The Psychological Impact of
Isolated Acts of Terrorism
University of Kentucky, USA
Throughout the ages, society and its members have withstood countless tragedies and acts of violence: natural disasters, plagues and acts of war, among others. To our anguish, terrorism has become one of the most destructive threats to the human condition. Each event tears at the fabric of society and raises questions about the impact of these traumas and the capacity of humans to adapt to cataclysmic events. Is there an aetiological link between the trauma experience and hypothesised outcome? Does exposure to trauma have long-term effects? Are there personal risk factors for the development and maintenance of post-trauma psychopathology? And how does treatment and the utilisation of specific coping strategies impact the post-disaster response? These questions have received considerable attention in the literature, though considerable gaps in our understanding remain. As we sift through the aftermath of tragedies, we search for answers to these questions.
The years since the Oklahoma City bombing have provided opportunities to uncover some valuable clues. On 19 April 1995, a domestic terrorist bombed the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City killing 168 people and injuring hundreds more. At the time this was the most destructive act of terrorism on US soil. Tragically, however, on September 11,