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Building up each other after Francis Scott Key Bridge topples

Emily Hofstaedter
A memorial for the construction workers who died when the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed after being struck by a cargo ship.

The March 26th collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge has brought on mixed emotions. The Dali — a massive cargo ship — struck the Key Bridge, causing it to tumble into the Patapsco River. Six construction workers who were filling potholes, did not make it home. The incident has shaken the community, a term that psychologists call collective trauma.

Dr. Jyoti Kanwar, a psychiatrist at the University of Maryland Medical Center and assistant professor at the University of Maryland school of medicine, offered the following tips to build resilience through the tragedy:

Tip 1: Acknowledge and accept

Ruminating about the bridge collapse could invoke acute stress. “We’re all suffering together,” said Kanwar. The key is to regulate your emotions. That can be done through mindfulness, gratitude and grounding exercises to reach a better state of mind.

Tip 2: Connect with others

Across the city, people have attended numerous vigils, at churches, cathedrals, mosques and even parks. “I have had loss,” said Joy Harvey, a Turner Station resident. “I get through that, believing that God has brought me thus far. With me, my faith is over the top.”

That people are tapping into their spirituality is to be expected, said Dr. Kanwar. She encourages those who can, to lean into their faith. “Religion, different kinds of community events. This is for us to inculcate our sense of belonging, that we are not alone.”

If religious events aren’t your thing, there are other ways to get involved. People are rallying behind first responders by providing free meals, collecting books and other items for stranded seafarers and donating cash for victims' families.

“This altruistic behavior doesn't benefit just other people,” said Kanwar. “It benefits the individual as well because a sense of purpose is important to us. It takes away our helplessness in the face of this adversity.”

Tip 3: Seek help

If you’re still struggling, ask for help. Psychologists say there can be long term effects of trauma, especially for people who lack social connection or have pre-existing anxiety. Talk about your feelings with people you trust or reach out to 9-8-8, JHU Centro Sol and Pro Bono Counseling.

Wambui Kamau is a General Assignment Reporter for WYPR. @WkThee
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