Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The Uncounted Victims

Every person who witnessed the bombing, survived it, and especially those who were first responders, either professionally or voluntary,  are all victims of a heinous act of terror.

Today, two days past the bombing reality is hitting those people. Shock and adrenalin is wearing off. Chances are they aren’t sleeping well and when they are able to finally doze off out of exhaustion they dream images of the nightmare they witnessed. They see the eyes of that person they kept telling, “stay with me, look at me, look at me, you’re going to be okay.” After enough times of awakening with a racing heart, crying before you’re even fully awake you start to fight sleep. A task as simple as walking into a grocery store is too overwhelming to your senses. You feel like you’re going crazy.

Survivors of the Boston Marathon terror attacks now face risk of developing post traumatic stress disorder, experts warn. (warning-very graphic photo)

Dr Harry Croft, a San Antonio-based psychiatrist, who has treated more than 7,000 former soldiers, said the symptoms would be widespread in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

‘If it lasts more than a month, and has enough symptoms, it is then described as PTSD,’ he told NBC News.

Initial symptoms often include a sense of disbelief, said Dr Croft, as the experience takes on an almost imaginary aspect. Following that victims either become emotionally numb, or gush with sadness, fear or anger about the horrors they have experienced.

As much as you want to control your brain the images come. Tearing that shirt apart to wrap around the groin so that little girl doesn’t bleed to death.

Trying to calm yourself with a hot bath and breaking down in tears as you see your right foot. That being enough to trigger the image of that little girl with only a piece of her pinky toe left hanging from the side of her right foot.

The image of the 18 year old girl stepping up to help do whatever needed to help you keep that little girl from bleeding to death and going into shock. When you remember the look in your helpers eyes it mirrors reality, the horror, the fear that has to be driven to the deepest parts of your being at that moment so that little girl believes you with all her heart and soul when you answer her question, “Am I going to die?” and you tell her, “no honey, you’re not,just keep talking to me, look at me, you’re going to be okay.” And even in the moment you know that none of you will ever really be okay again.

Once an injury that results in the loss of a limb occurs there are only so many miracles even the best Dr. can pull off. But you battle between the logical reality of that and the thoughts of “was there something I did at the scene that kept the outcome from being better?”

In the days that follow you rush to the phone hoping and praying it’s more good news after the fifth surgery in four days that the little girl has undergone, only to hear a media person on the other end. You think thoughts of violence and words come out of your mouth that horrify you. And then you hang up the phone, sit and sob, and pray.

Days pass, weeks pass, those weeks turn into months. If you’re lucky you’ve realized that what you experienced has left you with PTSD. You find venues to talk, to process. Even with that support the feeling of losing control going insane can return within seconds at the sound of a Life Flight helicopter going over your home, or even a family member with a minor cut from slicing cucumbers.

Time will go on, the little girl survives, you think you’re okay. Then eight years later you sit down to watch what the rest of America is watching with sadness and horror and you suddenly find yourself balling, sobbing. “What the hell, am I losing my mind?” Then you remember what you learned, you’re not crazy, you’re a human having a very normal reaction to a very abnormal traumatic event that are psyches aren’t designed to absorb.

Healing comes but it takes more than willpower and it takes each of us around that person to understand, listen, not judge.

Listen, listen, listen, let them cry, let them sit in silence. Reassure them that even though you’ll never know what it’s like it’s okay for them to not be okay at that moment.  

My heart aches for those who died and their families. But we must remember that an incident like this is like throwing a huge boulder into water, the ripples reach out and touch countless places. Even if that boulder didn’t hit you directly, the waves it produces knocks you off course and at times you feel like you are going to sink.

It is us who must be sure to reach out to those uncounted victims and make sure they get the support and resources they are going to need in the days, weeks, and even years to come.

And I cannot close on this topic without saying that we must remember that our soldiers experience this daily in active duty. The blood, the body parts, and loss of life of their fellow soldiers and even civilians are a daily part of most of our troops. There is no break from it until they come home. Imagine one day of Boston times 365. That alone is why we have to continue to fight like hell for these men and women.

Just surviving is not the ultimate goal, learning to live with what is handed us is.

That journey is much easier shared.  

In the Boston area Brookline Community Mental Health Center has set up services to help volunteers with PTSD in the aftermath of the bombing.

Other PTSD resources:



  1. LauraFall

    greatest loss and tragedy comes invaluable gifts and lessons.

    Today I have the comfort of holding the image of her running again like any other five year old.

    I pray that others find the same in the days and weeks to come.

  2. kishik

    bitter, but having experienced the horrors of Sept 11, 2001 directly (I could see the towers from my office window, I saw people falling or jumping out from the towers, I saw tower 1 collapse, I was one of those leaving the area.  I was someone who went to morgues with a colleague who was looking for her sister-in-law (body never found, most likely consumed by the fires).

    I had PTSD.  I went through life and work on remote control for the first four months and have no recollection of things I prepared and wrote for work, the holidays (thanksgiving, christmas and new years), nor much of any of my family visiting.  But thankfully I had a great boss, and he ensured that a social worker/psychologist was put on staff and made our headquarters office pay for it, too.  She is the one that had seminars on PTSD and how it affected the brain.  This is one thing that helped me enormously when I realized I couldn’t remember anything!

    we went through countless false alarms immediately after since I worked (and still work) in Lower Manhattan.  

    The dust of the buildings and people incinerated most likely breathed into my lungs.

    I was down to 65% lung capacity for 6 months after – and it took 2 years to get it up to 80%.

    Well. After a few years had past, no one wanted to hear about September 11.

    Of course, this was though the bush administration when everything was supposed to be a-ok (thanks Christine Whitman) 2 days after the towers were hit and Wall Street was ordered to re-open.

    But I doubt people will want to remember this as years past.  They will be tired of it.

    I, however, feel your pain.  And I will remember and I won’t allow myself to forget.

    Right now, with the Ricin being found in mail is simply what occurred after the Towers were hit.  Then it was Anthrax, although Ricin was then being used in Europe (the UK I think). People were stocking up on cipro.  Traffic was stopped on NYC roads because of suspicious packages with powdery substances.  Mere fire drills that were put into practice in many office buildings around the city caused major panic the first year – because you saw hordes of people emerging from buildings and you expected the worst.

    For me, this is a repeat.  And it’s horrible.

    People will prevail and go forward.  It’s their nature.  That is something that took me a very very long time to learn to accept.  But the hurt and memories of those directly affected will never go away.  Ever.

    And so, the best I can say is to work towards peace.  Look for ways to find balance and harmony in the soul.  Look to be more forgiving to others, because life is short and can be gone in an instant.

  3. Portlaw

    People will prevail and go forward.  It’s their nature.  That is something that took me a very very long time to learn to accept.  But the hurt and memories of those directly affected will never go away.  Ever.

    And so, the best I can say is to work towards peace.  Look for ways to find balance and harmony in the soul.  Look to be more forgiving to others, because life is short and can be gone in an instant.

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