Yesterday, when leaving Church, we heard the sirens. They kept coming…and coming…and coming. It was a tragedy that had occurred at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center just a couple of blocks away. You probably read in the news about the circus performers whose equipment failed and they fell onto the floor of the performance center, sustaining serious injuries. A day later there are still acrobats hospitalized, one in critical condition.
The immediate concern was for the performers, but then it began to be obvious that there were other injuries…to the children and their parents who had come to the “Dunk” to watch the famous Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus perform. There would be elephants, tigers, clowns…and aerial acrobats. Little did they know that they would be sent home early as ambulances began to drive out onto the floor of the center where ice hockey, basketball, and rock bands belong. The tragedy of the falling acrobats was sudden, shocking, and certainly implanted in young minds. They had just experienced a traumatic incident. It would not escape their memories right away, if ever.
Trauma is a phenomenon that occurs without warning, and one which affects the psychology of those observing it. I have been in Emergency Rooms when accident victims and victims of gunshot wounds have been brought in for medical care. The ER staff, from doctors to maintenance crews are touched by tragedy, and it affects them. It doesn’t keep them from doing their jobs; to the contrary, it kicks them into the very mode for which they have been trained. But as you watch them go about their trauma functions it would be wrong to think that they are immune to horror. The memories may not begin until they are off duty and lying in their beds after a difficult day.
So for these children (and adults) who witnessed the tragic event at the circus yesterday it was doubly traumatic. They have not been trained to react with efficiency and effectiveness. They were all about candy cotton, popcorn, and balloons when suddenly confronted by screams, blood, and panic. Their trauma is immediate, but it will also occur when they are in their beds for the night.
We have been introduced too frequently to the condition called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as experienced by military personnel in the setting of war. They do not leave their trauma behind, either. It reoccurs in the most unlikely of times long after they have been removed from the site of the trauma. It is a tragic, epidemic condition for which the medical field is rushing to discover medicines, treatments and care modalities.
Trauma need not be related to bodily harm, though. It can come after a psychological shock which occurs in one’s home life, work place, school setting, or even in entertainment and sports settings. It is serious, and it should not be trivialized.
There is a good amount of reporting in the media today about the acrobats who were injured yesterday. There is not a lot, and there will undoubtedly be little, about the children and adults who sat in the seats. They have gone home, out of the sight of the cameras and the microphones of the journalists and photographers. My hope is that they will not be forgotten, and that the responsible people in their lives will insist upon care and caution for them as they process their traumatic memories.
Photo Credit: BostonGlobe.com