After two weeks of searching for survivors and a change from the rescue mission to the recovery phase, the victims and families of the Surfside building collapse began their grieving phase after going through a long agony awaiting official information about their loved ones.
In an exclusive interview with El American, Edith Shiro, a psychologist specializing in trauma, who treated victims of 9/11 and collaborates as a volunteer with the NGO “Cadena” in the psychological care of victims in Surfside, said that what struck her most about what happened is the scope and the large number of people affected by the collapse.
The tragedy of the collapse of the Champlain Tower South condominium left countless victims who are currently facing trauma. Relatives of the deceased, neighbors, rescuers and close societies will have to overcome stages of pain, denial, negotiation and acceptance. This is an emotional and psychological struggle that seems endless.
“To me what strikes me about this particular tragedy is that one building, (which is not thousands of people like the one I was dealing with on 9/11 in New York) is that it is a small building and each of the people who have been affected have a network of people they are connected to who are also affected, it is not a tragedy of only local scope,” she said.
Shiro explained that each person within the affected groups experienced the trauma differently. She highlighted those who not only lost loved ones but also lost their belongings and had to run away from the collapse.
“Many of the survivors who did not lose a loved one will have lost their home or material things, but they also lived the experience, the trauma of escaping, which is another trauma as well,” she recalled.
The specialist, who has been able to see the trauma experienced by police officers, firefighters, suppliers and neighbors, highlighted the serious situation the rescuers are going through at ground zero.
“The rescuers are quite traumatized, they are taking turns among themselves and are very alert, when they see signs of some kind of trauma, they immediately seek help,” she said.
“The rescuers not only suffer from what they see every day, but they also suffer from the guilt of not being able to rescue someone alive,” she added.
Surfside: “Many of us suffer from irrational fears in a generalized way”
Because the fall of a building is not a common event in the world, when it happens, it manages to affect a population that is impossible to calculate.
Shiro explained that it is not only those on the front line who suffer from fear because they experienced the tragedy firsthand but also those who are miles away and are affected by the gravity of the news.
“When things like this happen, when a plane crashes, a building falls, an accident happens, a pandemic, we start to feel irrational fears,” she pointed out.
The grieving phase begins
In the interview, the specialist explained that once the bodies and some belongings have been recovered, the healing phase will begin for all those involved.
“At this moment we are still living the trauma and it is only when we finish this phase that we will be able to start healing, meanwhile we are in action mode, in crisis intervention and it is in a few days, when this phase ends, that we will start this whole process of how to heal”, she explained.
“Hopefully everyone can have their closure, which is one of the most important things, that they are not left suspended without response and once that happens each person enters a phase of grieving,” she said.