WASHINGTON – The Washington Navy Yard has cleared most of its roughly 16,000 workers to return to their jobs Thursday, but many are dealing with fresh emotional trauma as they prepare to revisit the places they fled in fear during Monday’s shooting rampage that left 13 people dead — including the gunman — and scores more injured.
The Navy ramped up this week to help the affected civilian and military personnel, deploying dozens of counselors — including psychologists, chaplains, hospital corpsmen and federal social workers — and establishing emergency family-assistance centers that provide call-center and in-person support.
“We will come together as a family to deal with this,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a video Monday.
Experts say returning to work is bound to make many employees anxious, if they’re not already feeling the effects of post-traumatic stress.
Col. Katherine Platoni, an Army psychologist, has firsthand experience with such difficulties. She went through similar trauma during the 2009 Fort Hood shooting in Texas that left 13 dead, including a colleague who bled to death in front of her.
“There is a tremendous loss of emotional control because the safe place they might have thought their world to be has been shattered,” Platoni said. “There’s tremendous grief over massive losses, survivor guilt, depression. Anger is going to be a huge issue for many people.”
The list goes on: frustration that a gunman gained access to the base, trouble with concentration, loss of sleep, flashbacks.
“It does improve over time, but there are triggers,” Platoni said, noting that her hands began to shake as she watched Monday’s news reports. “When something like this terrible massacre occurs, it takes you right back.”