September 11, 2001 was one of the darkest days in the history of the US. The terror attacks that occurred on September 11 killed many people, but post-traumatic effects of the terror attacks proved to be long-lasting, while their impact on the personality development can hardly be underestimated. In fact, after 9/11, it was not only the life of many people that have changed but it was their personalities that have changed forever. In this respect, the psychological impact of the terror attacks was particularly significant.
Speaking about the effect of terror acts, it is necessary to underline from the very beginning that they impacts not only individuals but the whole community, the whole country and may be the whole world. Furthermore, people who suffer different problems are people who are victims of terrorism, their relatives, very often it may be people who helped to victims, it may be volunteers, rescue workers, medical personnel, etc. Any terror attack breaks a normal order of life. People lose a traditional stability and they do not feel safety anymore and consequently they cannot lead a normal life. Numerous studies have shown that “deliberate violence creates longer lasting mental-health effects than natural disasters or accidents”¯ (Hamblen 2001, p.82). Consequences of terror attacks may last for quite a long time and they affect both individuals and community. People, particularly survived victims, their relatives or just witnesses of a tragedy may be overwhelmed by different feelings but such feelings as anger, a desire for revenge, frustration, helplessness, fear are usually the strongest.
They may also be deteriorated by the feeling of injustice that people may think have been done to them. Actually, this feeling of injustice may result in all others mentioned above. It is worthy to note that the study have revealed the fact that “acting on this anger and desire for revenge can increase rather than decrease feelings of anger, guilt and distress”¯ (Hamblen 2001, p.89). However, people have enough natural resources to recover from such psychological trauma as any terror act is but, unfortunately, not for all people the process of recovery goes without certain troubles. Some trauma specialists (Staab, Foa) estimate that after a terror attack the psychological outcome of our community as a whole will be resilience, not psychopathology. For the majority of people such feelings as fear, anxiety, hyper-arousal symptoms, urges to avoid or re-experiencing the tragedy may and will gradually decrease over time. Anyway, all individuals differ, they have different psychology, they protect themselves psychologically in different ways. As a result, one may recover relatively fast, while other may suffer for quite a long time.
It is not a secret that the consequences of terror acts may result in quite a serious psychological trauma. According to the researches of Pfefferbaum and others, there are certain groups which are at greater risk, namely “those who are most at risk for more severe traumatic stress reactions, such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), are those who have experienced the greatest magnitude of exposure to the traumatic event, such as victims and their families”¯ (2000, p.94). However, it does not mean that only victims and their close relatives are in danger, practically all members of the community and the community itself are affected by terror acts. Very often rescue workers directly deal with the consequences of terrorism and naturally, it is very difficult to remain indifferent to the terrible tragedy that rescue workers have to deal with. For instance, the rescue workers had to identify and remove the casualties of September 11 terror attack. So they have got a very strong psychological trauma that was reinforced by accidents and death of some of the rescue workers. Thus, the tragedy of other people has become their personal tragedy. Furthermore, due to the highlighting the tragedy on TV, radio, press, i.e. mass media the whole nation was in the state of shock. Moreover, the whole world was overwhelmed by this terror act. It’s not surprisingly that after September 11 the rate of psychological and mental health problems dramatically increased.
Thus, a psychological result of any terror attack is shock, growing tension, loss of confidence in the security of life, fear and a strong feeling of injustice. The main goal of terrorist is to control the will and consciousness of people that is impossible when people are calm, if they know that they are protected from any aggression and like in the case with September 11, Americans were absolutely sure that there is no such a force in the world that could threaten their life in the US because the country has well-developed system of security, strong army, and effective, as they seemed to be, special and intelligence services such as CIA and FBI. Consequently, the shock caused by the tragedy on September 11, may be regarded as certain success of terrorists. But what they failed is that they could not manage to control the will of Americans. The terrorists could not make Americans do what they wanted them to do. That is why the primary goal of terrorists was not achieved because only when the whole country, being in fear, under the threat of further terror attacks obey to the demands of terrorists then we may say that terrorists has won if not then the war goes on.
It is necessary to underline that the US have experienced only few terrorist attacks but the September 11 was undoubtedly the blackest page in American history. As for the consequences of terror acts, a trend of worsening of many people’s health was observed, particularly those who already had a serious disease such as AIDS. It also affected significantly children but they have a sort of advantage because, due to their young age and psychological peculiarities of children, including the fact that their views, character, perception of the reality are not completely formed, they can afford such psychological trauma better than adult people. Also the tragedy evoked the memory about past events that people experienced or witnessed, in this context very interesting seem to be the study of Stephen Walsh, who noticed that “many patients in psychiatric treatment since September 11 have revisited childhood traumas and family-of-origin related vulnerabilities. Patients with histories of significant losses and unfinished grief have experienced the return of emotions and conflicts related to those losses. An older, middle-aged woman reported the return of intense grieving about the loss of her son six years earlier and general sadness “for all parents who have lost a child”¯ (2001, p.124). Thus, these words may be one more evidences of the fact that the tragedy on September 11 influenced all people throughout the country.
Thus, it is possible to conclude that 9/11 have changed the life of many people, including not only those who were directly affected by the terror attacks, but also those who rescued victims of the terror attacks, relatives of the victims and many Americans who witnessed disastrous effects of the terror attacks live or via various media.