On 9/11 Professor Vincent Henry’s traumatic experience differs from the procedural effect outlined in the psychology of survival regarding rookies, detectives, patrol sergeants, crime scene investigators, and police survivors. The biggest difference regarding behavioral traits is the rank of patrol sergeant. In Henry’s book Death Work, the patrol sergeant can be distant in the death encounter in relying on experienced officers to handle the scene of the incident. Furthermore, the patrol sergeant usually assigns a rookie officer to a DOA in experiencing the rite of passage in a DOA.
In contrast, reading the epilogue in Death Work reveals Henry’s decision as a sergeant in choosing not to be distant from the death encounter. Henry affirmed this in his though process “There would be no such thing as relaxing-hypervigilance would prevail, and everything we did, everyone we contacted would be scrutinized” (Henry, 2004, Pg. 324). In a normal death scene, a sergeant relays lawful orders to ensure procedures are properly followed. In the 9/11 experience, Henry proceeded to take a proactive approach at the Police Academy in ensuring this soft target was well protected. Henry assessed the situation in protecting his fellow officers at the Police Academy” This was all about survival, about avoiding biological extinction and psychological breakdown. This was the moment I had trained for my entire life, and I consciously perceived and engaged and embraced it as a sublime opportunity to assess my personal and professional limits and capabilities” (Henry, 2004, Pg. 325).
The aforementioned statement by Henry is in compelling contrast on the viewpoint of crime scene investigators. Through my own professional experience as a NYPD Sergeant and in Death Work, crime scene investigators by nature are emotionally distant at crime scenes. The crime scene investigators are not being disrespectful, but are going through the process of completing the crime scene task at hand. Crime scene investigators view the human body not as a DOA but evidence. Furthermore, crime scene investigators have vast experience in dealing with horrific deaths; it does not enter their mindset of enduring a biological and psychological breakdown.
In the psychology of survival the detective has esteemed status in the police culture. On a professional experience, I have observed Chiefs lavish praise on detectives cracking the big case at press conferences. Henry affirms “Homicide detectives are among the most elite and experienced detectives within the elite detective bureau, and have perhaps the highest individual and group status in the subculture of police” (Henry, 2004, Pg. 325). In normal homicide investigations, the homicide detective looks to delve into history of the victim in establishing a relationship with surviving members. Homicide detectives pride themselves in “not getting emotionally involved” with surviving family members. As noted in Death Work, detectives will have a periodically be assigned case where emotions do get involved. In contrast, the 9/11 tragedy the homicide detective could not go through the normal process of the death encounter experience when 3,000 innocent civilians were murdered within a span of two hours. 9/11 brought the harsh reality of death in which many survivors had no closure on a loved one due to their loved ones completely vanishing in the World Trade Center (WTC) towers. Henry’s statement was to no avail for homicide detectives comforting survivor members of 9/11″Third, we must understand that the most important attribute a homicide detective can possess and put to practice is the ability to interact effectively with others in order to obtain information that will lead to solving the case, and that he must integrate this information with other images to achieve a particular kind of meaning (Henry, 2004, Pg. 206).
The differentiation in police survivors in 9/11 is in stark contrast to an individual police officer killed in the line of duty. When an individual police officer is killed in the line of duty, there is a mourning period involving a wake and the officer receiving full honors at a police funeral. In 9/11, there was no immediate closure as a police survivor in that some surviving family members refused to accept a police officer died in the line of duty for months in yearning the remains would be recovered at WTC. I and other co-workers suffered in death guilt of officers dying in 9/11. There is a similarity in suspicion of counterfeit nurturance during a line of duty death and the 9/11 deaths. Police survivors honored the fallen officers through memorials and benefits for surviving family members. After 9/11, Disney World offered discounts to NYPD members to vacation in Orlando, Florida. I knew some officers that took advantage of this benefit, I chose not to go in feeling I was gaining a financial benefit on the deaths of the 23 NYPD members.
In final, 9/11 was our generation’s Pearl Harbor bombing in 1941. 9/11 changed our lives forever and the terrorist attack in London on Wednesday 3/22/17 in which one police officer and three civilians were killed is a stark reminder on the ongoing war against terrorism. The psychology of survival is a framework on dealing with the death encounter. Unfortunately, when a terrorist act occur the psychology of survival is deviated. Henry affirms how a 9/11 event can impact police officers “ We tried to resume our ordinary lives , but at the same time we were unwilling and unable to put it all behind us; we clung to the experiences, struggled to understand them and ourselves, and attempted to make ourselves better cops for having them “ (Henry, 2004, Pg. 356).
Henry, Vincent E. (2004). Death Wish: Police, Trauma and the Psychology of Survival. New York: Oxford University Press. Pgs. VIII-356.