Thursday, August 1, 2013

Exploring Phenomenon of Pentagon Survivors’ September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack Experience

Jeraline C. Shields, Student, School of Human & Organizational Development

Commercial American Airlines Flight 77 left Washington Dulles International 8:21 A. M. with 58 passengers and 6 crew, members, with a destination: Los Angeles. The airline was hijacked in route by terrorists. At 9:41 A. M., Flight 77 flew into the Northwest wall of the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. Everyone onboard was killed. Workers of the Pentagon were going about their daily morning rituals just as everyone in the United States. We soon discovered this was not a routine day. 140 unsuspecting individuals died in the Pentagon and countless others sustained mental and physical injury. The Pentagon was the third building hit that morning. In New York City, Tower one and tower two at the World Trade Center experienced one plane crash each into each tower prior to the third plane flying into the Pentagon. The fourth hijacked plane was forced to the ground by passengers over Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The purpose of my research was to investigate the lived experiences of the Pentagon survivors of September 11, 2001 attack. Learn more about victim trauma skills they may have developed; understand the psychological and social logical impact on their lives; and document meanings associated with unexpected traumatic experiences through the survivor’s stories. Result of this research will add to the literature currently on terrorist’s devastation in the work environment available on this particular phenomenon. Learn about the support systems and coping techniques. I expect to become more aware of survivor skills inherent from trauma experiences; be more cognizant of differences and similarities of similar experiences; and allow the voices of the Pentagon survivors’ voices to be heard by sharing their stories. The qualitative research study is important to me and is needed for several reasons. First, a gap exists in the literature about September 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon. Stories about ordinary military and civilian workers who picked up the pieces and were left to put things back together had not told their stories. This research will bring to light identification of some of those people who contributed to the quick Pentagon recovery.

To explore this phenomenon and answer the research questions, a qualitative method was used with phenomenological strategy of inquiry. With qualitative research method, questions are not limited nor are the answers limited to one thought or event. Qualitative method of inquiry was selected because it allowed me to capture not only the first thought level of data from participants, emerging thoughts participants may get in touch with as the discussion stimulates his or her memory of events beyond the open ended questions are informative and appreciated. With application of phenomenology culture of inquiry, I can identify the essence of the human experiences provided by participants’ answers, environment, and offline discussions.

When I step back and look at my findings, I consider what came out of the interviews to be very useful additions to the literature, serve as basic guidelines for planning organizational terrorist attack preparedness procedures, and recognition of behavioral patterns to be expected after employees experience various levels of trauma.

Findings: (1) After the American Airline, Commercial Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, survivors were shocked, fearful of danger, and unsure of what to do or where to go. (2) Survivors compassionately took care of each other’s needs. They provided food, transportation, and comfort. (3) In the days, weeks, months and years afterwards, survivors were involved with funerals, memorials, anniversaries and ceremonies. (4) Family was the first to be notified by survivors. Family and friends responded to the attack with concern for survivors. (5) Survivors made many personal life changes from the time of the attack until the present. (6) Hate toward Americans and America’s prior friendly relationships with terrorists was confusing. My claims are as a result of rigorously following qualitative methodological and phenomenological procedures, including coding data, clustering themes, participants sharing and making meaning of their statements of lived experiences.

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