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Cedar Rapids Gazette Newspaper Archives

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Cedar Rapids Gazette (Newspaper) - October 9, 1974, Cedar Rapids, Iowa r 4A TV Cedar Rapids Gazette: Wed., Oft. I, 1974 Survivors Of Flood ‘Envy Dead CINCINNATI (CPI) - The most extensive psychological study ever made for legal ac tion has netted the survivors of a Buffalo Creek, W. Va., flood a whopping $13 5 million, hut psychiatrists say the money can’t provide what's needed most — peace of mind. Big money won’t replace the little, but essential, natural pleasures of life taken from the emotionally depressed residents of the remote coal mining area, according to doctors “The ginseng root can show you what has happened to the spirit of the people," says Dr James Titchf’er "Ginseng is an herb found in the hills there and the people of Buffalo Creek used to love to get out and look for it "Aren’t Interested" “But it’s not that way any more. And as for hunting and fishing, activities that always made life attractive there. well. the people aren’t interested in them any more. “The residents have locked themselves up. They stay at home. Watch television Drink more Smoke more. Go visiting less    Theres complete disinterest in life There s actually envy for the dead ’’ To understand what the doctor is talking about one must look back to a dreary Saturday morning in February . 1972. A coal mine dam broke and 150 million gallons of water and sludge cascaded into the 20-mile long Buffalo Creek valley. The death toll was 125. A $65 million damage suit was filed by 654 survivors, including 250 children, against owners of the Buffalo Mining Co. This summer a $13 5 million out of court settlement — largest ever granted for psychological damages — was reached Individual Interviews Psychiatric interviews provided leverage for the settlement. Because each survivor had sued separately, the judge ordered individual interviews. So. Titchener. professor of psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati, assembled HO fellow health workers to literally probe the mental health of a community. The findings showed nothing short of an entire way of life being wiped out. Reports were dotted with the likes of "serious psychological impairment . . . anxiety depression . . . personality change . . . disorganization of thinking . . . guilt . . . shame . .. loss of ambition. " “People are ashamed that they are alive while 125 of their friends are not,’’ says Titchener “Because they survived. they think others see them as cowards Believe me. there is plenty of envy for the dead in Buffalo Creek "Chances of Hurt" “People are defending against experiencing anything else bad. It's the law of averages, they figure The less you get involved, the less chance of being hurt But defenses like these interfere with adjustment back to normal life. "And worst of all. time is not healing the wounds It s getting worse instead of better." What can Im* done9 “The best thing would be regular psychiatric treatment, but I doubt if many will s«*ek it out." answers Titchener "Organizing the law suit helped somewhat because it represented one type of positive. outward ambition I MW Project? “I d like to see some group spend the money to set up a treatment center in the area That might be a worthwhile project for an organization like the United Mine Workers (UMW). “But it s too late for the best remedy. There should have been an educational program right from the beginning to let the survivors know what might happen to them psychologically. "They were not prepared for the things they are now going through Buffalo Creek is a vivid example of what is needed at the next place a disaster strikes — an immediate program to tell the survivors what they're going to be up against." 3 Days Only! SENSATIONAL SPORT COAT and SUCK OFFER! Buy any Sport Coat at regular price and pick any pair of slacks up to 27.50for just ACT NOW! 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