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Counselors help youngsters deal with horrific memories

Shooting scene

'I saw these children just lying there'

March 25, 1998
Web posted at: 9:41 p.m. EST (0241 GMT)

From Medical Correspondent Dr. Steve Salvatore

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The shootings in Arkansas that left five people dead and 11 wounded had scores of other victims as well -- youngsters who will not soon forget images too graphic and terrible to be imagined.

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  • "I saw these children just lying there," said one of the children who witnessed the shootings Tuesday. "There were girls lying with blood on them, and we began to grab every bit of the blankets that we could, you know, to take out there."

    Witnessing such horrific images causes immediate shock and disbelief, but the ripple effect goes much deeper.

    "They are going to feel very frightened and anxious." said Barbara Boxer, a mental health volunteer with the American Red Cross.

    "They are children between 11 and 13, and I think they will be afraid to leave their parents. They will be afraid to go to school. They will experience concern about their classmates and have trouble sleeping." icon 304 K/ 27 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

    Children seem to be experiencing traumatic events more and more often, from the shooting in Arkansas to others in Mississippi and Kentucky, to the recent cabin fire in Pennsylvania that left 11 dead.

    Getting it out and dealing with it

    Real-life tragedies have a profound effect on young minds, and it is the task of crisis counselors to help them through the ordeal.

    "What they'd be doing," said Robin Goodman of the New York University Medical Center, "is really trying to get these children as much as possible to talk about, draw, write about what they saw, about what they heard, so they can get it out there and it can be dealt with." icon 140 K/ 16 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

    When the children return to Westside Middle School in Jonesboro Thursday, they will find empty desks, each one a reminder of a student no longer there.

    "They will experience some increased anxiety ... going to school," said Boxer. "They will be more frightened than they might normally be, and it's up to the parents to ask the children what they are feeling."

    Children have always been resilient. Their ability to cope and bounce back from trauma is remarkable. The wounds sustained in Arkansas run deep, but eventually they will heal. The scars, however, they will carry with them forever.


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