Friday, March 9, 2012

The Shawnee Fire: Two Weeks and Counting

Even though the Shawnee fire “two week mark” technically was last night, daybreak that following morning saw firefighters still fighting the fire. (Did you know they kept pouring water on that building for three days before they were convinced it was safe to withdraw?)

Thanks in part to the “fast food” mentality of a society addicted to 24/7 news and the Next Breaking Thing, most have forgotten this tragedy and moved on with life.

But when a crisis of this magnitude strikes you, two weeks is barely enough time to begin the healing process.

Three separate incidents that both Kathi and Amy told me about recently caused me to seek out a friend and ask her for an article on trauma. Here’s what happened: 

Friday after the fire, Amy and Lee stepped away from the apartment complex for a quick bite to eat when a fire truck raced past their location. The minute she heard the sirens, Amy’s heart started to pound and she started to shake. Trauma.

This past Sunday night, around 11 PM, a fire truck comes racing into the apartment complex, lights flashing and siren screaming. It stops at the building Amy now lives in. It was responding to a medical emergency, not a fire. Still.
In Kathi's words, "my heart's about to jump out of my chest." All thoughts of sleep - banished. Trauma.

Amy & Kathi:
2 AM, Wednesday morning. Fire trucks yet again race into the complex. This time they stop at Kathi's new apartment building. And this time, it is a fire. Kathi grabs CJ and races to Amy's. Kathi tells reporters, "the memory of seeing the building go up in flames - it's still too raw." Neither one can sleep that night, nerves on edge. Trauma.
Who wouldn’t respond that way, given the circumstances?

The friend I reached out to is Marla Swoboda, then VP of Development for Wayside Waifs. Marla recently invited her sister Jana, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, to fly in to KC to speak with us about Compassion Fatigue. During her very informative talk, she briefly touched on how trauma can impact our lives. 

I asked Marla if Jana had any articles on the topic and Jana graciously forwarded this link to two great articles on her blog: one on anxiety, one on PTSD. I'm not suggesting Amy or Kathi have PTSD -- but the general concepts could apply to this situation.

Here’s a brief excerpt from the first article:
"The brain is great at learning what scares it. Danger memories can get hard-wired to provide a quick spill of chemicals that ideally would serve us well-- to get us the hell out of dodge, or help us fight off our attacker.

Brain is not particularly selective in what gets filed, which can result in some strange associations we may not even know exist. For example, if you're in a car wreck, Brain may file away not only screeching tires and breaking glass. You might find yourself also getting panicky feelings (the emotional interpretation of all those chemicals coming to fore) when you pass white Hondas, or that particular intersection. That one's easy to connect, but while you might not have noticed what was on the radio, Brain could have, and you may not understand why your heart races every time that Lady Gaga song plays."

The articles are excellently written and informative. Perhaps they will provide insight, or just a bit of sensitivity, towards two friends who are continuing to work through an especially difficult situation.

If you’re interested, I’d encourage you to click over and read the articles. Who knows? You may have reason to put this information to good use some day in the future.

Can Sebastian and CJ suffer from PTSD? We’ll take a look at that on Sunday.


  1. Thank you so much for those very informative articles. I was in an auto accident many years ago, and for a good year after I was paranoid any time I'd see a car moving up rapidly behind me. Kathy and Amy will be years getting over this trauma. Regarding animals - yes, I would think they could suffer from some sort of stress after in some form anyway.

  2. I have had some second hand experience with PTSD and it can last a long time. I am praying for healing for Kathi, Amy, Sebastian, and CJ. And yes, I think animals can suffer from PTSD,too.

    Pip & Kristin

  3. PTSD can get a strong hold on sum1 H2 knows and iz fightin wif it herz self. Herz feels fur dem humanz and da kittehs. I do finks dat anipals can suffers from PTSD too.

    My heart did almost stop too when u sed der wuz nutter fire in CJ n Kathi's new apartment building!!! I do not knows iffen I could live attached to so many peeples. We live in a duplex so we attached to one utter fambly n dat skeers us sum times too.

    *HUGS* to everybuddy.

  4. TW had a friend with PTSD stay with her once. She didn't know about the PTSD until the friend woke up screaming at night. Yes, animals most certainly get it. I'm sure any source of heat, probably even sun puddles, scares CJ and feels uncomfortably warm to him. He is a beautiful cat and he's beginning to look less like a burn victim every day. I don't know if he's healing this quickly psychologically. I hope Amy and Kathi can work together to heal. It's good that they're so close.

  5. PTSD is tough, indeed. We are purring and praying for Amy, Kathi, Lee, Sebastian and CJ.

  6. Our mom is a survivor of the 1957 Ruskin Heights tornado (not far from Wayside Waifs) and was a little girl at the time. Back then there was no help for anyone emotionally and her parents would not let her talk about it. Because of that, she suffers with PTSD to this day. We keep Kathi and Amy in our prayers as they deal with this loss in their lives. It's important to talk about it and get those fears out in the open.

  7. After Bronto's accident a month ago, which resulted in her death, my heart will thump and thump when I hear the car backing out of the driveway. And I do believe animals suffer from PTSD too. I know Whisky did and it took years for her to get better.

    The articles you provided certainly is timely. Thank you.

  8. Thank you for these articles. It's given me an idea for my blog post for Sunday.

  9. Good articles. I agree about PTSD and that animals can get it too. CJ is a sweetheart x

  10. I am sure CJ was traumatized by the fire! Heck, I reacted badly when my human's boyfriend tried to pill me (my human does it easily), and wouldn't let him near me again. So something HUGE like that fire - which destroyed his home, killed a family member and badly injured him - is bound to leave its mark. Even though it was two weeks ago, I still purr for him and Kathi, and Amy and Lee and Sebastian. They have a long road of healing ahead of them.

  11. We can only hope that someday CJ will be able ta forget the fear and pain.

  12. Thanks for keeping us all up to date on our friends. CJ is looking so much better.

  13. Aw, even my flinty little heart just melts when I see CJ so sweetly sound asleep. They all need time to heal, and napping is always good ;-) XOXOXO from me and the Human

  14. We haven't been able to keep up like we'd like with Typist injured. We were horrorhorrorhorrorfied to hear that Kathi's new building had a fire. Typist says she would have peed in her britches. We are so glad they got over to Amy's and it turned out okay! Typist has PTSD, so if either wants to talk to someone who can relate tell either to give her a shout. I know where to find her. ;) *ducky hugs to all*
    And CJ, you are so handsome!!! :)

  15. Thank you for posting this information. I can't imagine what they are all going through. It's going to be tough, but thankfully they have people around them like you to help them. My dog and I were in a car accident years ago. The car was totalled. I had 7 months of physio. My dog, while physically fine, was terrified of the car for about 2 months. I won't listen to the Duran Duran CD that was playing at the time of the accident, I threw it away. That was 7 yrs ago.


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