By: Kevin Becker, Psy.D.
As a psychologist who has worked solely in the field of trauma for 24 years I am accustomed to getting phone calls and emails about tragedies that are happening somewhere in the world. But not this time. This time was different. I've lived in Boston since college and I've been all over the world to help people prepare for and respond to the awful things that happen in an unpredictable world. Those who know me and the type of work I do, will often ask me "so are you going to (fill in the blank)?" when they hear news reports of a particularly horrid disaster or violent incident. Usually of course I'm not going, there are just too many to respond to. But this time it was my town and I didn't have to go far to make use of my training
Within six hours of the bombing I had a first request for help from an agency who knew me from a previous tragedy they had suffered. In those first few hours we in Boston weren't really sure just how bad it was going to be. But it quickly became apparent that there were going to be many victims who had been deeply affected on many different levels. There would be no delay in the need for ongoing response and services that are still unfolding over a month later. I've been to disasters that have so devastated areas that it would be decades until they completely recover. That is not what I expect here but the true ripple effect of these tragic bombings is still unknown, as it continues to ripple.
The most unusual aspect of this crime, for me as a trauma professional, has been the unexpected twists that come with having it happen in my town. Usually when I spend day after day after day focused on a single tragic event, I am in someone else's town. But not this time. This time I would hear story after story of fear, life threat, anger and the like and then instead of retreating to a hotel room or debriefing with a team of others who were also away from home, I had to come home, to my house and my neighborhood. I had to be dad and husband and neighbor. Usually I'm afforded at least the length of a plane ride to make that transition. But not this time. Every day for two weeks I listened to stories and provided the education and support that we know helps the healing proceed. And at the end of the day I came home, turned it off and prepared for the next day. Of course after all these years my family recognizes the weight of the work I do. And thankfully they are caring, understanding, and terrifically therapeutic.
Ironically, one of my primary stress management tools is running. I've run the Boston Marathon twice and I have a wide circle of friends and running buddies who took part in this year's race. My extended family hosts a huge marathon party every year. My brother has made it a priority to only buy homes that are located on the marathon route because the race and race day are so special to us. So as often as I've seen someone else's special place or special event tragically altered by some form of violence or disaster, unfortunately for me and many others that's not how it went...not this time.
Kevin Becker, Psy.D. is former Director of The Trauma Center in Boston. He will moderate a panel of providers who were engaged in supporting marathon bombing victims at this year's 24th Annual International Trauma Conference. The conference, co-sponsored by The Meadows trauma and addiction treatment center and the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute, is adding a new workshop to its roster entitled "Marathon Bombing: Supporting Victims Across Systems." The conference is being held May 29, through June 1, 2013, in Boston at the Seaport World Trade Center. For more information visit http://www.themeadows.com/events/detail/international-trauma-conference.