Of course, we all know what happened at the Boston Marathon.
As a forensic psychiatrist, I've evaluated and worked with more than 300 survivors of the World Trade Center terrorist attack, and many others who lived through catastrophic incidents including explosions, fires, mass shootings, and other disasters. When an event occurs as a result of human design, it can make us lose faith in humanity and the reasonable predictability of daily life.
I'm quite familiar with the psychic toll these horrific assaults take on people. In Boston, some who were injured, or witnessed the deaths and injuries suffered by others, will develop the well-known signs and symptom of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Hopefully, with appropriate psychological help, they will negotiate the trauma, and in time, will go on with their lives.
Most of us weren't near the marathon's finish line; but by now, have seen on television, countless videos of the attack and subsequent chaos. Today's 24 hour cable news cycle saturates us with images of the attack and its aftermath. Add to that, the frequent press conferences peppered with reporters' questions; the Internet with its endless speculation; and the pervasive presence of television and radio.
One question for many of us is how best to cope with a senseless act of this kind. Of course, we hope the various federal, state and local agencies will apprehend the perpetrator(s). Such a development will provide some satisfaction, but we must accept that we live in a dangerous world. Terrorism is a fact of life throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia and here. It's a worldwide phenomenon. There will always be those who use terror to make us fearful of living our lives.
While we can't ignore this reality, we cannot allow fear to rule us. If we think about it, the chance of being harmed by a terrorist attack is far less than the chances we take living our daily lives. We drive or ride in cars virtually every day; cross heavily trafficked streets; walk past construction sites; and expose ourselves on a day-to-day basis to many potential dangers, without even thinking about them.
Part of what terrorists try to do (aside from making political statements) is terrorize us. They attempt to make us feel unmitigated fear in living our daily lives. They want to constrict and diminish our lifestyles, and thereby lessen us.
We cannot allow that to happen.