should have counseling made available to them to enable them to "cope with the trauma."
In the wrap-up of his article in the NEJM, Dr. Wessely writes: "We must be careful to avoid shifting from the language of courage, resilience, and well-earned pride into the language of trauma and victim-hood. The bombs made more than enough victims; it is important we do not inadvertently create more."
So, what do I think I will do? I'll rise to the occasion. I've spent my whole life just wondering if I've peaked yet. I don't think so, but that just might be my moment!