Psychology of Disaster

Psychology of Disaster Free Essay

The world as a whole unit experiences many different wars. They have resulted in the lives’ loss, emotional effects on people, and a change of culture. Psychological researches have shown that disasters may cause serious mental health consequences for victims. They take the form of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and a variety of other symptoms. This paper will discuss the major psychology of disaster concepts applied to Lusitania disaster and the tragedy of 9/11 that occurred in different centuries.

Lusitania Disaster

Lusitania was a passenger liner much like the Titanic that could accommodate three thousand people. In 1907, it was the largest and the fastest ship ever built (King & Wilson, 2015). On 1 May 1915, the liner departed from New York, carrying approximately two thousand people and a secret cargo of military assets for Great Britain (Tate, 1998). Many passengers received letters, warning that the Germans would likely attack the Lusitania. Even The New York Times published an article that the German ships would destroy any vessel entering the war zone off the British Isles. The Lusitania ignored all those warnings, and German U-boat destroyed it with the second explosion of either the munitions or ship’s engines (Tate, 1998). The ship went under in eighteen minutes and falling lifeboats crushed passengers, and people died when trying to get off the ship and others drowned. The government returned bodies washed up on the Irish coast to the USA or buried in the collective graves (Tate, 1998). The death rate was 1,200 people, which was 67.3 percent of total amount of passengers (Tate, 1998).

The fact that there was no time to evacuate people meant that self-interested and selfish behavior among men had predominated. The survivals stated that they were less concerned about the welfare of women and children. James Brooks, one of the survived passengers, recalled that it had been a mad race of every single man for his life (King & Wilson, 2015).

Terrorist Attacks of 9/11

The terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, American citizens will remember for a lifetime as the day when they became the terrorists’ target. The Islamic extremist group who called themselves al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, planned four attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Nineteen suicidal terrorists illegally seized four airliners, two of which crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in New York. In two hours, both buildings collapsed resulting into the fire and collapsing of other buildings. The third airplane crashed into the headquarters of the US Department of Defense. In addition, the fourth one clashed in a field near Pennsylvania on its way to the White House. People on board of this plane tried to prevent a terrorist attack. The total amount of deaths was approximately three thousand people. The biggest number of firefighters and law enforcement personnel in the history of the US died in these incidents.

The catastrophe of 9/11 had unique traumas and effects on public. This mass disaster had resulted in a greater distress than any other one, due to an extent of media coverage. Many American citizens have identified these events as personal attacks directed toward them. The better part of them watched the shocking events unfold live on television and continued to access up-to-date information through the media. The poll revealed a variety of emotional responses of survivals and public reaction to the coverage. Ninety-two percent of the sample reported the experienced feelings of sadness, seventy-seven percent stated of some emotions related to fear, and forty-five percent told about feeling some exhaustion while watching such news (Neria, 2006). Such reactions are typical for people during the moments of stress and for those learning about horrific disasters.

Disaster Similarities and Dissimilarities

These two tragedies have made a huge impact on American citizens and the history. It is very difficult to compare these two disasters. Some people call the tragedy of Lusitania The 1915 9/11. One happened onshore, and another one high was in the air in the two different 110-story buildings. Despite the fact that these two disasters occurred in different centuries, they have a number of similarities in common.

For instance, both of these tragedies caused the deaths of an enormous number of innocent civilians. In the two buildings of the World Trade Center, there were people employed from all over the world. The Lusitania also carried those ones from several different countries. In both of these disasters, people died while using sea and air transportation. The terrorists may easily use these two means of transportation as a target. The reason is that people would use them under any circumstances in order to get somewhere. People jumped off the ship and out of the buildings’ windows, realizing there would be no rescue.

While these two events share some similarities, the differences between them are vital for understanding the catastrophes. The major one is that Lusitania disaster occurred in sea, whereas 9/11 attacks took place in the busiest part of New York City. The next difference is that in contrast to 9/11, the government and people could avoid the Lusitania disaster. People received warnings, and the ship should not have entered the war zone. The disaster of 9/11 was unexpected and unpreventable. Finally, the Lusitania sank during the declared war. During the World War I, there were many deaths; and there was no surprise for it. However, the terroristic act in the Northern Manhattan has become a new type of warfare that people could never anticipate or defend them from this.

Three Major Psychology of Disaster Concepts Applied to the Disasters

Researchers have examined various psychological effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the sinking of the Lusitania. The three major psychology of tragedy concepts have applied to the disasters are PTSD, some phases of disaster recovery, and culture as casualty.

The major psychology of the disaster concept noted during and after those two tragedies is the acute effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which develop after experiencing living through this accident. The Lusitania tragedy influenced many people by exposing the images of mass graves in newspapers. These pictures made persons relive these tragic events again and eventually resulted in enhanced symptoms of PTSD.

Two weeks after these terrorist attacks of 9/11, there was a questionnaire designed to assess symptoms of acute Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders. Nearly three thousand of adults ranging in age from eighteen to one hundred took part in it (Morgan, 2009). Sixty percent of people had the feelings of anxiety from time to time (Morgan, 2009). Over forty percent reported re-experiencing images of 9/11 tragedy in their minds (Morgan, 2009). Nearly thirty percent of people wanted to avoid and forget the thoughts of attacks (Morgan, 2009). Thirty-two percent decided to separate themselves from the tragedy (Morgan, 2009). Twelve percent of adults had high levels of acute stress symptoms (Morgan, 2009). All of the witnesses and survivors of these horrific attacks experienced different degrees of stress.

The next concept applied to both Lusitania and 9/11 tragedies is the phases of disaster recovery. They include pre-disaster, response, and post-disaster phases. The pre-disaster stage includes risk assessment and relief (Todd & Todd, 2011). This phase applies only to the Lusitania tragedy because people on board had expected it. Meanwhile during the WTC attacks employees had no idea what would happen. The response stage consists of disaster response, damage assessment, assistance to affected people, and media attention (Todd & Todd, 2011). In both the Lusitania disaster as well as the 9/11 attacks, people were helping each other. In New York, people tried to get others out of the building, fire fighters immediately arrived, and many brave men and women were taking part in combating the terrorism. Not long after, the sinking of the Lusitania ship, people in fishing boats rescued those who were in water and recovered dead bodies. In both cases, persons risked their lives in order to help others.

The last stage is post-disaster, which includes some response and assistance to the affected community, their recovery, and rehabilitation (Todd & Todd, 2011). For instance, after the 9/11 disaster, the whole nation was willing to help others. People searched for victims, donated goods, supplied blankets, money, and general help. The government started rebuilding homes and industry damaged in a course of the tragedy. This phase for the Lusitania disaster was different from 9/11. People had no hope of meeting their relatives. The reason is that the ship sank very fast. They tried to seek for justice for those innocent ones who died in this tragic incident.

The third and the last major psychology of disaster concept is the culture as casualty. It is impossible to measure the vastness of a cultural trauma in the course of these two horrific tragedies. This concept represents the lasting changes or damages of the society (Morgan, 2009). After these two disasters, there were some evident effects on cultures and communities. Firstly, the government has increased the security measures. Secondly, the American society has expressed its fear of targeting again. Thirdly, the racial discrimination has increased within the American cultural groups.


There have been countless natural and manmade disasters in the history of the Unties States of America. They have caused the enormous number of deaths and culture devastation. People always find strength to recover and overcome these tragedies. However, when people do not follow basic rules of war or respect for innocent civilians, the effects of such disasters may be even more tragic.

The sinking of the Lusitania and the terrorist attacks of 9/11 has caused serious impacts on everybody. It even may easily affect future generations. Whether it is some Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders, cultural trauma or different phases of disaster response it is obvious that a negative effect of these catastrophes is spreading far. The most important aspect in both of these tragic events is that people have started cooperate and pull together. Terrorist attacks and actions against humanity may cause chaos, destruction, and deaths. However, at the end of the day, the American society becomes even stronger and more coordinated.

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