Chapter responds to Boston Marathon bombings

Jun 17, 2013

By Rena Malai, News staff

Pressure cooker bombs killed three people and injured about 164 when they exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April. In response to the tragedy, NASW’s Massachusetts Chapter has gathered resources and information online to help those affected by the bombings.

Julie Balasalle, front, government relations and political action associate for NASW’s Massachusetts Chapter, runs in the Boston Marathon in April. She was near mile 20 when the bombs exploded near the finish line.

“We have put together a resource list for families of victims, for victims themselves and one for the general community who wanted to help,” said Carol Trust, executive director of NASW-Massachusetts. “There is also a resource list for social workers on how to respond, not just for this but also for future references.”

Julie Balasalle, the chapter’s government relations and political action associate, ran in the marathon and was about six miles away from the finish line on Boylston Street when the two bombs went off.

“I woke up excited and full of adrenaline that day,” Balasalle recalled. “It was sort of like Christmas morning and I didn’t think anything could ever go wrong that day. There is no feeling like running in the Boston Marathon.”

As Balasalle reached mile 20 on Heartbreak Hill, runners were abruptly ordered to stop, she said. The bombs had just exploded at the finish line and the race was quickly shut down.

“It was all-out confusion,” Balasalle said. “It didn’t compute, and it didn’t make sense. There was just a lot of confusion, not knowing what was going on, and a lot of disbelief that this had even happened.”

This is a situation that will take some people a lifetime to manage, Trust said.

“I was a block away when the bombs exploded, and it sounded like thunder, or celebratory cannons going off,” Trust said. “It’s all still very fresh and people respond to it in different ways.”

Many people that day suffered from panic attacks, hyperventilation and anxiety over not immediately being able to connect with family and friends, she said.

“There is a whole range of response, and some could be affected with post-traumatic stress disorder for years, months, weeks — and others have more of a resilient response and carry on,” Trust said. “But some are still so raw that they still can’t talk about it.”

As is common with tragedy, an outpouring of generosity has made the city come together, she said, and the notion of Boston Strong is still apparent throughout the city.

“We’ll get through this,” Trust said.

The information the chapter gathered includes signs and symptoms that are common after a traumatic stress incident; steps to take for recovery; how to recognize when you need addition assistance; and guidelines for parents to help children deal with tragedy. The site also lists contact information for various hotlines and support organizations, and a link to the document “Disaster Resources for Social Workers and Clients.”

All of the information can be accessed at www.naswma.org

From the June 2013 NASW News.

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