PTSD after the Chelsea bombing

Ori Wiener-Blotner | SIPA, Class of 2018

“Did you hear what happened in Chelsea?” Thankfully, as far as New York terrorist attacks are concerned, the Chelsea bombing was not a huge deal. No lives were lost, and the attack didn’t disturb much of New York’s nightly routine. Apparently the event didn’t meet the expectations of a New York City terrorist attack and many New Yorkers seemed unphased by the incident.

Regardless, the post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) of such a recent terrorist attack is strangely absent. Several sources attribute the stoic attitude to “post-traumatic growth,” or a learned resilience to recurring traumatic events. There are several problems with this perception. First of all, it is easier to move past an attack that led to no deaths, especially one in which the culprit was at large for less than 48 hours. Additionally, with so few of us having had first-hand experience with the bombing, the entire incident’s limited media coverage failed to grab more than passing attention for many people.

Still, we should be mindful of the way in which we follow such events. According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), threats causing PTSD cannot be transferred via electronic media, such as television, or movies. However, this idea has its shortcomings. PTSD remains one of the most controversial diagnoses of the DSM 5, and as most psychologists will tell you, the manual needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

Finally, it is hard to forget the therapeutic red crayon drawing created by children across the United States after 9/11, where media coverage was king.  It’s too soon to be sure that PTSD cannot be passed on through media, and we should be mindful of how it comes up internally for each of us later on down the road.

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2 thoughts on “PTSD after the Chelsea bombing

  1. I saw the blast in Chelsea from my window, less than 800 ft away. I had just come in from walking that block, apparently right past the bomb, before it exploded. Upon going back outside, out of curiosity, I wandered the area, as others did seeking to find out what happened. The police eventually began to move people blocks away from 23rd Street and in so doing I had to walk on 27th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues in order to get back to my building. When I finally got home it wasn’t long until I got the news from CNN that the explosion was a bomb and that another had been found on 27th St. So I had unknowingly walked past both bombs. My gratitude for the mercy I was afforded that night is tremendous. However, I have to walk that block of 23rd Street everyday. The dumpsters are still there from the construction going on and it plagues my mind each time I pass. I also become a little disturbed when I hear sirens, and they bother my ears which never happened before. I’ve had some nightmares in which I am afraid. Recently I awoke in tears, disturbing my partner. When he asked if I was ok. I responded, “I’m tired of being afraid”. That was the first time I became conscious that there was a fear residing in me. I’m talking to a therapist about it because even though I am a resilient New Yorker, I am human first. I would like to know how others present in the immediate area that night are dealing with it.

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