THE MAGAZINE

The Trauma of Terrorism: Sharing Knowledge and Shared Care.

By Derek Knights

*****The Trauma of Terrorism: Sharing Knowledge and Shared Care. An International Handbook. Edited by Yael Danieli, Danny Brom, and Joe Sills; published by The Haworth Press, www.haworthpress.com (Web); 858 pages; $69.95.

 Yes, there are 858 pages in this book. But that fact proves to be more of a blessing than a curse even though readers will face some challenges as they work their way through this treatise on the psychological effects of terrorism. Part of the problem is that it includes some clinical discussions that are extraordinarily emotionless. It’s a wonder that writing on such a critical topic can be so inert. However, the work is rescued by its many worthwhile and engaging chapters, and it is particularly valuable for anyone with an emergency-response or incident-prevention role.

This is not a book so much as a collection of essays, monographs, and first-person accounts of the effects of terrorism from ground zero—the point of impact—to the human effects years afterward. Editors Yael Danieli and Danny Brom, both clinical psychologists, and Joe Sills, a retired United Nations secretariat, have recruited a wide spectrum of authors to contribute. They range from international academicians to world-renowned medical practitioners to street-level emergency workers. In the best of their prose, one can feel the pain of the victims and the frustration of the community of caregivers and healers whose job it is to repair shattered minds and lives.

Certainly this book is for psychologists, but it is valuable for security professionals, law enforcement, and military personnel as well. Foremost, it reminds us that these disciplines exist to serve and protect fellow citizens. People are the true assets under attack, not the brick-and-mortar structures that we often focus on.

For many survivors of terrorism, an attack never ends. One chapter posits that the same can be true of people who witness the event from afar, such as on television. Such indirect victims will appear at a terror scene and be treated side-by-side with victims of the actual attack. Their presence complicates triage and delays treatment for the most seriously wounded. Yet they must be handled with compassion and professionalism.

Many of the articles here are complex studies of posttraumatic stress disorder or other chronic and acute psychological maladies, and methods to mitigate the damage they can do. As seen vividly on 9-11, victims can also include the responder community, such as firefighters, police officers, security staff, and medical personnel. In fact, particularly riveting in this book is a series of first-person accounts from responders at Oklahoma City, the Pentagon, and the World Trade Center. One 9-11 firefighter recalls returning to the station: “[A]s we pulled up in front of [the fire station], that’s when we saw the wives with their children looking for their husbands…. What training did we have to handle this situation?”

Many of the articles are written from an Israeli perspective—“Mental Health Interventions in a General Hospital Following Terrorist Attacks: The Israeli Experience,” to name but one example. Others relate to experiences in Northern Ireland, Asia, and Africa, such as “Observations on the Impact on Kenyans of the August 7, 1998, Bombing of the United States Embassy in Nairobi.”

Europe and the Americas are represented as well. Many of the articles are of such specific and exclusive interest, however, that readers may not be interested in them. No matter; a detailed table of contents, index, and mini biographies of contributors ensure that readers can find items of interest. Many pieces are compelling.

It should be the responsibility of all security professionals to remember those who have experienced what we fight to prevent. Their real psychological struggles should inspire us. From attacks of global infamy to incidents in poor Sri Lankan villages, this book explores the underappreciated psychological front in society’s war on terror.


Reviewer: Derek Knights, CPP, CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional), is an internal consultant on security, risk assessment, and investigations with Ontario Power Generation, Inc., in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a member of ASIS.

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