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9/11 and Hurricane Katrina Disaster


This is a research paper on the 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina disasters. The two disasters were traumatizing and caused mass deaths. The victims of the disasters were rendered homeless while others lost their lives and other life essentials. Those who survived the disasters suffered psychological problems mostly characterized by stress and the long-term effect was mainly Post Trauma Stress disorder. Assistance was accorded to the victims although some groups like Red Cross did not show much effectiveness in providing assistance because they did not act in a timely manner as per the expectations. Children involved in the disasters also suffered psychologically and mentally and thus required help to overcome this trauma and protect them from developing long-term effects. The paper will begin by summarizing the two disasters after which psychological symptoms and impact will be discussed.

Brief Summary of 9/11 Disaster

The so-called 9/11 disaster derived its name from the date the event occurred. This happened on of September 11, 2001, which was on Tuesday in the morning. Some anti-American terrorists took hold of four American airplanes. They were 19 of them who hijacked two United Airlines as well as two American Airlines. The aim was to crash the four airliners which were used for commercial purposes. The terrorists crashed the planes into distinct buildings. The buildings hit were in the United States. The airplanes were carrying passengers who were in their personal and business trips. This plane hit a building in the New York called the World Trade Center (twin towers). This structure was damaged severely some minutes after the incidence. Among the hijacked airplanes was flight number 11, which was carrying 81 passengers and among them were five terrorists who had hijacked. The plane had two pilots and 9 attendants (Kilroy, 2008).

The second plane was flight number 175 which was headed for Los Angeles in California. Flight 175 was carrying 56 passengers and among them were five terrorists who had hijacked. The plane had 2 pilots and 7 attendants. This plane also hit the same building that had been previously hit by number 11 flight. The incidence was recorded vividly because the building had already been hit earlier. The tower collapsed eventually due to the force impacted by the plane. The third flight that was captured was flight number 77 which was also headed for California. There were 58 passengers and among them were 5 hijackers on board. The pilots were 2 while the attendants were four. The terrorists diverted the direction of the plane and flew it back to Washington, D. C. The flight crashed ons the Pentagon Building which is located in northern Virginia (Kilroy, 2008).

The fourth airline to be hijacked was flight number UA93 which was headed to San Francisco in California from New York on that fateful morning. There were four hijackers among the 37 passengers on board, 2 pilots and 5 attendants. This plane flew for more than an hour before it was hijacked, unlike other previous flights. The terrorists hijacked it at around 9.35 am when they were close to Cleveland in Ohio. The course of the plane was probably diverted to Washington D. C. those investigating claimed that the terrorists were aiming to hit either the White House or the Capitol Building although the flight could not get this far. When it was hijacked initially, reports claimed that the death of 2 attendants was done adjacent to the aircraft’s front. The rest of people on board were said to sought rescue in the passenger’s cabin rear portion. During this time, the passengers were permitted to call their loved ones using their cellular phones. Some passengers were arguing on attempting to challenge the hijackers by regaining the control of the plane but thoughtfully, this did not happen as the plane crashed in Pennsylvania in a field found in the south west (Kilroy, 2008).

The exact number of those who perished in the four incidences is not known. However, all those on the board of the four flights were believed to have died while the causalities confirmed in the World Trade Center were 524 whereas 3, 822 were not found. 125 casualties were confirmed in the Pentagon Building. The damages caused by these events had a great impact on the American financial toll. The estimated figure was close to US$30 Billion which is historically the most expensive tragedy to have been caused by men. These tragedies affected the airline business because clients reduced. So many changes followed these attacks on the airline industry ranging from tightening the planes’ security through using better materials to passing Bills that ensures the safety of airlines (Kilroy, 2008).

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Summary of Hurricane Katrina disaster

Hurricane Katrina occurred during the Atlantic season in the year 2005. The disaster derived its name from the place it occurred which is called Hurricane. Among the past natural disasters, Hurricane Katrina was the most expensive and among the five disasters that have ever caused mass deaths in the United State’s history. Overall, Hurricane Katrina was number six in strength among the previous Atlantic hurricanes that have been there before. The disaster estimated 1,836 deaths in the exact hurricane as well as in the preceding floods. This made Katrina the most deadly hurricane in the United States since the Okeechobee hurricane which had happened in 1928. Property worth $81 billion approximately was destroyed during the disaster. This was almost three times that of the damage which occurred during the 1992 Hurricane incidence.

On August the 23rd in the year 2005, the hurricane formed over the Bahamas and extended to the south of Florida as a reasonable hurricane of the first category. As a result, many died and floods occurred prior to reinforcing quickly in the Mexican Gulf. Before the storm made its second fall, it became weak as a storm in the third category in southeast Louisiana on August 29 which was on a Monday morning. Most harms happened at the Gulf coast which begins from central Florida to Texas. Most of the destruction happened because of the surge of the storm. New Orleans and Louisiana recorded most of the deaths due to the catastrophic failure of the levee that caused flooding. The storm had gone into the interiors hours after in most incidences. After some time the entire city around 80% of it was flooded together with adjacent parishes whose large tracts were also flooded. The water that had flooded remained stagnant for numerous weeks.

The coastal area recorded the worst damage of property. For instance, the beachfront towns of Mississippi were badly hit by the hurricane. The floods here took around 90% more hours to clear when compared to other areas. The buildings were pushed by the casino and boats which were moving carelessly while they pushed houses and cars inland. Water levels reached 6 to 12 miles from the beach. A lawsuit was filed against the United States Army Corps involved in engineering buildings in New Orleans because they had failed to protect the city against the hurricane. The 1965 “Flood Control Act” required the engineers to design and build the levee system properly. In 2008, the Army Corp was blamed for its irresponsibility although financial blame could not be placed on them by the federal agency because of the Act’s sovereign immunity. The response to the disaster was also investigated and some responsible individuals left their positions while others were congratulated for the efforts they made. Individuals displaced in Louisiana as well as in Mississippi have not yet been resettled five years after the disaster. However, the concerned parties have been trying to establish areas which could be rebuilt and those which shouldn’t.

Psychological Symptoms

It is very obvious that disasters like the Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 terrorist attack could cause a lot of psychological problems for the survivors. One of the major psychological problems that resulted from these two disasters is Post-traumatic stress disorder abbreviated PTSD. The aftermath of these two disasters left the victims at condition that was capable to debilitate them. The symptoms took weeks, months and in other cases the symptoms took a year to show after the disasters. These symptoms varied from one individual to the other depending on the impact of either of the two disasters.

The Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 terrorist attack victims suffered one or a combination of the following PTSD symptoms. The victim could have flashbacks concerning the traumatic events as they unfolded in their eyes. The victims could also feel detached or alienated. They could also experience nightmares and have interrupted patterns of sleep. The functioning of some victims got impaired as a result of the trauma. Their occupations were also disturbed by these disasters thereby ending up making the victims financially instable. The trauma disturbed the victim’s memories and filled it with disturbing images of the disaster. The trauma was also manifested in the victim’s family discord. PSTD was also signified by the marital hardships resulting from the trauma caused by the disaster (West, 2006).

Resources Available to Treat and Assist Victims

When 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina happened, resources were stretched to assist the victims. However, the impact of these disasters affected the delivery of these resources. For instance, during the floods roads became inaccessible and hence resources could not get to the victims as fast as they were supposed to. All in all, the victims were assisted by all the available means. For instance, the federal and state government was at the forefront in helping the victims by providing the necessary equipment such as evacuation tools for the victims held in the disaster scenes (West, 2006).

The Red Cross was also available to offer assistance to the victims although it did not offer immediate response during the 9/11 attacks. During the Hurricane Katrina disaster, individual Americans donated cash and other incentives to assist the victims. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also played a major role in assisting the victims by asking donations from individuals. Campaigns were also held to create awareness of even the health concerns of the victims. Hence, the victims of these disasters were assisted both during and after the disaster especially during the recovery period.

Long-term effects on Victims and Rescue Workers

The long effects on were both economic and health. This paper is interested in the mental health of the victims and rescue workers. The rescue workers of the 9/11 went through the same ordeal with the victims. They inhaled the toxic dust as well as other pollutants. The long term effect of this caused lung diseases that also affected their mental health. The disputes resulting form medical costs caused the victims a lot of psychological disturbances that affected their mental health. Both the victims and rescue teams were traumatized and if the traumas were not properly treated, they resulted into PSTD (Kilpatrick & Freedy, 1994).

The disasters disrupted the victims’ source of basic living in which case some lost their job, close relatives and other life essentials. These are stressors that are difficult to heal and caused mental disturbances to the victims most especially those who developed PSTD (West, 2006). The combination of all the stressors would only cause long term effects on the mental health of the victims and rescue workers.

Effects of Trauma on Children

Sometimes grown-ups ignore how children are affected by various disasters. The 9/11 attack and the Hurricane Katrina disaster had traumatic effects on children. Children do not have much prior knowledge of such kind of happenings and as such were affected severely by the traumatic events that they witnessed during these two events. Trauma in children is manifested differently from that in adults. The other factor that affects the way a child reacts to the trauma is the child’s age as well as the growth stages. The level of exposure also determines the child’s reaction to the trauma. The symptoms are severe in case a close family person is involved in the disaster such as the child’s parents. The reaction of the child’s parents to the traumatic event also affects the child psychologically most especially if they reaction reveal fear and distress. Chronic events disrupt the way the child react and interact with the social environment (Lerner, n.d).

According to Lerner (n.d), the children who lost their parents and homes carried by the floods during the Hurricane Katrina disaster would suffer the chronic trauma. The children who witnessed these happenings are more stressed than those who are horrified by watching the events on the TV. These children have problems with adjusting to their new life because the disasters caused the destruction of the environment the children were used to. These children are anxious, depressed and live in fear of what might befall them since they saw it happening. These traumatized children could be assisted by identifying their traumatic disturbances early enough. The assistance should include helping them cope with their stressful situations and may be this could help to reduce the stress. Ignoring the symptoms would make the children suffer from prolonged results of PSTD.

Severe and traumatic happenings such as the 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina could make the affected children pass through varying stages. The initial stage usually occurs immediately after the traumatic event and in it, kids react to denial and unhappiness. If the children’s loved ones go scotch free, they are more relieved. The secondary stage occurs a few days or weeks after the incidence. In this stage, children react by showing depression associated with sadness, they are anxious and they are easily aggregated. These kinds suffer withdrawal, their sleep is interrupted, their play illustrates the events they witnessed and they are also apathetic. Such kind of behavior occurs as a recovery initiative and occurs for some weeks.

Long exposure of children to hostility increase their risk of developing PTSD especially afterward in their lives. This happens if the event was related to violence. Mental specialists should take care of such children in extreme risk of PTSD. The age of the child should be considered while planning for assistance. This is because age difference affects their perception of the disaster. The interventions should take this factor during recovery therapy. The mood, reaction, as well as anxiety of young infants, exemplify their perception of the disaster. This is because they do not make out the aims as well as the logic of the current situations. These children are more interested in the outcome of the disaster. Small children may fail to understand the disaster cognitively but they can be regressed as well as detached due to these events so as to protect their innocent mind from the surrounding events (Lerner, n.d).

The behavior of older children can also exemplify their reactions. Following the 9/11 and Katrina disasters, pediatricians should locate all the children who were affected directly by the disasters in order to help them overcome the stressful disasters they witnessed. These children should be subjected to mental care in order to help them and protect them from developing PSTD in their later lives (Lerner, n.d). Hence, children should not be ignored while counseling the adults after a traumatic event like the 9/11.

Role of Media

Media is widely known to publicize disasters especially immediately after they happen or when they are happening. This role may affect the victims either positively or negatively. During the 9/11 terrorist attack, the media broadcasted the hardship the victims were going through and thus assisted in raising charity, which was a positive outcome. The media also broadcasted the disaster repeatedly. This caused more traumas for those who survived as well as anxiety and stress. This also affected negatively other individuals in the entire United States. Awareness of this negative effect was made to media houses and most stopped displaying the event.

The coverage of Hurricane Katrina tragedy was criticized very much and the society remained in doubt. As a result, most media houses did not make any immediate reports in order to validate the sources. The media did not attract enough attention to victims as well as mental health for those affected by the storm. However, the media reported about the role of race and class as well as that of government in failing to take preventive measure prior to the storm and thus counted to cause violent crime. The media also told the story in a way that they considered trauma of those affected. This is because media has a lot of influence in the footages they display and hence should be well informed (West, 2006). Overall, the media helped to create awareness that in turn helped most especially to source for funds to foot the bills incurred during the rescue process.


This research has found the timeline and occurrences of the 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina disasters. The two disasters were both traumatizing because of the immense destruction and mass loss of lives that occurred. The paper has also found the symptoms of the psychological problems suffered by the victims. there was assistance offered to the victims even after the disaster more particularly during the process of recovery. The trauma experienced by victims has been found to cause long-term effects.

Those involved in the rescue were also affected both in the short run and in the long run. The media has also been found to have played a major role in assisting the victims. The major takeaway from this research is the need for preparedness. The government and society should be prepared for future disasters because some of them such as natural disasters are unpredictable and are bound to happen. Hence, to avoid the trauma and human suffering, it is worthy to stay prepared for any eventualities. This is the only solution to the current stalemate of unforeseeable disasters.