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Recovery may be slow, city psychologist says

From Staff Reports

April 20, 1995

After the first shock of loss will come the funerals, the mourning, the terrible memories, the sleepless nights and the nightmares, local mental health workers 1 say.

"It's going to take weeks before recovery even starts," said Oklahoma City psychologist Vernon R. Enlow, just hours after a car bomb tore into the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Wednesday morning.

Emotional wounds will affect everyone, Enlow said.

"There's going to be the funerals, the losses," he said. "And there's going to be the scar downtown. That building will be there for weeks as a reminder."

Dealing with this act of human violence will be different from dealing with a natural disaster, Enlow said.

"After everything soaks in, there will be anger and hostility," he said. And if the bombing is ever associated with any specific group, Enlow warned hostility could be directed toward innocent people.

Enlow said it is important to get victims of a disaster talking about what happened, what they felt, what they saw, where they were. Others, especially those who don't have someone to talk to, might want to seek professional help, he said.

Enlow said he has been involved in "debriefing" individual disaster victims.

But he asked, "How do you debrief a whole city? " "I don't know," he said.

Jorg Pahl, an assistant professor of psychology and behavioral science at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, said victims of the bombing could experience post-traumatic stress disorder.

Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, depression and difficulty with sleeping. Anyone suffering such symptoms should seek professional counseling, Pahl said.

In addition, Pahl advised parents to discuss with their children what happened, the nature of the tragedy and its implications.

Those who lost family members in the bombing may find help from the local chapter of Compassionate Friends, a support group.

"Unless you have been through it, you do not know what it is like," said Norman chapter member Angie Loveless of Noble.

In Oklahoma City, the Compassionate Friends group can be reached at 789-8840.

Other numbers are 360-4287 in Norman, or Betty Smith at 329-4280 and Loveless, 872-3958.

Staff writers John Perry, Gypsy Hogan, Robert Medley and Jim Killackey contributed to this report.


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