Responses based on emotions
September 11, 2001
Steamboat Springs — The lines of people waiting to give blood to aid victims of Tuesday’s terrorist hijackings stretched around the block at midday in Manhattan. At the Bonfils Blood Center in Denver, the wait to give blood was four hours.
In Steamboat Springs, blood drive coordinator Terry Sherrill had to explain to people that she didn’t have equipment to collect blood when the local community hosts a blood drive, it relies on Bonfils for equipment and staff.
Sherrill said Yampa Valley Medical Center was inundated Tuesday with calls from people wanting to give blood.
“Really, they have to wait until the next blood drive on Oct. 2,” Sherrill said.
The calls the hospital fielded Tuesday from residents wanting to give blood reflects one of the many emotional responses to news of a terrorist attack that challenges people’s ability to process the news both on cognitive and emotional levels.
“People react in a lot of different ways depending upon their own points of reference,” local psychologist Chris Young said.
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Some people will have symptoms of previous trauma reopened by the incident at the World Trade Center. Other people will feel numb, Young said.
“Every time we see something like that, we connect in different ways,” Young said. As someone who lived through World War II, she experienced her own reaction to the troubling images on the television screen.
“It’s easy to distance myself because it’s happening elsewhere, although my mother lives outside New York City,” Young said. “I was doing laundry today because we had house guests over the weekend. I found myself leaving the room a lot that’s how I cope.”
Emergency response workers in Steamboat watching television coverage of the World Trade Center towers collapsing probably found themselves empathizing with people they would consider colleagues, Young said. The sight of people trying to cope with human suffering probably had a profound effect on them, she added.
“Some people get very dramatic,” and many others will feel cynicism about the way government agencies handle terrorist threats, Young said.
Tom Hopp, president of Wells Fargo Bank in Steamboat Springs, said he understands that during a crisis like this, people’s fears are heightened and some will quite naturally worry about the security of the nation’s financial system. Hopp said his bank is not experiencing any pattern as far as customers withdrawing money from their accounts. Wells Fargo executives don’t feel it’s the case that the terrorist incident has threatened the nation’s financial system, Hopp said.
Hopp said the nervousness people feel about the security of their money is not unlike late 1999, when people were alarmed about the impending Y2k crisis that really wasn’t a crisis.
“We try to reassure people their money is likely safer in the bank than on their person,” Hopp said. “During an event like this, we also tell people to look out for fraud artists. There are people out there who use this kind tragedy to play on people’s fears and try to con them out of their money.”
Young said people who want to make a positive response to the terrorist attack should show kindness to other people.
“I think people need reassurance about their safety. That’s what is shaking the nation right now,” Young said. “It’s important to be accepting and compassionate with each other, because we don’t want to become even more estranged.”
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