Accidents and misfortunes happen all over the world, daily. Some are minor events which shape the attitudes and personalities of only the individuals involved. An example of this would be the teenager who got his first traffic violation for going over the speed limit; he just learned the value of following the law and that every action has a consequence. As you can see this event was minor and just affected him directly. On the other hand, some events are catastrophic and can change millions of lives worldwide; like the attacks to the RMS Lusitania by Germans or the attacks of 9/11.
As you read, we are going to recall those events, explore the opinions and thoughts of witnesses and survivors, as well as compare their similarities and differences. We will also compare the psychology effects on the population; not only the people directly involved but also the ones who watched them worldwide. Some of the major psychological problems that are encountered post-disasters are, but not limited to: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), paranoia, anxiety, aggressive behavior, guilt, sense of security was in jeopardy, phobias, depression, levels of patriotism and religion were elevated, among others.
PTSD is defined as “an anxiety disorder associated with serious traumatic events and characterized by such symptoms as survivor guilt, reliving the trauma in dreams, numbness and lack of involvement with reality, or recurrent thoughts and images. ” (Ciechanowski, 2009). We often mistake PTSD and emotional problems as exclusive for our soldiers, when the reality is that anyone can be affected if expose to a traumatic event. Take note on how you will see evidence of these reactions as part of the aftermath of both tragic incidents.
The Lusitania was a grand ship built by the British on 1907, and once described as the fastest and most powerful cruiser in the world. The ship was funded by the British Government, so they could use it in times of war if needed. When World War I began in 1914, the Lusitania was called to pay its debt, was suited for war, and placed on the manifest of ships assisting the British. The Lusitania was warned by the Imperial German Embassy on April 22, 1915 that there was an on-going war, therefore, any ship belonging to Great Britain or her allies were to use the waters at their own risk.
On May 1, 1915 the ship departed New York City on its way to Ireland; most of the passengers were American citizens. It was said that the ship was carrying ammunition to aid the British in the war, but this fact has never been confirmed and many studies argue its accuracy. If this fact was true or not matters little, the rumor was enough. The Germans utilized this rumor as an excuse to attack the Lusitania. On May 7, the ship was near the cost of Ireland when a U20 German submarine fired a torpedo at the Lusitania causing the ship to sink.
As chaos and panic took over the ship, many drowned while others died because of the fire and explosions on board. Of the 1,198 victims involved in this tragic event, 127 were Americans. (The Lusitania Disaster – An Overview). These events changed the lives of the many survivors to which “the terror of that week, warped their perceptions”. An anonymous daughter of a survivor of the Lusitania explains how the event changed her mother; “…turned life into death; and all those fears, all that anger misdirected itself – right onto her children.
Alcoholism, drug addiction, violence, suicide – all this and more stalked my siblings into their graves. My sister retreated into the bosom of religion, allowing her vision of God to buffer the shock. My Mother had none of my flexibility or my sister’s faith. For her, the only way to exorcise personal demons was to visit them upon others. ” (Diary of a Lusitania “Survivor”, 2005). This experience turned an otherwise lovely and caring mother into an individual that saw evil and destruction in everything around her. It also changed the perspective of the American public opinion towards the war in Europe.
As cited in The Sinking of the Lusitania: Eye Witness to History: “The sinking enraged American public opinion. The political fallout was immediate. President Wilson protested strongly to the Germans. In September, the Germans announced that passenger ships would be sunk only with prior warning and appropriate safeguards for passengers. However, the seeds of American animosity towards Germany were sown. Within two years, America declared war. ” (2000). The Lusitania has not been the only incident in which many American lives have been taken and our way of life has been on jeopardy.
Throughout history there have been numerous disasters both natural and man-made that have challenged us to come together for our future: Hurricane Katrina, London bombings, Oklahoma City bombing, among others. Perhaps, one of the worst displays of disregard for human lives was the attacks of September 11, 2001. Just as the Lusitania had some warning; so did the American government with the 9/11 attacks. “In December 1998, the Director of Central Intelligence Counterterrorist Center reported to the president that al-Qaeda was preparing for attacks in the USA, including the training of personnel to hijack aircraft. (Schmidt, 2004). In both cases, the warnings were ignored and the price was paid in blood, American blood. The attacks of 9/11 were a well planned and funded coordinated series of suicide attacks against strategic points on our own soil. These attacks were directed by a radical Islamic group known as al-Qaeda and their leader Osama bin Laden. Early the morning of September 11th, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hi-jacked four commercial passenger airplanes.
The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airplanes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 65, into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Both towers imploded and collapsed shortly after impact, killing between 2,000 and 3,000. The death toll includes people that could not get out of the building in time, hijackers and hundreds of courageous rescuers. (Pyszczynski, 2003, 3). The hijackers crashed a third airplane, American Airlines Flight 77, into the northwest wall of the Pentagon, in Washington, DC, killing around 200 people including passengers. Pyszczynski, 2003, 3). A fourth hijacked airplane, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed in rural Pennsylvania. United Airlines Flight 93 was the only hijacked airplane that didn’t make it to its target. This flight was heading to Washington, DC, with the White House as its most probable intended target. Fortunately, a passenger rebellion prevented this from happening. The only difference from this flight and the other three was that the heroic passengers decided to fight against an enemy, to give themselves a chance at saving their lives.
Even though they were unsuccessful and all 45 passengers died that morning, these passengers’ effort saved maybe thousands of lives; they are true American heroes. In a matter of hours, the images of these multiple attacks spread throughout the world bringing us closed to chaos and mass disorientation. As Pyszczynski states in his textbook In the Wake of 9/11, “Although terrorist attacks of various sorts had occurred throughout the world for most of the 20th century, nothing like this had ever happened here before, on our home soil, in the United States. (4). The reaction of the public was very similar in both cases. There was shock, fear, sorrow, and many other feelings of despair but there were also elevated levels of patriotism in every American, no matter what age, gender, or ethnicity, they strived to feel united, compassionate to others, and wanted justice. Therefore, both of these incidents eventually led to war, because the government felt the need to fulfill the nation’s desire for retribution. The Lusitania and the 9/11 attacks were great motivators to enter war.
The fact that these two incidents are separated by over 86 years, becomes evident in the severity of the fallout of those indirectly affected by the actual tragedies. The survivors and citizens of both of these attacks were exposed to the cruelty and barbarism of enemies that are willing to do anything in order to have the edge. The cruel images that were seen or heard worldwide exposed the hearts and minds of every American to a horrible realty. But, because in those 86 years, technology improved to help us to stay informed, which exposed us to more damage.
Many people watched as much as 4 hours of news and coverage of the events, daily, leaving them feeling depressed; some of them later were diagnosed of PTSD. During the time of the Lusitania, people often turned to religion as their outlet; a place to find answers of why. However after the attacks of 9/11 people used more material things to find comfort. “Others sought comfort by diverting their attention to other matters, by drinking, gambling, renting videos, watching television, and shopping. ” (Pyszczynski, 2003, 96). Paranoia is a thought process heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs concerning a perceived threat towards oneself. ” (Kantor, 2004) After the attacks of 9/11 many American citizens began to live on a paranoid state. Seeing threats everywhere and didn’t want to engage in daily activities. Some people even decided that every American citizen that had any family and businesses in the Middle East, or just looked different, were enemies and couldn’t be trusted.
This behavior was a consequence of the extreme anxiety and fear, and it brought unnecessary aggression against American citizens. As explained by Pyszczynski, “empirically examined the notion that when people lack an obvious or existing outlet upon which to project their of death in the form of prejudice and violence, they will latch on to some fairly arbitrary and trivial basis on which to declare themselves superior to another, in order to preserve their psychological equanimity in the face of death. ” (77).
Although the reactions of the general public were along the same lines, perhaps the major difference between the two attacks was the reaction of the government towards entering war and handling security issues. In the case of the Lusitania the public saw the attack as one of the most disgusting display of not caring for human lives but for the government it wasn’t just enough reason to enter war. “The sinking of the Lusitania was not the single largest factor contributing to the entrance of the United States into the war two years later, but it certainly solidified the public’s opinions towards Germany.
Many, though, consider the sinking a turning point—technologically, ideologically, and strategically—in the history of modern warfare, signaling the end of the “gentlemanly” war practices of the nineteenth century and the beginning of a more ominous and vicious era of total warfare. ” (The Lusitania Disaster – Public Reaction). Unlike the government’s calm and slow reaction after the attack on the Lusitania, after the attacks of 9/11; it wasn’t just the public who became paranoid. Government representatives such as: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Police Department, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), etc. ere targeting people just on the ground that they were from other countries; good people who decided to come to America, the land of opportunity, for a better education or a better job. John Sutherland, in an article published in The Guardian, states: “New York, traditionally the open door to America, has protested vociferously. ” It couldn’t have been done worse,” says Gail Szenes, director of New York University’s office for international students and scholars. Renewal of visas for overseas students has become a nightmare. There are deportations on grounds of incomplete documentation. ” (Sutherland, 2003).
President Bush was quoted multiple times expressing his thoughts about the war, later known as the War on Terrorism, and his duty to the people. President Bush was quoted: “I am prepared to risk my presidency to do what I think is right. I was going to act. And if it could cost the presidency, I fully realized that. But I felt so strongly that it was the right thing to do that I was prepared to do so. ” (Hamilton, 2004). The president summarizes how the people felt in that quote. They felt and believed that going to war was the right thing to do and they were willing to risk lives for the love to this country.
Another big difference in these attacks was the fact that with the Lusitania, there was a known enemy, someone to blame, a face to the crime. It was also world news that there was a war taking place in that part of the world. The catastrophe of the Lusitania couldn’t be a total surprise given the fact that the ship was listed as an ally to Great Britain, and a warning was given by the German Government. This was not the case in the attacks of 9/11. Perhaps there was a warning that the government chose to ignore, but for most of the citizens, these attacks were a surprise.
The hijackers were living among us, went to our schools, etc. We didn’t know what was going to happen until it was too late. They came out of nowhere to change their lives forever. During these attacks, lives changed, personalities were put to the test; faith and religion were needed more than ever. The psychological effects of these attacks were hard to deal with; some people are still trying to overcome them. Historians and professionals can argue all day about the similarities and differences of both events but the reality is that the psychologically effects that these disastrous events had in the people are so much alike.
The effects were not limited just to the people directly involved, but to the general public as well who felt connected to the victims. The lucky ones get help; others have to cope with them for years, waiting with fear to see if these conditions develop to something worst. But at the end of the day, every American citizen can look back to these attacks and realized that on these days we were tested once again, and we prevail.
Ciechanowski, P. (2009). Overview of post-traumatic disorder. Retrieved from http://www. uptodate. com/home/index. html Diary of Lusitania “Survivor”. (2005). Retrieved from Course Materials.
Hamilton, W. (2004). Bush Began to Plan War Three Months After 9/11. Retrieved from http://www. washingtonpost. com/wp-dyn/articles/A17347-2004Apr16. html