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Tuesday September 11 5:15 PM ET

Psychologists: Attacks Will Leave Deep Scars

By Patricia Reaney

LONDON (Reuters) - In scenes worse than a disaster film, three hijacked passenger jets slammed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon (news - web sites) on Tuesday killing untold numbers of people and robbing a nation and the world of its sense of safety.

Trauma experts and psychologists said survivors of the catastrophe and relatives of those killed in the disaster would never be emotionally the same again.

For millions of others who watched the carnage on television the harrowing images will be imprinted forever in their memory.

"Personal security is going to be shaken and everybody's perspective on human life is likely to be shifted by it," said Leslie Carrick-Smith, a British psychologist and trauma expert.

"Nobody is really going to feel safe because those towers were icons, symbols of world commerce and order. People realize how vulnerable they are to whoever could actually do that," he said.


Every aspect of the attack, from its suddenness and sophisticated co-ordination to the use of hijacked passenger jets as suicide bombs, added to the horror of the crime.

"It turns the world into a totally alien, dangerous place in which we cannot predict what is going to happen," said Gerard Bailes, a clinical and forensic psychologist in eastern England.

People have often been sickened by suicide bombers, but the idea that extremists might hijack passenger jets and force them to careen into packed offices was beyond anyone's worst nightmare.

"The scale of this is bigger than anything, anyone has ever seen in a lifetime. What is so potentially psychologically damaging about it is its unexpected nature," Carrick-Smith said.

He described the co-ordination of the attack as terrifying and although it has been compared to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Carrick-Smith said it was not the same as war.

"War is different because war can be almost foreseen and it is between clearly defined nations," he said.

"The outbreak of war is generally premeditated and one can see it unfold. This happened in seconds without any warning and the psychological reaction of many people will be -- if that can happen in seconds what will happen next?"

The people who co-ordinated and executed the attack do not operate by normal human values and their delusions are so intense it is impossible to predict what they might do, Carrick-Smith said.

"It is not unrealistic to say that this can actually threaten world order in terms of commerce and oil and in terms of the unknown repercussions," he added.


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