In The Wake Of Terrorism
By Karen H Whiting
A pebble drops into a pool of water, causing concentric circles
of ripples. The central splash is the highest and most dramatic one.
Others, though less defined, touch a wider area, until the waves reach
shore. So, too there has been a ripple effect from the events of 911
in our lives.
News of the terrorist strike shattered Jessica’s world. She
and her friends had spent the previous week interviewing for law internships
at prestigious firms, including several in the World Trade Center. Attending
law school at Columbia University, in New York City, seemed like a dream
come true. She shuddered as she realized she and her friends had narrowly
missed being victims.
The ripple effect of 911 splashed into the life of Ryan, a college
student, when he saw the television footage of the World Trade Center
attack and thought, That’s the flight dad pilots. Where is he?
Far from home, in a fraternity house, at this moment he just wanted
to be with his family.
Ryan grabbed the phone and dialed home but the machine answered.
“Hi, Mom, where’s Dad?” Ryan blurted out but could
not say anything else, as a lump formed in his throat. He hung up, raced
to his car and drove to a nearby church where he cried and prayed. Later,
he shouted with relief when he heard his dad had flown flight 93 two
days earlier and now sat safe at home.
A few months later, Ryan heard the news that someone had stormed the
cockpit of a United Airline’s flight and new waves of anxiety
washed over him. Again he called home to learn his dad had flown that
flight two days earlier.
Our country’s war on terrorism brought fighting and more death,
that extended the circles of waves further outward. In March, months
after the terrorist strike, Sheila played with her two young children
at a park, then stopped to visit a friend. She heard that a soldier
in the Third Special Forces had been killed in Afghanistan. She thought
It’s Stan, my husband, I just know it’s Stan.
Sheila returned home. A few hours later truck tires crunched across
the gravel drive. She watched through the window as two soldiers in
military dress uniform emerged from a black SUV. Her hands shook as
she opened the door and received the news that her husband, Chief Stanley
Harriman was the first soldier killed in Afghanistan in ground combat.
Ripples Of Terrorism
The ripples of terrorism that forever changed the lives of Jessica,
Ryan, and Sheila overflowed into the lives of most Americans. Christian
psychiatrist Dr. Cynthia Spellman indicates that initially the devastation
of 911 and subsequent anthrax scare brought stress to many, but crisis
to other victims of violence who had suppressed past experiences. Trauma
in life from other sources can trigger post trauma syndrome or posttraumatic
stress disorder. Within three months, these heightened fears and anxieties
toned down as people’s defense mechanisms helped them process
emotions and they took actions that helped them cope.
Several months after the attack, psychiatrists noticed a new wave
of patients, diagnosed with somatizing disorder. Having repressed
the reality of violence, these people later had physical symptoms of
sleeplessness and vague pains, with no clear medical problems. Though
delayed, this group slowly started to seek solid answers through spiritual
or professional counsel.
People first sought comfort at churches where some found Christ and
stayed. Americans rallied together with a new spirit of patriotism and
gave to relief organizations. Others attempted to increase feelings
of personal security by purchasing gas masks, cell phones, and emergency
supplies. Most people adjusted to changes in life, such as added wait
time and new security measures at airports.
Disruption to still water can have positive effects, keeping it from
stagnating. In this country, some of the reactions to the anxiety caused
by terror have been good, such as cherishing family more and an increase
Americans have shown more appreciation for public servants since September,
especially firefighters. Police and firemen toys quickly became the
most popular items in toy stores. Shop windows displayed signs expressing
thanks for public servants.
Their heroism showed us what it means to sacrifice. Public gratitude
strengthened these workers’ morale while the crisis bolstered
their sense of purpose.
President Bush, a man of faith, continues to announce that in a free
country there are no guarantees against future attacks. He has spoken
about the importance of his faith in facing troubled times.
In the midst a storm a person can still feel inner peace from God’s
presence. Jesus spoke of this peace in which people can feel secure
even in unsafe circumstances when he said, “Peace I leave with
you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do
not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Anxiety reveals a lack of faith but it is also a natural reaction
for self-preservation. It keeps people from foolish actions, like standing
too near the edge of a cliff. However, unhealthy worry and fear causes
medical problems and interferes with the ability to function at work
Christ pointed out that believers cannot escape tribulation (John
16:33). Thus, we need to learn to cope with the threat of more terrorism.
Try these strategies.
Pro-active Strategies For Relieving Anxiety
Have faith in God! Be active in Bible study and fellowship.
Memorize scriptures that bring comfort. Check a concordance for verses
on assurance, safety, comfort, and salvation. Trust God to be with you
when He does not remove you from trouble. Discover new strength as you
read how biblical characters and others overcame fears through faith.
This is called bibliotherapy.
Don’t be a loner. Discuss problems with friends, in
person, by phone, or via email. Build a network, especially in your
church community. The apostle Paul shared in letters and with his travel
companions (1 Corinthians 16:17-18).
Chief Harrimen’s widow, Sheila, knows that God prepared her
to face the tragedy of death through a faith that knows Heaven is real.
She received great support from the Arran Lake Baptist Church community
where she and her husband, as active and beloved members, had developed
close friendships. Army families attached to her husband’s unit
have also rallied around to help sustain her.
Dwell on the positives. List methods that help you relax,
such as jogging, a hot shower, listening to a favorite CD, reading a
Psalm, or pursuing a special hobby. Add to the list as you recall other
relaxing activities and do the activities when you feel anxious. Include
laughter, too. Watch comedy shows, read comics, and spend time with
joyful friends. Laughter, called good medicine in Proverbs 17:22, reduces
levels of stress hormones.
Jessica visited relatives in Boston days after 911 to help relieve
her anxiety by seeing a beautiful and unharmed city. She finds it best
to avoid thinking about the possibility of future terrorism and instead
focuses on her studies. Jessica chose a summer internship in Boston,
giving her time away from the intensity of being so near the epicenter
of the destruction.
Care for yourself. Eat healthy. Get plenty of rest and exercise
to produce beta-endorphin hormones that help relieve stress. Being in
good physical shape can keep stress from turning into distress.
Continue routines of normal life. You will find solace through familiar
Be grateful. Each morning thank God for at least three blessings.
Ryan changed his thinking and heart attitude since last September. He
feels thankful for his family’s safety, stating, “I realize
what I could have lost in the tragedy and it made me realize I need
to cherish what I have.” God is more important than ever before,
and Ryan also feels thankful for the government’s efforts with
new safety measures and armed national guards at airports.
Do something positive for other people, such as volunteering
at a homeless shelter or a hospice center. Giving to people less fortunate
increases a sense of gratitude and helps a person feel like they have
From her window at Columbia University, Jessica saw smoke for weeks.
A trip last November to ground zero reminded her of the horror resulting
from hatred. Jessica joined an environmental clinic studying the health
impact from the damages and feels better because she is spending time
Tell others about Christ. Some people feel anxiety at unexpected
deaths, because of guilt that they failed to witness to others. When
anyone talks about anxiety, let it become an opening to share your faith.
God gave Sheila many opportunities in the past few months to witness,
on national TV, radio, and at local churches. She chose to respond and
reach out with the hope filled message, “My husband died so you
could have freedom, but Jesus died so you could have eternal freedom.”
Thousands of notes and cards sent to Sheila let her know that her
words touch lives and make a difference. Through the tragedy Sheila
has been comforted in seeing her sister and Stanley’s brother
both accept Christ and commit their lives to God.
As the ripples of troubled waters extend outward until finding a boundary,
people also reach out for something solid to grab in times when violence
disrupts peace. The solid foundation to clutch is Christ, our rock,
and His words, "I have told you these things, so that in me you
may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!
I have overcome the world." (John 16:33).
Karen H Whiting is an author and speaker. For more information
visit Secrets of Success
for Women . This article first appeared in The Lookout in 2002
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.