Sunday, July 5, 2009

The (Un) Happiest Place on Earth

As if we needed more reminders that trauma can strike anywhere, anytime, there was a crash on the monorail at Disney World's Magic Kingdom early this morning. One driver was killed. There were only five passengers on board, since it was 2 AM, and they were treated at the scene.

What caught the Quarterback's eye about this was the following line in the AP story:
The other train operator was not injured, but was taken to a hospital because he was emotionally shaken.
Now, please don't misunderstand me. I in no way wish to call out the other driver for being emotionally shaken or for needing more help. I remember how shaken I was after a fender bender in which no one was hurt, so I can only begin to imagine being in one where someone was killed. On the contrary, this caught the Quarterback's eye because a) it was publicly acknowledged and b) they took him to the hospital.

The hospital? Really? You have to be pretty incredibly overcome to need to be treated in a hospital for the psychological effects of trauma right after it happens. Not to say it doesn't happen, mind you, but most people's reactions are shaking and crying and intrusive images and thoughts, espeically right away. Most people don't completely dissociate or have a psychotic episode.

What I'm hoping happened, really, is that the first responders and/or the folks at Disney recognized that this poor guy needed some support and that there were going to be reporters all over the place, and decided to take him to the hospital and hope someone there could help him. And it's entirely possible there are CISM personnel at the hospital, and hopefully they know how to get a hold of a team if there aren't. I hope, for his own sake, that this event didn't totally blow out this guy's ability to be out in the world, to the point where he was a danger to himself or others, that fast. I doubt it did, but you never know.

The other thing that of course draws our attention to this story is that it happened at Disney World. There are 150,000 passengers on the monorails there every day. If you live on the East Coast or near it, you either have been to Disney World, are planning to go to Disney World, would like to go to Disney World or loathe the very idea of going to Disney World. Nobody reads this story and says, "Disney World? Never heard of it."

So it's easy to identify. It's easy to put yourself on that monorail and imagine what a crash would be like. If we were traumatized at all by the D.C. Metro crash, this also triggers that association. And it's probably also easy to find relief that the accident occurred at 2 AM, when most of us know we would never be on the monorail. As fast as we personalize, we detach.

The Quarterback's deepest condolences to the family of the driver killed, a speedy recovery to the other one, and a moment of silliness in which I imagine the CISM team peers for Disney World cast members, dressed as Mickey, doing a debriefing. The Quarterback needs to get more sleep.


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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
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