Reflections on 9/11

September 11th, 2006 by Julie Ferguson

The anniversary of 9/11 is a difficult one for many. The insurance industry was hit particularly hard, with the loss of hundreds of colleagues at Marsh, Aon, and other insurance-related companies housed in the World Trade Center. And here in the Boston area, many were affected by the loss of friends and neighbors traveling on the planes to New York. Few were left untouched – if not directly, then by six degrees of separation. A close friend lost a cousin; my next-door neighbor normally took Flight 11 to California for buying trips, but missed that day due to illness. Everyone around here has stories like that.
With the anniversary comes a barrage of heartbreaking stories about the ongoing stuggles that many survivors experience in picking up the pieces and moving on with their lives. Many of these people are suffering from debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
After a traumatic event, many people suffer a temporary stress reaction that can last for weeks or months and be quite severe, but with support, most work through it and go on to recover. About one in five will go on to develop PTSD, a more severe, persistent, and incapacitating stress reaction. PTSD is often characterized by delayed onset, and often does not manifest itself until significantly after the event.
In addition, there is the sad ongoing saga of the emerging first responders’ health crisis: nearly 70% are reported to have debilitating respiratory illnesses. We are only seeing the tip of the healthcare crisis iceberg here.
The insurance industry could perform a great service by tracking and conducting research on the prevalence of 9/11-related physical and psychological disabilities over time. Studying this event and Katrina could provide valuable clues to disability prevention and treatment in the aftermath of disasters.
This sad anniversary should be a reminder: Hug your loved ones every day. Be kind to your colleagues. Don’t sweat the small stuff.