SALT LAKE CITY — It was raining. The city was clogged with fog. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, swarmed by reporters, huddling under an umbrella, had to talk about the crash.
When a helicopter crashed into an office building in midtown Manhattan on Monday, Cuomo was quick to point out that "at this point there is no indication" the incident was a terrorist attack. He calmed down any worries that the crash was a repeat of 9/11.
“If you’re a New Yorker, you have a level of PTSD from 9/11. And I remember that morning all too well. So as soon as you hear an aircraft hit a building, my mind goes where every New Yorker’s mind goes,” he said, according to CNN.
According to news reports, the helicopter made a “hard landing” on the roof of an office building, killing one person. The crash sparked a fire in the office building at 787 Seventh Avenue.
But the crash, which led to photos of smoke rising out of a skyscraper, could easily bring back the horrific emotions of Sept. 11, 2001, for New Yorkers. In fact, Cuomo wasn’t far off from how others were really feeling.
“After visiting the 9/11 memorial this weekend, this helicopter crash in Manhattan is definitely eerie. I feel for NYC and can only imagine how scary and triggering anything even slightly reminiscent of that day can be for New Yorkers, specifically,” wrote singer Jasmine Jordan.
Jon Ostrower, editor-in-chief of The Air Current, pinpointed the connection, too. “There isn’t a high schooler in America that has any awareness of what living through 9/11 was like, but coverage of the helicopter crash in NYC is reflective of that shared (still fresh) trauma,” he wrote.
Much research has been done about the effects of 9/11 on one’s mental health, specifically when it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares and anxiety, among others. Sometimes the symptoms don’t manifest until years after the event.
It can’t be said for sure if anyone suffered from PTSD on Monday. But a 2017 study found that there was “substantial burden of 9/11-related PTSD among those highly exposed to the attack, associated with a range of sociodemographic and background factors, and characteristics of peri-event exposure.” The study reviewed a number of studies from October 2001 to May 2016 that were “longitudinal studies of PTSD among highly exposed populations.” The study examined 20 reports of 9/11-related PTSD, including 13 about prevalence and seven about treatment.
But high-stress events, in general, can lead to those feelings too. A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health found people who reported re-experiencing 9/11 symptoms after Hurricane Sandy in New York. Roughly 58.8 percent of those who were symptomatic before Sandy reported feeling this way, compared to 8.7 percent of those who were non-symptomatic.
“A significant association between Sandy exposure and re-experiencing 9/11 was observed only among those nonsymptomatic prior to Sandy,” according to the study.
In 2018, the American Heart Association released a study that linked PTSD to heart attacks and strokes among those who were civilians and 9/11 responders, too. Blue-collar members with PTSD were 2.35 times more likely to have PTSD than the rest of the workers.
Dr. Alfredo Morabia, the study’s senior author, said at the time that the study was one of the first times PTSD and heart disease were linked.
“PTSD’s association with heart attack and a stroke should be taken into consideration when untrained first responders are sent to respond to catastrophes of different types,” he said. “Heart attack and stroke should be considered a related disease in World Trade Center first responders and it should be incorporated along with their benefits and care.”
But it’s not just heart attacks. Survivors suffer from a number of PTSD symptoms. “They cannot sleep,” according to The New York Times. “They replay the disaster in their minds, or in their nightmares. They have trouble concentrating. They are jittery and overreact to alarms or loud noises. They feel helpless, hopeless, guilty and cut off from the people who are close to them. They avoid anything that reminds them of that terrible day.”
Patients with PTSD are usually given medication or psychotherapy to help them recover. Sleeping pills can also help. Some, according to The New York Times, are encouraged to record their memories of the day so that they are no longer significant and lose their power.
But some survivors go undiagnosed. Helaina Hovitz, who was running on the streets of New York City to get home on 9/11, wrote for Fortune that she and other survivors can often see their PTSD go undiagnosed.
“When we do reach out for help,” she wrote, “we have to be our best health advocates — and this goes double for the hundreds of thousands of people who were living, working, and going to school in Lower Manhattan at the time, and triple for the children all over the world who are surviving school shootings, border and immigration trauma, natural disasters, and other tragedies, who may go down the same path so many kids did after 9/11 and not know they have PTSD or how to treat it.”