A longitudinal follow-up study of rescue and recovery narratives of Oklahoma City bombing responders nearly a quarter century later





terrorism, bombing, disaster, qualitative methods, post-disaster psychosocial outcomes, rescue and recovery workers, longitudinal study, disaster narratives, assistance provided


Background: Most research examining first responders of terrorist incidents has been conducted in early post-disaster periods, utilized quantitative research methods, and focused on psychopathology such as post-traumatic stress.

Methods: Longitudinal follow-up assessments of 124 workers from 181 baseline volunteer rescue and recovery workers originally studied were completed nearly a quarter century after the terrorist bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Open-ended qualitative interviews were used in the follow-up study.

Results: The rescue and recovery work, vividly described decades later, was gruesome. These workers’ descriptions captured their mental toughness and their professional missions, as well as the emotional and mental health (MH) toll on their lives.

Conclusions: The extreme nature of rescue and recovery work in the aftermath of terrorism suggests potential utility for MH interventions to address the psychological toll that can be expected of human beings under the most extraordinary circumstances.

Author Biographies

Carol S. North, MD, MPE, DLFAPA

Medical Director, The Altshuler Center for Education & Research at Metrocare Services and The Nancy and Ray L. Hunt Chair in Crisis Psychiatry, Professor of Psychiatry; Director, Division of Trauma & Disaster, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas

Alina Surís, PhD, ABPP

The Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas

Katy McDonald, LPC

The Altshuler Center for Education and Research at Metrocare Services, Dallas, Texas


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How to Cite

North, C. S., A. Surís, and K. McDonald. “A Longitudinal Follow-up Study of Rescue and Recovery Narratives of Oklahoma City Bombing Responders Nearly a Quarter Century Later”. Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 22, no. 3, May 2024, pp. 261-74, doi:10.5055/jem.0803.