Friday, June 28, 2013

The Upside of Trauma

Worries about post-traumatic stress have become a stock part of the media narrative surrounding tragedies like Boston and Newtown. And resilience is supposedly the best we can hope for in the face of adversity. But what if there’s a third option? The story of one mass shooting, and the surprising tug of post-traumatic growth.


The Year of Living Traumatically: The Boston bombings (above), the Newtown school massacre, and the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion all played out within a few months of each other.

The event that changed Bill Benson’s life revealed itself in his Twitter feed early last Christmas Eve morning. It started, as so many episodes of mass violence do, with a plot so fiendish that ordinary people like Benson couldn’t immediately comprehend it. In the town of Webster, New York, on the shore of Lake Ontario, someone had set a row of houses ablaze and then lain in wait with a rifle to ambush the firefighters.

Three of them, all volunteers, lay in the road—two dead, one grievously wounded and pinned down by gunfire. A fourth took cover in the bullet-riddled fire truck, using a radio to broadcast warnings and a heartbreakingly cool-headed plea: “I am struck in the lower back and lower leg, both of which I know can be deadly. So I need EMS.” Benson stared as the news tweets unspooled on his screen for 90 agonizing minutes, until police confirmed the shooter’s suicide and rescued the survivors. By then, seven homes had turned to smoldering heaps, and the media’s attention was shifting to the basic questions: Who? Why?

For the rest of the story:

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