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Disaster Study Number 3 

Tornado in Worcester 

An Exploratory Study of Individual and Community 
Behavior In An Extreme Situation 


Committee on Disaster Studies 

National Academy of Sciences- 
National Research Council 

Publication 392 


Carlyle F. Jacobsen, Chairman 
Dwighf W. Chapman, Co-chairman 
Charles W. Bray 
John A. Clausen 
John P. Gillin 
J. McV. Hunt 
Irving L. Janis 

C. M. Louffit (Chairman, 

Sub-committee on Clearinghouse) 

John H. Mathewson 
Russell W. Newman 
John W. Raker 
John P. Spiegel 

MEMBERS, ex officio 
Harry Harlow 
Clyde Kluckhohn 
Harry L. Shapiro 


Harry B. Williams, 
Technical Director 

Charles E. Fritz 
Luisa Fisher 
Jeannette F. Rayner 
Mark J. Nearman 
Helen McMahon 


Harry Harlow, Chairman 
Glen Finch, Executive Secretary 


The Committee on Disaster Studies is a committee 
of the Division of Anthropology and Psychology, 
National Academy of Sciences National Research 
Council. It was established as the result of a request 
made of the Academy Research Council by the Sur- 
geons General of the Army, the Navy, and the Air 
Force, that it "conduct a survey and study in the fields 
of scientific research and development applicable to 
problems which might result from disasters caused 
by enemy action." 

The function of the Committee is to aid in develop- 
ing a field of scientific research on the human aspects 
of disaster. The Committee maintains a clearinghouse 
on disaster research, publishes a roster of scientific 
personnel in the field of disaster research, and issues 
periodically a Newsletter. It makes modest grants to 
encourage research in disaster studies, advises with 
responsible officials on problems of human behavior 
in disaster, and from time to time issues reports on 
the results of disaster research. 

At present its activities are supported by a grant 
from the Ford Foundation, and by special grants from 
the National Institute of Mental Health of the Depart- 
ment of Health, Education and Welfare, and from the 
Federal Civil Defense Administration. 

Disaster Study Number 3 

Committee on Disaster Studies 

Division of Anthropology and Psychology 

An Exploratory Study of Individual and Community 
Behavior in an Extreme Situation 



Anthony F. C. Wallace 
University of Pennsylvania 

Publication 392 


Washington, D. C. 

From the collection of the 




v Jjibrary 


San Francisco, California 

Library of Congress Catalog 
Card No. 56-60015 



This is the third in a series of disaster study reports to be pub- 
lished by the Committee on Disaster Studies. This series is designed 
to make the findings of disaster research more accessible to research 
workers and to agencies and officials concerned with disaster problems. 
It includes studies which have been completed for some time but which 
have not been previously published, as well as recently completed 
studies. The study reported herein was supported by the Committee 
under Contract Number DA-49-007-MD-256 between the Department of 
the Army and the National Academy of Sciences -National Research 

A devastating and unprecedented tornado struck Worcester, Mass- 
achusetts, and several nearby towns on June 9, 1953. The Committee 
conducted and sponsored several limited investigations of different 
aspects of the disaster. Other limited studies were also made. (Dr. 
Wallace lists these various studies in this report. ) 

The Committee turned all the data it had been able to collect over 
to Dr. Wallace and asked him to prepare an integrated analysis of the 
Worcester tornado disaster. His analysis is reported herein. His 
development and systematic application of the concepts of time phases 
and spatial zones in disaster, and his formulation of explanatory hy- 
potheses -- the disaster syndrome and the counter -disaster syndrome, 
the length of the isolation period, and the cornucopia theory of supply 
-- are proving useful both in the extension of theory concerning human 
behavior in disaster and in sharpening up problems for rewarding re- 

The issuance of this report does not necessarily indicate concur- 
rence of every member of the Committee on Disaster Studies in every 
statement made in the report, nor does publication imply Department 
of Defense indorsement of factual accuracy or opinion. 

Carlyle F. Jacobsen 


Committee on Disaster Studies 



The Committee on Disaster Studies of the National Research 
Council, during the spring and summer of 1953, undertook to carry on 
a series of exploratory field studies of disaster. Some of these studies 
were conducted by members of the Committee staff, some by persons 
retained as consultants, some by organizations under contract. These 
studies involved many aspects of disaster: evacuation experiences, 
communications, rumor, panic, rescue and rehabilitation, etc. 

Following the tornado which struck Worcester, Massachusetts, 
on June 9, 1953, several organizations sent personnel to study various 
phases of the disaster, particularly what happened during the rescue 
and rehabilitation period. The Committee itself sponsored or facili- 
tated: a study of communications in Worcester and in Flint, Michigan 
(struck by another tornado the day before) by Irving Rosow, a graduate 
student at the Russian Research Center at Harvard; a study of the role 
of the Catholic Church, in Worcester and Flint, by a team from the 
Catholic University of America, including Carroll Brodsky, John 
Muldoon, and Regina Flannery Herzfeld; two studies of medical care 
following the disaster, one by the Massachusetts General Hospital, and 
the other by Jeannette Rayner of the Committee's staff; a study of the 
psychological and physiological effects of the stress of their tornado 
experience on a group of previously studied Worcester firemen and 
industrial employees; and a brief "horseback survey" by the writer 
aimed at identifying spatial and emotional dimensions of the disaster 
which would repay systematic analysis later in this or an analogous 
situation. Other studies made by a variety of persons and organizations 
are listed in the bibliography of this report. 

These studies, and other sources of data, have been collated in 
the preparation of this report, which is an attempt to analyze the 
Worcester tornado disaster as an event, according to the categories of 
the theoretical model developed in the introduction. It is avowedly 
exploratory, as the sub-title indicates, in two senses: the conceptual 
formulations (the time -space model, the disaster syndrome, the counter - 
disaster syndrome, the isolation period, and the cornucopia theory) 
are intended to stimulate thought rather than to make converts to a 
system, and accordingly are not presented as a formal body of theory 
nor as a set of hypotheses verified adequately by the available Worcester 
materials; and the empirical data, almost entirely compiled by other 
observers with a variety of interests, are evidently uneven in quality, 
quantity, in representativeness, and in precision of reference to the 
matters I have chosen to emphasize. Furthermore, such generaliza- 
tions as I have made or implied about disasters as types of event 

obviously will require the assembling of much comparative materials, 
both for general validation and for necessary qualification. With these 
caveats in mind, it is hoped that both the empirical data on the Worces- 
ter case, and the theoretical formulations which have been worked out 
to organize these data, will be of some use to scholars and adminis- 
trators interested in disaster studies. The interpretations and opinions 
expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the 
Committee on Disaster Studies. 

I should like to make special acknowledgment to several persons 
and organizations who have helped me greatly in preparing the Worcester 
report: Harry B. Williams, Technical Director of the Committee on 
Disaster Studies; W. N. Fenton, until recently the Secretary of the 
Division of Anthropology and Psychology of the National Research 
Council; Jeannette Rayner, staff associate of the Committee on Disaster 
Studies, with whom I talked over at length the disaster syndrome formu- 
lation; R. L. Polk & Co. , of Boston, who have kindly permitted repro- 
ductions of the map of Worcester from their 1953 city directory; and the 
Worcester Telegram and Gazette and radio station WTAG, who made 
available tape recordings of their tornado broadcasts, and plates of all 
photographs used in this report. 

Anthony F. C. Wallace 
University of Pennsylvania 

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Introduction: A Time -Space Model of Disaster as 

a Type of Behavioral Event 1 

1. Steady State: The City Before Impact 17 

2. Warning: The City Learns of Impending Impact .... 31 

3. Impact: The Tornado Strikes 41 

4. Isolation: The Impact Area Goes it Alone 55 

5. Rescue: Extrication, First Aid, Reassurance, 

and Evacuation 73 

6. Rehabilitation: The Attempt to Restore the 

Steady State 87 

7. Irreversible Change: The City Achieves a New 

Equilibrium 103 

8. Special Topics: The Disaster Syndrome, the 

Counter -Disaster Syndrome, the Length of the 

Isolation Period, the Cornucopia Theory 109 

Bibliography 161 

List of Interviews and Field Notes , 165 



1. The City of Worcester 

2. Ecological Zones in Worcester 

3. Distribution of Security Agencies 

4. The Path of the Tornado 

5. Disaster Space at I-Time (5:08 - 5:20 PM) 

6. Neighborhoods in Impact Area 

7. Disaster Space at 5:30 PM 

8. Disaster Space at 6:00 PM 

9. Disaster Space at 8:00 PM 



1. The Tornado Cloud at Two Miles Distance 

2. Devastation at Assumption College 

3. Devastation in St. Nicholas Development Area 

4. Devastation in Great Brook Valley and Curtis Apartments 

5. Rescue and First Aid in Great Brook Valley 

6. Evacuation from Great Brook Valley 

7. Evacuation from Burncoat Street Area 

8. Evacuation from Great Brook Valley 

9. The Disaster Syndrome: Silence and Immobility 

10. The Disaster Syndrome: The "Dazed" Reaction 

11. The Disaster Syndrome: Body Contact 

12. The Disaster Syndrome: Passivity 

13. The Disaster Syndrome: The "Staring" Reaction 



In my memorandum on the Worcester survey, and further in a 
memorandum on the literature of disasters, I suggested the desirability 
of approaching the study of disasters with the expectation that a general 
model of disaster as a type of event could be formulated, with char- 
acteristic dimensions in space and time along which various phenomena 
might be plotted, and that disasters could by systematically compared 
and analyzed with respect to variation along these dimensions. At the 
same time, I suggested the possibility of using the relatively well- 
described Worcester event as a proper place to apply the early formu- 
lations of the model, and, by recurrent attention to the "fit" or lack of 
it between theory and fact, to produce both an improved theoretical 
model and a more coherent picture of the Worcester tornado disaster 
as a total event. 

In earlier publications, Powell, Rayner, and Finesinger had 
developed, from their empirical studies of several disasters of differ- 
ent types, a model of the time dimension in disasters. Disaster time 
was in this model divided into seven stages; given disasters varied of 
course in the length, extent of overlap, repetition, and behavioral con- 
tent of each stage, but these variations could be described in terms of 
the stages themselves. The stages were distinguished by the pre- 
dominant disaster -related behavior characteristic of persons involved 
in the disaster; the length in absolute time was variable. 

Time Stages in Disaster 

O. Pre-disaster conditions 

1 . Warning 

- - - * '** * ft* 

2. Threat 

3. Impact 

4. Inventory 

5. Rescue 

6. Remedy 

7. Recovery 

b-Kiita.. ' 


Determining, to some degree, 
the effect of, and response 
to, impact 

Precautionary activity 
Survival action 
"Holding on" 

Diagnosis of situation and 
decision on action 

Spontaneous, local, unorgan- 
ized extrication and first 
aid; some preventive meas- 

Organized and professional re- 
lief, medical care, preventive 
and security measures 

Individual rehabilitation and 
readjustment; community re- 
storation of property and 
organization; preventive 
measures against recurrence. 

e'-st sift 


^After Powell, Rayner, and Fine singer, 1953. / 

MAP 1: The City of Worcester 

*/., ^ r-^S,^j 

This approach seemed to be so fruitful, in providing a vocabulary 
and a framework for the analysis of relationships, that it appeared to 
be desirable to formulate a similar schema for disaster-space. On the 
basis of early impressions in Worcester, therefore, I formulated a 
space model consisting of concentric circles, each circle being dis- 
tinguished for its most marked disaster -related function: 

It was hypothesized that the population and resources of each area play 
systematically different roles in relation to disaster, and that these 
differences in behavior are related not only to the pre-existing organi- 
zation of the ground, but to the spatial organization imposed by the 
impact itself. 

Evidently the circularity of this schema is not intended as a literal 
representation of physical layout in disaster, since the areas can vary 

greatly in shape from one disaster to another, and in any one disaster, 
the areas can vary greatly in width from place to place. The impact 
area - the area within which physical destruction occurs - is divided 
into an area of "total impact" and an area of "fringe impact. " "Total 
impact" does not mean total destruction but rather the working of the 
impact agent with the full severity characteristic of it in this disaster. 
"Fringe impact" is minimal in comparison with the "total impact" and 
usually involves minor damage and few or no serious injuries. Cri- 
teria for drawing the imaginary boundary between these two sub-areas 
will vary with the type and destructiveness of the impact agent, how- 
ever: much of the fringe area of a hydrogen explosion might show 
damage more serious than the total impact area of, let us say, a flood; 
and often the two areas will shade off into one another on a rather 
smooth gradient, so that the drawing of a line becomes rather arbitrary. 
Even in such cases, however, I suspect that the concept of "total" and 
"fringe" is utilized by victims and rescue workers, even though the 
drawing of a line would be difficult. In the case of Worcester, because 

of the nature of the tornado as impact agent, the fringe area was sharply 

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and obviously demarcated from the area of total impact: one side of a 

street, for instance, might show only stripped shingles and leafy debris; 
on the other side, whole houses would be reduced to rubble. 

Filter area is the label attached to that region, broader or nar- 
rower, immediately adjacent to the impact area, through which both 

traffic and information must pass to and from the filter area. Because 
it is in a sense the narrow end of the communication funnel, and because 
there are likely to be traffic and communication jams in it at points of 
entry to (or exit from) the impact area, it tends to act as a filter, 
screening out certain kinds of traffic and information. The filter area 
is also likely to supply certain services, in the way of communications, 
rescue, first aid, and comfort, to victims in the impact area before 
organized community and regional aid arrive. 

The areas of organized community and regional aid are only 
selectively affected by the impact, and their services in large part are 
carried out by various counter-measure agencies, such as police and 
fire departments, hospitals, relief agencies, etc. A clear line of de- 
marcation between community and regional aid areas is easy to find 
in the case of urban areas, because the city itself can be defined as 
the community; but the boundaries of the region are vague, ramifying 
out through county, state, and major geographical area. Where the 
national government actively intervenes with more than pre-established 
administrative facilitation of the work of the regional or community 
offices of national agencies (for instance, by assembling military per- 
sonnel from widely scattered points rather than by authorizing through 
standard operating instructions the participation of local forces), one 
might speak of an "organized national aid" area co -extensive with the 
national territory. Distinctions between "regional" and "national" are 

apt to become distinctions between levels of administrative authority 
rather than valid geographical distinctions, however, because any 
major disaster, at least in an industrialized society, is likely to in- 
volve communications, transport, and industry in all parts of the 

In the present study, the attempt has been made to bring these 
two schemas together and to forge a systematic analytical tool by 
which data may be classified in time and space. No major modifica- 
tions have been made in the original time -schema of Powell, Rayner, 
and Finesinger. In the chapter -by -chapter presentation of the Wor- 
cester material I found it to be more convenient to treat the warning 
and threat periods as indistinguishable, because of the slightness of 
the warning itself. The post-impact periods of Powell, Rayner, and 
Finesinger (inventory, rescue, remedy, and recovery) have been some- 
what consolidated and re -named, chiefly to relate the time zones to 
space zones. Thus my "isolation" period is equivalent to Powell's 
"inventory" and "rescue" periods; my "rescue" period is his "remedy" 
period; and my "rehabilitation" period is his "recovery" period. I 
have added a final period, "irreversible change, " to take account of the 
fact that recovery or rehabilitation is never complete, and that the 
original equilibrium state before the disaster is not fully restored; a 
slightly different equilibrium is attained. 

The essential elements of the conceptual model of that type of 
disaster in which a lethal impact is relatively sudden, brief, and sharply 
defined in area, is as follows: 


This is the system of regular energy-distribution (action) obtain- 
ing in all of the ultimately affected areas at the moment just preceding 
the warning period. The system will probably be in equilibrium, or 
nearly so, at the time of any given disaster. By equilibrium I mean 
that energy discharges are of a repetitive and predictable nature, in 
response to chronic stresses; furthermore, such stresses are eliciting 
effective conventional responses. In other words, the cultural system, 
and the personalities of the population, are operating sufficiently 
smoothly to obtain stress reductions for the population, such that the 
total quantity of stress in the area at large is not systematically increas- 
ing or decreasing (although there will be random variation). 

Elements in this system of energy-distribution are: terrain, 
topography, climate; the culture of the population involved (including 
their security agencies designed to protect them from disaster); certain 
non-cultural characteristics of this population, including the distribu- 
tion of various demographic factors, and the distribution of personality 
types ("national character"). It should be noted, however, that many 
of the characteristics of the system are cyclical, so that at any given 
moment the actual distribution of elements may be different from that 
at another (for example, the alternation of night and day, the summer 
migration from the city to vacation spots in the hinterlands). Further- 
more, there is a sort of "random incidence" of stresses and responses 
thereto, such as births, deaths, business openings, the making and 
breaking of friendships, the development of gradual trends in the system 
itself, and so on, which may mean that the momentary situation may be 
very different at successive times within the same steady state. 

Thus both the total system and the momentary situation at the 
moment of warning, threat, or impact are important determinants of 
what happens as the disaster proceeds. To be a disaster, the impact 
must upset the total system; but the degree and .nature of upset which 
a given impact produces depends on the momentary situation of that 



This is the presentation of generalized cues to the energy-dis- 
tribution system. This may occur over a long period of time. These 
cues may be meaningful or not, depending on previous learning, the 
state of perceptive -cognitive apparatus, and the nature of the communi- 
cation network within the energy-distribution system. The cues them- 
selves may be susceptible of several interpretations; they tend to be 
ambiguous. The cues may be widely presented to many units of the 
system or to a few. There may or may not be protective action taken 
as a result of the cues. 

Warning, as distinguished from threat, does not specify certainty 
of impact at any particular place at any particular time, but rather a 
probability greater than normal within the system that such an impact 
will affect a particular place within a range of time: in other words, 
the cue - if correctly read - means, "such and such a general kind of 
impact, severity not fully predictable, may hit within a given span of 

As a corollary of the above, during the warning period there is 
no differentiation of disaster space into the five functional areas. 


The threat period also involves the presentation of cues to the 
disaster region. Threat, however, involves cues which, to many per- 
sons at least, are not ambiguous. The period of threat is usually short, 
being followed either by impact or by awareness of the danger having 
passed. Threat involves the presentation of a cue which is unmistak- 
able, and requires the operational assumption of certainty of impact, 
even though hope of escape may persist. An initial differentiation of 
the disaster region begins, into a "threat area" (areas 1, 2, and 3 in 
my diagram) and a "continuation of warning" area (4 and parts of 5). 
Many persons in the threat area know what it is, know approximately 
when it will be, and assume that it will hit them. Consequently, some 
emergency survival action (flight, retreat to cellars, etc.) is usually 
taken in the threat period. 

The threat cues, however, like warning cues, may not reach all 
persons, and may not be interpreted as threats if they do reach a given 
point. What is a threat of immediate impact to one person, may be a 
casually-received warning to a second, and may not be recognized as 
either a threat or a warning by a third. 


The impact period is the time during which physical destruction 
is being accomplished by the impact agent. The destruction accom- 
plished during the operation of this agent (whether it be tornado, flood 
water, hydrogen explosion, or whatever) is called the primary impact. 
The primary impact is only that damage inflicted during the action of 
the agent; the consequences of this primary impact are occasionally 
irreversible, unchangeable and final, but usually primary impact is 
followed by a secondary impact which is susceptible to manipulation. 
Secondary impact properly pertains to the following period, but for 
clarity of exposition will be discussed here. Let us take an example. 
The driving of a piece of glass into a man's arm, severing an artery, 
during the thirty seconds of the tornado's passage over an area, is 
primary impact. At the close of the brief impact period (i. e. , when 
the tornado is past) the man is left with a cut arm, blood spurting out 
of it. The bleeding which follows, and which may, if unchecked, cost 
the man his life, is secondary impact. The distinction is arbitrary, 
in this instance, from the standpoint of the traumatic process, but is 
made in order to clarify the time analysis. What happens of a destruc- 
tive nature during the operation of the disaster -agent is primary im- 
pact; destruction which follows in time is secondary impact. 

The impact period differentiates the "threat area, " mentioned in 
the preceding section, into three other areas. The impact area itself 
is divided into two parts, the areas of "total impact" (where death and 
serious injury and property damage occur) and of "fringe impact" 
(where only minor injury and property damage occur). Theoretically, 
depending on the characteristics of the disaster agent, several sub- 
areas could be defined, distinguished by nature and severity of impact. 
The filter area, just outside the impact area, is also partially defined 
during impact: some of its population become aware that they are "near- 


During the isolation period, the impact area is "isolated" in the 
sense that personnel and equipment from areas 3, 4, and 5 have not 
come in to perform rescue, first aid, reassurance, and evacuation 
functions. Strictly speaking, the length of the isolation period will 
vary according to proximity to the filter area and to roads, and accord- 
ing to other chance factors, so that some points will not receive aid 
for perhaps half an hour, while some will be swarming with helpful 
neighbors in the filter area, ambulances, and fire apparatus within a 


minute. "The isolation period" therefore is an abstraction from the sum 
total of all the isolation times of all points in the impact area. When 
one says "the isolation period" lasted for such and such a length of 
time, one is expressing one 1 s estimate as to some measure of central 
tendency of the distribution of all isolation periods within the impact 
area or a part of it. 

The isolation period is the time during which secondary impact 
achieves its chief ravages. Secondary impact includes all those destruc- 
tive and deteriorative processes which have been unleashed by the pri- 
mary impact: in regard to trauma to individuals, bleeding, infections, 
interruption of normal breathing, physiological shock, brain injuries, 
etc. , etc. ; it also includes such phenomena as exposure to inclement 
weather, various emotional stresses, and possible (if the isolation 
period is prolonged) deprivation of food, water, and sleep. Secondary 
impact also includes such things as the hazards of live wires; fires and 
conflagrations; leakage of poisonous or explosive gases; spread of 
epidemic disease as a result of inadequate sanitation, food, enforced 
crowding, etc. Many of the more critical and dangerous secondary 
impacts, however, are being reduced by the impact-area population 
during the isolation period, and the arrival of organized aid from the 
community and region sharply reduces secondary impact. A secondary 
impact may, of course, if it gets out of control (as in a firestorm) be- 
come a new primary impact agent, or can be regarded as a continuation 
of primary impact. 

As is indicated in Powell, Rayner, and Finesinger's functional 
analysis of disaster time, the impact area population has two tasks 
during the isolation period: inventory and "rescue" (which term covers 
not only rescue per se, but a variety of counter-measures designed to 
terminate or reduce secondary impact). The length of time taken in 
inventory is probably highly variable from person to person, and as 
will be indicated later on, the taking of inventory (with the attainment 
of such perceptual and cognitive reorientation that a decision on action 
is possible), is not always completed by the time aid arrives from the 
outside, so that some individuals are found in a more or less "dazed" 
condition, while others are relatively well -oriented and effective in 

While the impact areas are "going it alone" during the isolation 
period, the community and the region are in process of learning that a 
disaster has happened, of making inventory and reconnaisance of the 
extent and nature of primary (and to some extent secondary) impact, 
and of mobilizing and dispatching the security forces within reach of 


the available communications network. The filter area further differ- 
entiates from the regional and community aid areas, being the only 
area which has reasonably adequate awareness of what has happened, 
partly as a result of having seen and heard what happened, and partly 
because into it the first evacuees are passing, and in it traffic jams 
are developing as vehicles pile up at the edge of the impact area. 
Notification and mobilization in the community and region are selective 
during this period: security agencies and personnel connected with the 
communications system know what has happened and are mobilizing, 
but most other persons and organizations know very little. 


The rescue period, at any point, begins when aid arrives from 
areas 3, 4, and 5. During this rescue period, a combination of three 
groups of personnel - impact area survivors, unorganized spontaneous 
volunteers chiefly from the filter area, and organized security units - 
work to combat secondary impact within the impact area. (In some 
parts of the impact area, filter area volunteers arrive before the or- 
ganized security units; in other parts, organized security units are the 
first to arrive. ) Particularly important are the roles of the police and 
fire departments, or other security forces (such as military units) who 
are on a 24-hour operational basis. The chief functions to be performed 
are extrication, first aid, evacuation, emergency hospital medical care, 
and termination of such secondary impacts as fire and "hot" wires. 

During the rescue period the five functional areas reach maturity 
in the differentiation of their separate roles with respect to the disaster. 
There is a decreasing frequency and degree of personal emotional in- 
volvement with the disaster in the populations of areas 3, 4, and 5, 
respectively, and an increasing tendency for involvement to be highly 
selective and aimed at organizations rather than populations. 


When secondary impact has been reduced to a minimal point - in 
other words, when equilibrium has been temporarily re-established, 
even if on a level the society defines as undesirable - effort will be 
made to bring the system back to the original state. This involves ex- 
tensive welfare and reconstruction activities; this is the longest period, 
the most expensive period, and the one which involves the greatest 
number of organized aid-personnel. The organizations responsible 
for the rescue operations tend (with the exception of hospitals and 


medical personnel generally) to reduce their involvement, and new 
organizations - the Red Cross, government relief agencies, and insur- 
ance companies - to take over responsibility. 

The rehabilitation period in a sense may be said to last indefin- 
itely, but for simplicity in analysis it is preferable to set a time limit - 
let us say, arbitrarily, one year - and to consider whatever is not yet 
rehabilitated by that time to have become, in its changed condition, a 
part of the new "steady state" or equilibrium system. 

The lines separating the various areas of disaster space begin to 
blur during this period, and toward the end of it virtually disappear as 
whatever residual changes produced by the disaster become a part of a 
new system in which functional relationships (e. g. , financial, medical, 
repair, etc. ) depend less and less on location with respect to the im- 
pact area. 


As has been indicated, eventually (let us say, a year later) a new 
steady state will have been established somewhere between the situation 
at the end of secondary impact and the pre -disaster equilibrium system, 
toward the re -establishment of which rehabilitation functions were 
aimed. The five areas are no longer functional; they exist as memories. 

It should be made clear that "irreversible change" means a 
change in the system, not merely a change in the units of which the 
system is composed. People may die, lose their money, etc. , and 
not affect the system, if others replace them; but if a significant 
change in the population pyramid, or in the occupational structure, or 
in the standard of living, or in the organization of an agency like the 
Fire Department is left, the system has changed irreversibly. 

In addition to presenting the story of the Worcester tornado along 
the lines of analysis outlined above, several particular topics will be 
discussed: the disaster syndrome (a name for a complex of evolving 
attitudes and overt behavior, one of whose manifestations is the fre- 
quently- referred- to "apathy" of survivors from areas 1 and 2); the 
counter-disaster syndrome, displayed by persons in areas 3 and 4 


(rarely from 5) who feel responsible for mitigating the effects of the 
disaster (characterized by over -conscientiousness and competitive- 
ness in the rescue and early rehabilitation stages); the importance of 
the length of the isolation period; and the "cornucopia theory" of 
disaster relief and civil defense. 

After going through a considerable amount of material on the 
Worcester tornado, I am left with rather a humble feeling. I have been 
forced to consider and evaluate as best I can, in terms of my own the- 
oretical approach, the actions and standard operating procedures of 
professional disaster workers and organizations; and I am acutely aware 
that I have probably over-simplified and at times possibly mis -inter- 
preted situations and procedures. I have attempted to keep constantly 
in mind that research into human behavior in extreme situations is in 
an exploratory state and that it is important to develop a language, a 
body of concepts, and a theoretical structure to which problems can be 
defined, and data selected and analyzed. But as must be true of intro- 
ductory research in any new field, the researcher is apt to be some- 
what naive in his approach to some of the empirical materials. The 
cardinal example of naivety in this study is the failure by myself - 
and to a greater or lesser degree by other investigators - to recognize 
the primary role played by the police and fire departments. Although 
a few firemen were interviewed by Powell, they were selected because 
they had participated in an earlier study of physiological responses to 


frustration, and were not interviewed primarily as informants on the 
events of the isolation and rescue periods. Not one interview with a 
policeman have I seen, although I believe Rosow interviewed some 
police officials concerning communications. Administrative officials 
of the police and fire departments similarly were virtually ignored. 
Even the press tended to overlook the regular city security agencies 
(police, fire, and public works) in favor of Civil Defense, the Red 
Cross, and the National Guard (who were much later on the scene). 
If I were doing this study over again, I would concentrate on police, 
fire, and public works department personnel first and most intensively 
for the isolation and rescue periods, and I would recommend that in 
other, similar studies, these personnel be very quickly and thoroughly 
interviewed. I would also tend to be extremely cautious in accepting 
criticism of these and other standard agencies, because of the tendency 
for the excited and conscientious volunteer auxiliary to discover faults 
in the procedures of the more phlegmatic professionals. 

In future empirical studies, it would be desirable to interview a 
combination of expert informants and representative informants chosen 
according to an appropriate sampling design and by the use of an inter- 
view guide defined in advance for relevance to matters of theoretical 
importance. Many of the basic phenomena of disaster behavior have 
been isolated and defined, and a conceptual structure exists for their 


classification and analysis. It would be desirable now to learn the 
distribution and dynamics of these phenomena - such as the disaster 
and counter -disaster syndromes - by systematic and meticulous study. 



1 . General Characteristics 

Worcester is the second largest city in Massachusetts, being ex- 
ceeded in size and importance in the state only by Boston. It lies on the 
west bank of Lake Quinsigamond about forty miles west of Boston, with 
which it is connected by a super -highway. Worcester calls itself "The 
Heart of the Commonwealth. " It is a community which, in the course 
of the past two hundred and fifty years, has slowly developed a rather 
high level of civic responsibility and morale, of flexibility in meeting 
new situations, and of identification with a cosmopolitan tradition while 
at the same time maintaining something of a "small-town" atmosphere. 
This high level of morale is, I believe, most important to keep in mind 
in evaluating what happened on June 9, 1953. 

It is, of course, difficult to define and measure objectively such 
phenomena as the "morale," "cosmopolitanism," etc. , of a city. 
Nevertheless, it has been my distinct impression, both in the course 

of two brief visits to Worcester (after the tornado) and from my read- 

ing, that Worcester is a city of relatively high urban morale, and that 

this may well have had a great deal to do with the surprising effective- 
ness of spontaneous, unplanned, and uncoordinated rescue and relief 
operations, both by individuals and by official agencies. The ratio of 


deaths to number of dwellings destroyed was noticeably lower in Wor- 
cester than in Flint, Michigan, and a difference in local morale may 
have had something to do with it. 

The city lies in the hilly, lake-studded country of central Massa- 
chusetts. Within the city itself there are over a dozen small lakes, 
reservoirs, and "ponds, " some of them associated with parks; the 
many steep hills scattered through the town rise to heights of up to 400 
feet above the lowest parts of the town. The hills and the little lakes, 
and the antiquity and topsy-growth of the town itself, have resulted in 
a street layout that is extremely irregular and arbitrary; while indi- 
vidual subdivisions and development areas have a gridiron or other 
through-street plan, and there are several arterial streets and high- 
ways, there is a very high frequency of dead end streets, T and Y forks, 
and unexpected changes in street names which made movement difficult 
for me as a stranger and must inevitably tend to constrict traffic flow 
even for local residents. A well-informed local resident, in fact, told 
me that the "main civic problem" was "traffic, " the difficulties arising 
from the rarity of through streets, and that a hill on the edge of Main 
Street threw too great a burden even on that major artery. The 
strangulation of through traffic may be in part responsible for the ten- 

.-..<>' 5 ,; ..; bf,ii 

dency for subdivisions and developments to retain a local name and 
identity: being functionally relatively isolated, they do not become so 

Kranich, conversation, 19 June 1953. 


c r 

*" ' industry and 

" lass" hou 

. ' 

,, i / . ' . , ^ t . , r -, r 33 , , , , 'T- 


quickly merged into a larger gridiron- whole. Thus, areas of a few 
squares will retain a definite name in the city's terminology: e.g. , 
"New Worcester," "Indian Hill, " "Fairmount, " "Greendale, " "Union 
Hill. " One might speculate that in consequence there may be somewhat 
less of the phenomenon of urban anonymity in Worcester than in some 
other cities; people are not merely residents of "Worcester," or of 
"South Worcester, " but of little communities each with its own name 
and identity. 

The general ecology of the city is illustrated in Map #2. As can 
be seen from the map, in spite of the peculiarities of the street pattern, 
the city can be divided into roughly concentric zones: 

(1) "Downtown," including the City Common, the City Hall, the Post 
Office with federal agency offices, newspaper and radio offices and 
studios, some of the "better" shops and department stores, amuse- 
ments, churches, Municipal Auditorium (where Civil Defense Head- 
quarters were located), and various business offices and head- 

(2) A small slum area on the edges of "downtown;" 

(3) A ring of working -peoples' homes, among which are scattered a 
variety of public and private institutions: Union Station, hospitals, 
colleges, athletic fields, etc. ; 

(4) the "best residential district, " featuring expensive homes, large 
lots, privacy, lack of through traffic, and closeness to the city 


(5) industrial sites, located on the major transport arteries; 

(6) relatively new, middle class housing developments and public 
housing projects, located in fairly open country. 

Surrounding Worcester city are a number of more or less suburban 
towns in Worcester County which regard Worcester as a commercial 
and administrative center; Worcester thus "serves" a population of 
perhaps 600, 000. 

The population of Worcester in 1950 was 203, 486; in 1940 it was 
193, 694. Eighteen per cent of this population was foreign born. The 
national origins of the foreign and native born, taken together, are: 
English (the original source, of course, in 1713 when the first perman- 
ent settlement was made); Irish; Swedish (with a few Norwegian and 
Finnish); and French Canadian. There is also a small group of 
Armenian, Albanian, and Syrian origin, to some extent localized, 
according to report, in and near the slum area south of "downtown, " 
and there is said to be a "Jewish section" in the northeast, part of 
which lies in the "best" residential district. There are few Negroes 
and a few Polish and Italian immigrants. It was impossible to obtain 
information on problems of inter -group relations in the city, but I 
heard one Protestant informant express fears that the Catholic church 
organization might attempt to use the disaster as an opportunity for 
advertising itself (since the priests wear a "uniform, " it was feared 


that their service would be more visible than those of the Protestant 
clergy). Possibly the fact that many of the Catholic church organiza- 
tions in Worcester minister to French-speaking immigrants from French 
Canada and consequently use French in at least one church and at 
Assumption College, has tended to maintain their separateness. But 
I saw no great evidence that ethnic or religious differences were re- 
flected in much hostile social discrimination in Worcester, The city 
council, for instance, consists of Messrs. Holmstrom, Sweeney, 
Duffy, Katz, Marshall, O'Brien, Rousseau, Soulliere, and Wells. 

Worcester's industrial development began in the first decade of 
the 19th century, when local manufacturers (with a local population of 
3900) produced clocks, textiles and textile products, paper and wood 
products, machinery for the textile works, etc. Since that time Wor- 
cester has continued to have a diversified industrial base, which at the 
present time includes some 700 manufacturing establishments employ- 
ing over 50, 000 persons in such industries as steel and wire (e. g. , 
American Steel and Wire, a division of United States Steel, in South 
Worcester); abrasive products (e.g., Norton Company, in north Wor- 
cester); iron, steel, and special metals products; machine tools (e.g., 
Reed-Prentice, south-western Worcester); leather (e.g., Graton and 
Knight, eastern Worcester); and so on. The bulk of the manufacturing 
and processing is in the southern half of the city but a finger of industry 

2 " Field notes, AFCW, 15-19 June 1953; Polk, 1953, 9. 


runs up West Boylston St. , one of the arterial roads, in northern Wor- 
cester. Commercial establishments employ about 30, 000. The city 
was hit hard by the collapse of the textile and shoe industry in New 
England after World War II. Worcester machine tool companies sup- 
plying the shoe-and-textile trade had to cut down, and about 1949 there 
was widespread unemployment. A forward-looking Chamber of Com- 
merce, however, has been making attempts to diversify industry even 
more and to reduce a tendency to dependence on machine tools. Proba- 
bly also in response to the economic troubles of Worcester, and under 
the leadership of the city's businessmen, a reform administration came 
into power about 1949. It would seem that the city's industrial leader- 
ship has been planning and carrying through a vigorous program of 
action in response to the severe threat to the economy of New England's 
cities. The business of the building trades in Worcester (there has 
been a good deal of residential construction) and the fact that there has 
even been some industrial expansion recently, are evidences of the 
morale I spoke of before. Thus, for instance, the Norton Company 
(owned by local families) had just completed an addition to their plant 
in June, 1953; the electric company had also recently expanded; the 
Housing Authority had just put up a new housing project; and extensive 
redevelopment and traffic reorganization of the downtown area is 
planned. It would seem, in other words, that Worcester had, by June, 
1953, begun to emerge from the threat of economic disaster. To some 


extent also this had been accomplished without disruption of the pattern 

of ownership of industry by local families, even though a subsidiary of 

U. S. Steel (American Steel and Wire) had moved in. 

Although intra-city traffic is poorly organized, as I have indicated, 
transportation to other places is well provided. There are three rail- 
roads; a super-highway links Worcester to Boston; U. S. 20 passes a 
few miles south of the town, and connects at Hartford with the Wilbur 
Cross and Merritt parkways to New York City; three airlines use Wor- 
cester Municipal Airport, including Northeast and TWA; and the city 
is the center of a web of smaller roads and highways with attendant 
opportunities for bus and truck service. 

The city is something of an intellectual center. It is the seat of 
Clark University, which has the distinction of being one of the pioneer 
graduate schools in the country, having among other things given Franz 
Boas, the virtual founder of American anthropology, his first academic 
position, and having invited Sigmund Freud to deliver here his first 
American lectures. There are also a Polytechnic Institute and a State 
Teachers' College, and three Catholic colleges (Holy Cross, Assump- 
tion, and Anna Maria). The American Antiquarian Society is located 
in Worcester, and contains over half a million titles relating to 
American history. There is a public library containing 485, 291 
volumes. There is an Art Museum with its own school administered 
in collaboration with Clark University. 

3. Field notes, 15-19 June, 1953; Polk, 1953. 


Politically, Worcester is both a municipality in itself and the seat 
of Worcester County. The city government is now organized under a 
"Plan E Charter, " and accordingly there is a City Manager, a Mayor 
with nominal salary (in 1953, this was Andrew B. Holmstrom, vice- 
president and general manager of the abrasives division of the Norton 
Company), and a City Council. The town is approximately half Demo- 
crat and half Republican in political party affiliation; the charter plan 
is intended to provide "non-party" government by insuring proportional 
representation. I am not informed on the ins-and-outs of the political 
situation in the town, but had the definite impression that some of the 
noisy wrangling in city hall which was much publicized after the tornado 
was an outgrowth of unresolved political conflicts, probably dating from 
the re -alignment of power four years earlier. 

2. Counter -Measure Agencies 

Agencies and organizations, part or all of whose mission is to 
prevent, mitigate, or relieve physical disaster are to be found in any 
city. In Worcester itself on July 9th they included: the police depart- 
ment; the fire department; Civil Defense; the local Red Cross chapter; 
the hospitals and medical personnel generally; City Welfare depart- 
ment; various charitable agencies, including the Salvation Army and 
various church organizations. Available to Worcester according to 
existing arrangement or custom, for use in case of need, were State 


Police; regional and State Civil Defense; the National Red Cross; 
National Guard units; and a vast and intricate network of private insur- 
ance on dwellings and business properties, and of State and Federal 
funds and facilities under a multitude of bureaus, which could, depend- 
ing on circumstances, powerfully mitigate the economic effects of 
disaster. The public utilities organizations (electric power and light, 
gas, and telephone), while not essentially counter-measure agencies, 
were disaster -conscious and prepared for counter -disaster action. 

The state of readiness for a disaster with a single, brief, and 
unexpected impact of the explicitly counter-measure organizations and 
facilities was extremely varied. The police and fire departments were 
(as in all large municipalities) operating on a twenty-four-hour basis, 
and were manned not by volunteer or part-time help but by profession- 
als, trained for the job and paid salaries by the city. The police de- 
partment had under its control almost all of the ambulances in the city; 
the major hospitals did not control the dispatching of ambulances. Per- 
sonnel of both fire and police departments were trained to act as dis- 
ciplined teams; were accustomed to dealing with the consequences of 
physical violence; and thus were equipped to perform such auxiliary 
tasks as rescue, first aid, and leadership of unorganized groups and 
confused individuals. The headquarters of both fire and police depart- 
ments are in the downtown area close to city hall. The police tend to 
be more centrally directed than the firemen: the bulk of the control 


flows from the downtown office, and there are but two outlying stations, 
for the motor patrol (south Worcester) and for the lake shore district 
(west). The nineteen or more fire stations, however, tend to be con- 
centrated in and around the downtown area too, even though there are 
several some distance out. Furthermore, the police department with 
its nearly 400 patrolmen and officers, and a number of trained auxiliary 
police and constables, had a supply of cruiser cars with two-way radio, 
which made possible considerable mobility and flexibility of communica- 

The Civil Defense organization in Worcester was in an embryonic 
state, in comparison with the maturity of the police and fire departments 
as institutions. Civil Defense was conceived - on paper - to be the 
disaster counter-measure agency par excellence. The plan called for 
Civil Defense to assume the role of central authority: to mobilize re- 
sources, direct field operations, and coordinate existing operating 

agencies. Not all of the potential disaster agencies were formally and 

officially committed to accepting CD control. 

Civil Defense in Massachusetts is organized in three levels: the 
state level, with headquarters at Boston; the regional level (Worcester 
was in Region #3); and the municipal level (Worcester thus had its own 

4. Rosow, MS, 1954, Ch. 1. 

3: Distribution of Security Agencies 

path of tornado 


fire stations 
City Mall, police KQ, civil defense 

Red 3 , HQ 

*i r % 

M . ' 

B~ ' 




own CD organization). Region #3 and Worcester shared a common HQ 
office in the Worcester auditorium, with one telephone apiece. The 
City Manager of Worcester was also the CD director of Region #3. On 
the day when I was shown through the auditorium (June 16, 1953) the 
civil defense officer in charge, with his telephone, city map, desk, and 
files, was ensconced directly beneath a large window (which to this 
naive visitor looked like a sure bet, in event of air attack, to cut to 
ribbons director, telephone line, maps, and any other staff personnel 
who happened to be near). 

The mission of the State Civil Defense (on which Worcester of 
Region #3 CD could, of course, call) in addition to organizational com- 
munication, and educational and training functions, included supplying 
certain types of auxiliary heavy equipment and specialized service 
(ambulances, trucks, rescue teams). The city Civil Defense had re- 
ceived two sets of rescue tools under the Federal Contributions Pro- 
gram, but no method had been devised for their transport and no rescue 
workers trained in their use. There was no overall system of wardens, 
but information on "Duck and Cover" methods of personal protection 
under air attack had been widely disseminated, especially in the school 
system, and there had been a civil defense drill in June, 1953. But as 
of 9 June, 1953, Worcester Civil Defense, in spite of the energetic 

5. Rayner, notes, Cowley and Gauthier. 

6. Knight, MS. 


efforts of the director had developed only an embryonic organization 
with physically vulnerable headquarters, and very few trained person- 

The Worcester chapter of the American Red Cross, with head- 
quarters on Harvard Street, about a block from CD Headquarters, was, 
of course, the local office of the national organization designated by 
law as a quasi -governmental agency with responsibility (defined by 
congressional charter) for aiding government at various levels in the 
event of disaster. Among the recognized functions of the Red Cross 
following a disaster is an obligation to assist Civil Defense, under 
Civil Defense authority, primarily in the provision of emergency sup- 
plies of food, clothing, and shelter; if other agencies cannot handle 
rescue, medical care, information and location services, etc. , Red 
Cross may assist here too. The Red Cross, both locally and nationally, 
has the peculiar position of having a broad but vaguely assigned public 
responsibility, with formal cooperation agreements with military, CD, 
and other disaster relief agencies, but without access to public funds; 
thus relief, accounting and fund-raising activities must proceed hand 
in hand. Furthermore, in case of major disaster, area or national 
representatives may enter a disaster area and take over from local 
representatives the direction of certain Red Cross activities. 7 

7. See American Red Cross, When Disaster Strikes: A Chapter Manual 
for Disaster Preparedness and Relief (Washington: American National 
Red Cross, 1948), pp. 1 -7; American Red Cross, Mass Care in Disas- 
ter_ (Washington: American National Red Cross, 1951), pp. 51-53. 


It would be possible to continue at some length to describe 
policies, organization, and equipment of the counter-measure agencies, 
including some which I have not mentioned: the National Guard, the 
Weather Bureau, the insurance network, and so on, but this would re- 
quire more space than is available. It would also be interesting to 
study Worcester's experience in the hurricane of September 21, 1938, 
when seventeen were killed and one hundred sixty- six injured in Wor- 
cester County. But this too would be beyond the scope of this report. 



50 W 



Worcester lies in the northeastern United States, where tornadoes 


are believed to be less prevalent than to the south and west. Many Wor- 
cester residents, after the disaster, commented on their surprise at a 
tornado, which they associated with other parts of the south and west. 
Tornadoes might hit other people; they might even hit Ohio and Michigan 
(Worcester residents had been reading about the tornadoes at Flint and 
Cleveland the day before) but not in New England . . . Hurricanes, on 
the other hand, are (at least after 1938) understandable! 

A warning that a tornado was in the area apparently reached the 
telephone company offices in Worcester before 3:45 PM on June 9th. 
The telephone company alerted its linemen. The Worcester Telegram 
city desk got word of this, and the day city editor visited the telephone 
company office to verify the information. The company admitted alert- 
ing the linemen but "refused to divulge the source of their information." 
The city editor then called the Associated Press in Boston and had them 

check with the weather bureau. The weather bureau said they had no 

tornado reports, only reports of severe storms expected. 

8. I suspect that the assumed relative immunity to tornadoes by the 
general population in the northeast is a cultural phenomenon. The 
Iroquois Indians of New York State were so much impressed by tor- 
nadoes that the whirlwind spirit (False Face) was given a central place 
in ritual and belief. Flora, 1953, indicates that tornadoes are not in- 
frequent in the northeast, although some other regions have more. 

9. Powell, MS, 1953. 


A similar account of an abortive warning, which was not widely 
transmitted to the proper agencies, involved the military air base near 
by. Weather reconnaisance planes are said to have spotted the tornado 

early in the afternoon, reported it, and returned to the base, which 

undertook its own storm-protective measures. 

A third warning was said to have been contained in a weather broad- 
cast during the afternoon from an unidentified station. This broadcast 
reported a tornado near Pittsfield, Massachusetts (south-west of Wor- 
cester, near the New York State border). A severe storm did actually 

occur near Pittsfield, but no tornado, although a funnel-shaped cloud 

was reported near by. 

Within minutes after impact at Worcester, however, a radio 
warning did go out over a police network which was picked up by a 
patrolman in Fayville, where the impact occurred at about 5:30. The 
patrolman drove home, to protect his two sisters and their four chil- 
dren, but impact caught them sitting in the living room and they .never 
reached the cellar! 

10. Field notes. 

11. See Worcester Telegram, 10 June 1953, p. 17. These reports on 
warnings which were not transmitted or taken seriously are, for obvious 
reasons, difficult to verify (because if they are true, they imply either 
negligence or incompetence in some one). The reports I note above are 
not verified but they may be substantially true. It might be speculated 
that this sort of complaining we -could-have -been- warned and why- 
weren't-we- warned rumor may often rise after disasters; certainly 
such stories acquire considerable publicity - e.g., the report of the 
ignored radar operator's report on unidentified aircraft just before the 
Pearl Harbor attack. 

12. Worcester Telegram, 10 June 1953, p. 11. 

U: The Path of the Tornado 


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The tornado itself began its career in the Worcester area at 
Petersham, about twenty -five miles north-west of Worcester, at 
approximately 4:30 PM. It was not until about forty minutes later 
that it reached the city limits of Worcester; it was seen at 5:08 PM at 
approximately the northern city line. Theoretically, therefore, if a 
tornado had been reported to weather bureau at 4:30, even though its 
future course would be unknown to the observer, a tornado warning 
could have been broadcast to all surrounding communities. Appar- 
ently this was not done. Failure to do so was the subject of complaint 
by one informant, a representative of a radio station, who said that 

there were newsmen at Petersham who could have (assuming telephone 

circuits were open) at least called the station office in Worcester. 

Thus, although the telephone company and the nearby airbase 
may have had warning as much as an hour and a half in advance, and 
may have taken local security measures, the community at large had 
no warning until the tornado was a few minutes away from successive 
points in the eventual impact area. 

The next cue - but one rarely, if ever, interpreted as a tornado 
signal by the Worcester residents - was the appearance of enormous 
hailstones. These began to fall about 4:45 PM in the western fringe 
of the Worcester area; one caller reported a stone eleven inches in 
diameter. Although this type of enormous hailstone is diagnostic of a 

13. Interview with Adolphus J. Brissette, 16 June 1953. 


nearby tornado condition, Worcester residents did not know what they 
meant, and no one is reported to have taken them as tornado warning 

signals, although one informant after another reported noticing them 

and marveling at their size. 

The photograph taken at 5:08 PM by a news photographer standing 
on the east shore of Indian Lake shows the tornado - cone, whirling 

debris, heavy clouds, and lightning - at a point about two miles dis- 

tant, near the city line. 

There were a number of persons in and near the impact area who 
saw the cone, recognized it as a tornado, and took some protective 
action. Since the tornado as a whole was moving at approximately a 
half-mile per minute, this meant that if the tornado were seen at a 
distance of two miles, the spectator had about four minutes to take 
cover or get out of its path. It is impossible to estimate how many 
persons within the impact area saw and recognized the tornado, but 
probably there were several hundred. 

The potential grace -period afforded by sight of the funnel, rang- 
ing up to four or five minutes, was used by those who did see and 
recognize it primarily for warning others and taking cover. Thus, a 
man in Curtis Apartments saw the funnel in the distance, recognized 
it, ran up and down the halls of his wing warning the other residents, 

14. See Powell MS, 1953. 

15. Cf. Tornado, p. 2; WDT, 10 June 1953, p. 22 for photograph. 


This picture was taken at 5:08 looking north- 
west from a position on the east shore of 
Indian Lake. 


and succeeded in getting most or all of the families down into the cellar 
before impact. A fourteen-year old boy, delivering papers in the im- 
pact area, saw the funnel, ran into a nearby house and told the people a 
tornado was approaching; despite their scepticism, everyone took 
shelter in the cellar; the house was destroyed. "Scores" of persons 
in the tornado's path were reported by the newspaper to have taken to 
the cellar after seeing the funnel, and to have remained in safety there 
while the superstructure of the house was damaged or destroyed. 

Probably the great majority of the population of the impact area 
did not see the funnel, and, consequently, did not know that a tornado 
was approaching them. The experience of these people, while various 
in detail, was generally one of considering the darkening of the sky, 
the rising wind, and the pelting rain to be a summer thunder storm. 
Those who were out of doors ran into the houses; those in the houses 
ran to close doors and windows. Many of these did not realize that 
this storm was "different" until a few seconds before maximum impact; 
at this point, when the scream of the tornado (generally described as 
sounding like a locomotive or a jet plane) was audible, the air was be- 
ginning to fill with mud and debris, and windows and trees were begin- 
ning to break, an almost intuitive awareness that disaster was upon 
them tripped off emergency action even without rational understanding 

16. Powell, MS, 1953. 

17. WDT, 10 June 1953, p. 22. 


of the event. These people had only a few seconds before maximum 
impact. Many tried to reach the cellars (often from the second or 
third floor of houses); many, for some reason, tried to open doors 
and get out of the house; some took cover under furniture, in closets, 
under the stairs, etc; many began a frantic search for children or 
relatives. In many cases, these actions were uncompleted at the time 
of impact; the cellar had not been reached, children had not been 
gathered together, the door wouldn't open (fortunately). 

An intensive analysis of this last-second-reaction period would 
be interesting to FCDA, since it approximates the situation envisaged 
in CD popular instructions on "what to do when there is a blinding 
flash. " 

I have made an analysis of fifty more or less adequate case his- 
tories of persons in the Worcester impact area at the time of the tor- 
nado. The total population of the impact area is uncertain, although 
it could be computed approximately; it probably was about 9, 000 per- 
sons. The fifty interviews are an undefined sample of this universe of 
impact-area people. The interviews themselves used in the series of 
fifty were obtained from several sources: Jeannette Rayner, an exper- 
ienced disaster interviewer with a psychiatric orientation, three inter- 
views; Edna Barrabee, a psychiatric social worker, nineteen interviews; 
John Powell, an experienced disaster interviewer with a psychiatric 
orientation, three interviews; Enoch Callaway, working for Powell, 


three interviews; Anthony F. C. Wallace, two interviews; obtained by 
reporters on the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, sixteen interviews; 
obtained by reporters of Radio Station WTAG, four interviews. This 
sample tends to be heavily weighted in favor of persons severely in- 
jured and consequently available at the hospital to Rayner and Barrabee, 
who were doing a study of medical care; and persons with minimal 
physical injury, but with a dramatic human interest story to tell to news 
men. Nevertheless, granting the uneven quality of the interviews and 
sampling inadequacies, the high or low frequencies of certain character- 
istics in this series are suggestive of at least similarly high or low 
frequencies in the impact population. 

The distribution of interviews by locality of interviews at time of 
impact is as follows: 


Brattle Street area 1 

Industrial area 1 

Greendale area 14 

Assumption College 3 

Burncoat Street area 1 

St. Nicholas development area 5 

Great Brook Valley area 11 

Curtis Apartments 6 

Lincolnwood 2 

Home Farm 5 

Not recorded 1 

N = 50 

While this probably is not a proportionate sample, there is at least a 
considerable scattering of interviewee locations. 


The composition of the series by sex and injury is instructive; 
there were twenty-eight males and twenty-two females; twenty-five 
seriously injured and twenty-five slightly injured or uninjured. The 
women in the impact area tended to be more seriously injured than the 
men: only eleven out of twenty-eight males were seriously hurt, but 
fourteen out of only twenty-two females were seriously hurt. 

Not one of the fifty cases had received any official warning (i. e. , 
by radio or telephone, police loudspeaker, etc. ) of a tornado's being 
in the region. Thus, warning possibilities resolved into a recognition 
of any one of a series of cues, beginning with the fall of unusually large 
hailstones (a frequent but not invariable omen of a tornado), and cul- 
minating in the approach of a visible funnel, increasing wind, loud 
noise, and, finally, personal impact. 

Not one of the fifty indicated that he recognized the hailstones as 
possible tornado indicators, although many remembered having seen 
them and being impressed by their size as long as fifteen minutes or 
more before impact. 

Twenty-two out of the fifty saw the funnel of the approaching tor- 
nado; but only fourteen of these twenty-two recognized it for what it 
was, as indicated below: 


Recognized it as tornado 14 

Did not know what it was 5 

Considered the possibility of it's being 

a tornado, but dismissed the thought 2 

Thought it was smoke from a fire set by 

lightning in thunderstorm 1 


Thus, of our sample of fifty cases, only fourteen - less than one-third 
- saw and recognized the tornado cloud. The data recorded do not give 
more than hints as to factors responsible for not seeing the funnel: a 
few people were asleep, some were in a house or apartment with win- 
dows facing to leeward, and some apparently could have seen it but 
just didn't notice (automobile drivers in the area, children playing, 
etCo ). 

Of our fifty cases, thirty-nine (78 per cent) recognized some 
warning cue before personal impact. Fourteen (28 per cent of the 
total) saw the funnel and recognized the danger; twenty-one (42 per cent 
of the total) recognized a danger from other clues closer to impact 
time; only four (8 per cent of the total) were warned by others. 

Of our fifty cases, twenty-eight (56 per cent) were able to com- 
plete some personal protective measures before personal impact. 
Twenty of these twenty-eight (40 per cent of the total) reported warning 
others or helping others in protective action before completing their 

own measures; only eight (16 per cent) reported taking protective 

1 8 
action oriented only towards their own safety. Twenty-two persons 

(44 per cent of the sample) were unable to complete (and in some 
cases, unable even to initiate) protective action before personal impact. 
Of these twenty-two, six suffered impact while attempting tardy pro- 
tective action, but five took no protective action even during the impact 


18. N. B. : We are depending on reports of own actions. 



At approximately 5:08 PM, EOT, the tornado reached the Wor- 
cester city line. It had been traveling in a southeasterly direction, 
and (unbeknownst, apparently, to anyone in Worcester) had originated 
at Petersham, near the Quabbin reservoir, about forty minutes earlier, 
at 4:30 PM. The tornado as a body was moving forward at about twenty - 

five miles per hour, and crossed the northeastern corner of Worcester 

(a path three and a half miles long) in almost exactly eight minutes. 

The diameter of the vortex itself was approximately a half-mile. 
Since the forward motion of the tornado was at a rate of a little less 
than half a mile per minute, the passage of the vortex over a point in 
the middle of the path required little over one minute. 

This was an unusually severe tornado: it was large in diameter; 
the velocity of the wind in the outer ring was extremely high (estimates 
of winds in comparable tornadoes go as high as 500 miles per hour); 
and the air pressure within the high velocity ring was very low. No 
reading of the pressure within the vortex was made, but in comparable 
tornadoes where readings were made, the pressure dropped as much 
as two pounds per square inch. The funnel was photographed (see 
Figure 1) at a point near the Worcester -Holden line: it shows a broad 

19. WDT, 10 June 1953, p. 22. 


and high, roughly funnel-shaped cloud, but does not show a clearly 
outlined funnel touching the ground. This was probably hidden behind 
trees and a hill. Several informants reported seeing a vortex shaped 
like a "snake," "an ice cream cone in the sky," or "a whirling cloud, " 
but this may have been a secondary elaboration in fantasy, since a 
base a half-mile in diameter, spewing out mud and debris, would even 
at a distance of one or two miles probably not appear to have a very 
sharp outline. The color was reported as "black, " at a distance of a 
mile or two, but "brown" {with mud) at close range, and circulating 
boards, boxes, paper, and other debris were clearly visible in it. It 
made a very loud sound, described by survivors as reminding them of 
several steam or diesel locomotives, or a flight of jet planes as it 
approached; at impact, the pitch rose to a "scream." 

The path of the tornado through Massachusetts and through Wor- 
cester, where it maintained continuous contact with the ground, is 
charted on Maps 2 and 4. 

The primary impact of the tornado is the physical damage and 
injury wrought by the tornado during its eight-minute passage through 
the impact area; certain other sorts of hazard or disaster, such as 
fires, electrocution by "hot" wires, sepsis in untreated wounds, and 
consequences of destruction of food, clothing, and shelter, are classi- 
fied as secondary impact and will be treated later. The primary im- 
pact may be conceived of as a three -stage process for most of the im- 
pact area: high wind, "vacuum, " high wind again. 

KAF 5: Disaster Space at I -Time (5:0g to 5:20 P.M.) 

** area of total impact 
W* area of fringe impact 
^ filter area 
The other areas have not yet been defined, 

f\ a /\ a ^ 


The first stage is high velocity wind as the front of the vortex 
crosses a position. The first high wind generally did not blow down 
structures; but it blew windows in or out, depending on whether they 
were to windward or leeward; plastered buildings with mud; drove 
debris into people or structures, sometimes driving objects through 
wooden walls; knocked down or bent over trees, flag poles, hurricane 
fence; toppled and rolled over cars, shacks, people, and relatively 
light movable objects; and subjected structures generally to stresses 
which tended to weaken or displace members. 

The second stage - low pressure - apparently was not accompan- 
ied by high velocity wind. This however, was, to structures, probably 
the most destructive aspect of the whole impact; survivors' reports 
seem to agree on this. The first high wind suddenly stopped and at 
almost the same instant the air pressure dropped perhaps 10 or 15 
per cent, equivalent to two or three pounds per square inch. The quick- 
ness of this drop in pressure apparently is dramatic; and it is the sud- 
den drop which seems to account for many of the freak events. In 
lightly built structures, or structures with a large flat area without 
"escape valves" like windows, chimneys, doors, etc. , the pressure 
drop meant the equivalent of a sudden application of tremendous forces 
outward and upward. Actually, of course, the pressure within a struc- 
ture does not increase; but the withdrawal of air from the outside 
meant that inside air was pressing out against all objects with about 


fourteen pounds to the square inch, while the outside air was pushing 
back with perhaps twelve pounds per square inch: a differential of two 
pounds. Applied for example to an outside wall of a house eight feet 
high and ten feet long, there was thus an increase in outward lateral 
thrust from zero to eleven and a half tons within a period of a few 
seconds at most; and this occurred immediately following the applica- 
tion of considerable stress, in many instances in an opposite direction, 
from high velocity wind. Many structures simply exploded: informant 
after informant describes how, after a few moments of raging wind, 
the whole building seemed to dissolve, in slow motion, and they would 
find themselves sitting in quietness and relatively uninjured in the 
yard, surrounded by pieces of house. Where the structure did not 
"explode, " the rush of air from inside proceeded to blow out windows 
and doors, and to carry out any movable object - including people, 
refrigerators, television sets, chairs, and tables. This "floating 
away" was made possible, apparently, by two forces: (1) the lateral 
evacuation of air through vents like broken windows and doors; and 
(2) by a vertical differential air pressure, which I think must be postu- 
lated to explain the lifting of objects and the frequently referred to 
"floating" phenomenon. An example of this "floating" phenomenon, 
which baffled victims and added to the uncanniness of the experience, 
is given by the little girl who was in the kitchen with her mother and 
father at impact. The mother and daughter were cooking supper, and 


disregarded the first high wind as being only a bad thunder storm. They 
had just put the potatoes for baking in the oven when the pressure dif- 
ferential came. A strange thing happened: "the potatoes came out of 
the oven and went over and hit my daddy on the head. " A woman saw 
a pane of glass, blown in by the high wind, float gently to the cement 
floor of her cellar without breaking. Two mothers reported seeing 
their children float away from their side; each time the mother grabbed 
the child and pulled it down, like pulling in a balloon floating away. 
Many observers reported seeing heavy objects float across the floor 
toward a window, not scraping the floor, and moving slowly. One man. 
was carrying a crate of eggs; "the eggs were popping out of the crate 
but they weren't falling to the ground." The explanation of the float- 
ing phenomenon must be that when a "vacuum cap" is placed over the 
area, the "free" air out-of-doors is sucked out almost instantly; the 
air within structures goes next; but in-structure pockets of high pres- 
sure air remain, particularly under objects like chairs, TV sets, and 
even people, and in places like ovens, eggcrate partitions, etc. It is 
quite obvious, for instance, that if even so small and dense an object 
as an egg or a potato or a child's body were placed between a region 
of twelve-pound air above and fourteen -pound air below, the pressure 
differential on the upper and lower surfaces would be sufficient to 
float it. The pressure differential may help explain how cars, loco- 
motives, and even sidewalks are lifted up. Inasmuch as this floating 


phenomenon was very commonly reported, it would seem reasonable 
to suggest that in any type of disaster, like tornadoes, where vacuum 
effects are common, the population be prepared to cope with it. 

It is my impression (I cannot document it adequately) that it was 
the explosion effect which actually demolished most of the structures 
which were demolished, but that it was the severe high wind, following 
the explosion, which caused a larger share of the severe casualties and 
deaths. Except for those who were caught in the open or were in ve- 
hicles at the first wind, most of the interviewees weathered it in their 
own structures. The "explosion" was tempered by the floating effect, 
which tended to lift the roof off, and push the sides out, rather slowly, 
so that many persons were either not covered by the debris, or were 
not crushed to death when it did come down on them. But after perhaps 
fifteen to thirty seconds of the "vacuum" the high wind came back (the 
back wall of the tornado). This caught many people in a bad situation: 
many were now in the open; they were dazed and bewildered; they were 
surrounded by loose and movable debris. The second passage of high 
velocity wind thus, so to speak, "finished the job, " by blowing sur- 
vivors about, or by blowing debris onto or into them, or both. Some 
people also ran out of relatively undamaged structures during the 
vacuum period, and were then swept up by the second high wind. 

Thus for the person in the central path, there was a triple 1-2-3 
punch to weather: an initial high wind with dangers of severe injury or 


death if caught outside, or of breaking glass and structural weakening 
if inside; then the vacuum, with the "floating" effect and slow "explo- 
sion" of structures; and finally, the second high wind, which struck 
structures which had either crumbled or were severely weakened, and 
found many people in the open surrounded by the ruins of their shelter. 

This generalization, of course, applies best to those people and 
structures dead center in the tornado's path. For a person at the ex- 
treme edge on either side, there was presumably no "vacuum" period 
and only one long high wind period. Intermediate points between edge 
and center no doubt experienced varying lengths of vacuum period, and 
directions and lengths of high wind. 

The impact area can be divided into an area of "total" impact, 
where structural damage was severe and the population suffered 
deaths and many severe injuries, and an area of "fringe" impact, where 
structural damage was slight (broken windows, torn shingles, mud- 
spattering, broken tree limbs, and the like). The total impact area 
itself can for the sake of convenience of reference and analysis be 
further subdivided into ten neighborhoods, which are located and num- 
bered on Map 6: 

1) Brattle Street area. A middle class residential neighborhood 
including large frame detached single homes in the $20, 000- 
$30, 000 class, on large lots, on high ground, as well as 
smaller bungalow-type housing, looking out over undeveloped 

2) Industrial area. The Norton Company (specializing in grinding 
and abrasives equipment); Vellumoid Corporation (makers of 


gaskets and gasket materials); the Diamond Match Company; 
and other manufacturing and business concerns, and some 
deteriorated housing, were located here. The Industrial area 
is in a valley. 

3) Greendale. A lower -middle class to middle class residential 
neighborhood, mostly frame structures, including various 
small shops and stores, some detached homes, some "3- 
deckers" (each story serving as a "tenement" or apartment). 
Three churches were located in this area, and it seemed to 
house a number of elderly or retired persons who had invested 
their life savings in a house (often a "three-decker") of which 
they occupied one floor while renting out the rest. Greendale 
is in a valley and on the slope of the rather steep hill that 
rises to Burncoat. 

4) Assumption College. A Catholic college and secondary school 
conducted by lay brothers and priests of the Assumptionist 
order. Many of the staff of priests, nuns, and brothers were 
French -Canadian in origin, and many spoke only French. The 
plant included a brick main administration building and a 
wooden convent. Assumption College's structures are all in 
the valley, although the College land reaches up to Burncoat 

5) Burncoat Street area. Upper Burncoat Street is a "nice" 
residential area on the top of the hill with a small shopping 
center, houses ranging from perhaps $15, 000 to $30, 000 in 
value, relatively large lots. St. Michael's on the Heights 
Episcopal Church is on Burncoat Street. 

6) St. Nicholas Development area. This is an area of post-war 
development housing, of two major types: two-storey, four- 
apartment frame structures for rent; and single storey de- 
tached bungalows on cement slabs. There are, however, 
other types of detached single -family houses within this area. 
The families here tend to be a typical "development population": 
young couples, small children, careers in the making. 

7) Great Brook Valley. This contained two types of housing: 
some privately owned, detached, single -family frame dwellings; 
and Great Brook Valley Gardens, a housing project, owned by 
the Worcester Housing Authority, consisting of one -storey 
brick row houses, with picture windows, completed just a few 
weeks before impact. 


6: Neighborhoods in the Impact Area 

Brattle Street 6. St. Nicholas Development 

Industrial 7. Great Brook Valley 

Greendale 8. Curtis Apartments 

Assumption College 9. Home Farm 

Burncoat Street 10. Idncolnwood 


8) Curtis Apartments. These were large brick apartment build- 
ings (also owned by the Worcester Housing Authority). 3000 
people lived here. 

9) The Home Farm. A city -supported home for old and indigent 
persons. Administration building of brick; wooden barracks; 
farm buildings. 

10) Lincolnwood. War temporary housing, consisting of twenty- 
two reconverted frame barracks. Many of these had been 
removed, and many were standing empty. Some scattered 
privately owned dwellings stood here too. 

The total amount of physical trauma produced by the primary im- 
pact was very great. The impact area within the Worcester city limits 
was approximately two square miles. Within this area were about 1800 
dwellings, the homes of about 9, 000 persons. Since a large part of the 
labor force component of this population was outside of the impact area 
(coming home from work) at i-time, as well as some mothers et al 
who were shopping, visiting, etc. , probably the population of the impact 
area at i-time was not more than 8, 000 and possibly was much less. Of 
this population, 804 (about 10 per cent) were "casualties" (here defined 
as being killed or as being taken to the hospital). Of the 804, sixty-six 
were killed (less than 1 per cent of the impact area population); 327 suf- 
fered major injuries; and 411 suffered "minor" injuries. Presumably 
all deaths and major injuries are included in these figures, collected 
by the Red Cross from hospital records, but no doubt there were many 
minor injuries which were either left untreated, or were treated 
privately by physicians, nurses, neighbors, or the victims themselves. 


Estimates of these would be very difficult to verify; as a guess, one 
might suggest that if these unreported minor injuries (slight cuts, 

bruises, scrapes, etc.) were included, the total casualty rate would 

be about 25 per cent of the impact area population. 

An analysis of fifty-six of the sixty-six deaths by sex, age, and 
residence indicates chiefly that (as one might expect from knowing that 
many wage -earners were outside of the area at i-time) females suf- 
fered more than males: 


(1) Brattle Street Area 1 

(2) Industrial Area 

(3) Assumption College Area 3 

(4) Greendale Area 9 

(5) Burncoat Area 5 

(6) St. Nicholas Area 8 

(7) 'Great Brook Valley Area 15 

(8) Curtis Apartments Area 

(9) Home Farm Area 5 

(10) Lincoln wood Area 

Visiting in or driving through impact area 
(resident elsewhere in Worcester or Worcester 
County) 8 

N - 54 

The data available do not make possible a tabulation of specific cause 
of death or of the behavioral circumstances at the time of fatal injury, 
but according to the medical report, most of the deaths were caused 
by or associated with severe cranial injuries. Several casualties 

20. Bakst et al. , 1953. 

21. Bakst et al, 1953, appendix. 


died of lung injuries resulting from the "vacuum" condition and several 
informants remarked on having difficulty breathing during impact. 
Some bodies were found with an empty cranium; presumably the cranial 
contents were "sucked" out of the cranial cavity after the cranium was 


Age Group Male Female 

0-9 3 

10-19 4 3 

20-29 4 

30-39 2 4 

40-49 2 2 

50-59 3 2 

60-69 3 1 

70-79 4 

80-89 1 

Age unknown 7 1 1 

22 34 

The Red Cross tabulated the type of injury in the 438 "major 
injury" patients, as follows: 


Fractures 242 
Skull (usually involving cerebral injury) 77 

Arms and legs, hands, feet 88 

Ribs 32 

Shoulder 21 

Pelvis, hip 15 

Misc. (no broken backs) 9 

Soft tissue 210 

Major cuts and bruises 147 

Eye 28 

Back 15 

Internal (kidney, spleen) 15 

Burns 5 

Total major injuries 452 


It was also noteworthy that most casualties (and, indeed, any person 
exposed to the high winds) had been literally plastered with a mixture 
of water, dirt, sand, wood splinters, etc. ; where there were open 
wounds, this foreign matter had been driven into the wounds with such 
force that adequate cleaning was very difficult, and a number of cases 
of infected wounds turned up later on (after suturing). 

The statistics of structural damage in Worcester are only ap- 
proximate. About 2500 dwelling units were in the impact area. Of 
these, 250 were totally destroyed; about 1200 seriously damaged, and 

about 1000 were slightly damaged. The financial cost of the destruc- 


tion in Worcester alone was about $32, 000, 000. In the entire dis- 
aster area, from Petersham to Wrentham, the total number of dead 
was 94, seriously injured, 438; about 750 minor injuries were hos- 
pitalized the night of June 9; about 4000 dwelling units were damaged 

or destroyed; 1200 persons were unhoused; total damage was in the 


neighborhood of $52, 000, 000. 

See the pages of photographs for a survey of the physical damage 
in Worcester, area by area. 

The sixty-seconds or less of the impact period were, for most 
of the people in the impact area, a time of busy physical activity. On 
forty-nine of the fifty survivors whose behavior during the warning 

22. Bakst: Landstreet; Bowman: Powell; WTG and WTAG. 

23. Ibid. 















\ * 


period was surveyed, there is also information on what they were doing 
during impact (i.e., during the whole of the passage of the vortex, or 
during the part of it that preceded disabling personal injury). Sixteen 
of these forty-nine (about one-third of the group) spent the i-time 
finding and enjoying shelter: six lying on the open floor of a room, 
five in the cellar, three in a closet or other enclosed space, and two 
under furniture. Seven were inside a structure and running to a place 
of shelter (such as the cellar or a closet when they were struck per- 
sonally and severely injured. Seven were attempting to manipulate 
(usually to close) doors and windows when they were struck and 
severely injured. Six were rushing about inside a structure, trying to 
care for other persons, when they were struck. Two (both clergymen, 
incidentally) stood in doorways gazing at the storm all during i-time. 
One person grabbed a pillar for support. Only two persons were 
apparently unaware of the tornado until personal impact; both were 
women; and one was sitting on a porch talking about the weather, while 
the other was washing her hands in the kitchen; neither of these attempt- 
ed any protective action before or during the impact. Six persons were 
in cars during i-time: four of these were able to crouch under the dash- 
board; one was trying to stop the car when the car was picked up and 
blown into a field; and one was able to drive out of the tornado's path. 
Two persons on foot in the open were running to shelter when they 
were injured: one was blown against a tree, and one was knocked 
down by a collapsing brick wall. 



The Impact Area Goes It Alone 

The period of functional isolation for the impact area varied from 
a minute or two, in some of the southern fringe areas, to perhaps half 
an hour in parts of the central and north-western sections of the impact 
zone. Since the isolation period begins at the moment when the primary 
impact ceases, its clock-time varies depending on location; the isola- 
tion period at Brattle Street was seven or eight minutes old by the time 
impact had begun at the Home Farm. 

The situation at the beginning of the isolation period is the im- 
mediate legacy of the impact: a definite quantity of physical damage, 
personal injury, and death. This primary damage is for practical 
purposes irreversible during the isolation period; and the energies 
of the survivors are, during the period before the arrival of aid, 
necessarily directed toward preventing further death, injury, and 
destruction, from the processes set in motion by the primary impact. 
These potentially destructive processes, launched by the primary im- 
pact, include such things as: 

a) bleeding from wounds 

b) interferences with respiratory processes 

c) wound shock 


d) development of various "infections" in wounds 

e) entrapment 

f) fires, set by lightning, cigarettes, short-circuiting wires, 
sparks, etc. , and feeding especially on spilled gasoline and 
escaping cooking gas; 

g) "hot" high voltage or heavy current wires lying in the way of 
moving persons 

h) exposure to rain, sun, cold, etc. 

i) if isolation is prolonged, hunger and thirst. 

These potentially destructive processes, set in motion by the primary 
impact, may collectively be called secondary impact. During the time 
before effective assistance, particularly organized assistance, by 
police, fire, civil defense, medical, and other organizations reaches 
a survivor, he must cope with secondary impact alone. 

The length of the isolation period varied in Worcester. Organized 
aid in the form of police cruiser cars, fire equipment, and ambulances, 
reached the Home Farm, Great Brook Valley, and Curtis Apartments 

areas within five to ten minutes. This was owing in part to the fortu- 

nate accident that telephone communication with central Worcester had 

not been cut off by primary impact. Within about a minute at least 
three telephone notifications to Worcester security units had been 
made: the assistant executive director of the Curtis Apartments, him- 
self a minor casualty (his car was blown about and he was cut by 


glass), heard a phone ringing and used it to call police, fire, City 
Hospital, gas company and electric power company; a housewife in 
Great Brook Valley used her own phone to call City Hospital and tell 
them to send ambulances; and someone (unidentified) told the Fire 
Department headquarters that there had been a boiler explosion at the 
Home Farm. A box alarm was turned in at the Home Farm at the same 
time. A ladder company with rescue crew and first aid equipment was 
on the way toward the Home Farm at 5:15 PM; this company, indeed, 
nearly ran into the tornado itself on the way down Plantation Street, 
and managed to get into the hail zone on its fringes. The path of the 
tornado and of the fire engine were approaching an intersection south 
of the Home Farm, and the tornado got there first by a minute or two. 
This ladder company set to rescue work at the Home Farm within five 
minutes of impact; and they were helped in driving into the area by the 
crews of police cruisers who were already setting up a road block on 
Lake Street. 

It is difficult to pick out the particular area which was last to be 
taken out of isolation by the arrival of aid, but probably portions of the 
Burncoat Street and St. Nicholas Development areas, and the Brattle 
Street area (difficult of access on account of narrow streets, hills, 
trees, and traffic jams) were last to be invaded by rescue forces. But 
even here the isolation period was not long; probably no point in the im- 
pact area was left un-checked, or had been unable to communicate with 


sources of aid, by thirty minutes after impact. The average length of 
the isolation period was probably about fifteen minutes; by that time 
residents of the filter area, firemen, or police had appeared and were 
within calling distance. 

The general scene during this short isolation period is difficult 
to reconstruct because outside observers had not arrived and those in 
the area were not always in the best position or frame of mind to ob- 
serve objectively (or to remember without distortion later). A general- 
ized reconstruction from the comments made by survivors, however, 
suggests a scene like this: 

While many persons had been taking cover in cellars or closets, 
many others had been frantically active all during the impact. These 
activities carried on directly into the isolation period, with searching 
for children, scurrying for cover, etc. , continuing until it was obvious 
that the primary impact was really past. Then ensued a brief frenzy 
of action and reaction: sudden frantic efforts to rescue self and trapped 
relatives, screams and cries for help, hysterical laughing and crying, 
particularly (as reported) by teen-age girls, people rushing up and 
down stairs, into and out of cars, houses, etc. , checking on the wel- 
fare of others; shouted warnings to "look out for the wire," "don't 
light any matches, " etc. Some, able to walk, spontaneously ran or 
were dispatched to neighboring fringe and filter areas to summon aid: 
these persons turned in fire alarms at boxes, called security agencies 


(police, fire, and hospitals) by phone, and brought in trucks, people 
with bandages and antiseptics, and other first aid resources. Other 
persons were busy in self or local rescue, usually of a relative living 
in the same or adjacent house. Even severely injured persons made 
efforts to extricate themselves, to summon help, to estimate the 
seriousness and character of their own injuries, and to give instructions 
to rescuers on what to do and not to do. The reports which I have seen 
do not show that impact was followed - as is sometimes asserted - by 
a deadly calm, silence, and absence of motion. Quite the contrary: 
there was a great deal of noise and much self-help and mutual aid 

For those whose injuries were severe but who were conscious the 
general pattern of action was: 

(1) immediately after impact, to orient themselves (by 
finding out where they were physically, what their 
injuries were, and what should be done to get help, 
or to rescue themselves); 

(2) to extricate themselves physically, if possible, or if 
that is impossible, to call for help; 

(3) if extrication was achieved, to go towards help, or to 
a protected or more comfortable place; 

(4) occasionally, to render some assistance or give some 
directions to other members of the family; 

(5) once having oriented themselves, achieved rescue or 
summoned help, and done what was possible to help or 
direct other family members, to subside into a dazed 
and apparently apathetic state. 


For those who were not seriously injured, the general pattern 


(1) personal orientation (which was often less of a task, 
since many of these people were in cellars, closets, 

(2) personal extrication and minor first aid if necessary; 

(3) rescue and first aid to personal family members (if any); 

(4) awareness of the extent of community damage. 

The uninjured group, however, splits at this point into a group who, 
having cared for self and family, do nothing more to aid neighbors or 
the community, and those who proceed to rescue, communications, 
first aid, etc. Among the former (non-helpers) are some who: 

(5) simply block out of emotionally significant awareness 
their perception of the extent of damage to the community 
and the possibility of their being of help. One of the 
cases interviewed was not aware for perhaps half an 
hour that anyone else had been affected but himself. 

(6) after performing minimal care for relatives, do nothing 
at all (simply sit or stand or wander aimlessly) or do 
inconsequential tasks like searching through clothes, 
papers, etc. 

(7) after caring for relatives, simply play a sightseer's 
role (in one case complaining later that he would have 
been too much upset by the sight of bloody, mangled 
bodies to take part in rescue work). 

It seems, in the group of non-helpers, that the transition from a family- 
oriented rescue role to a community-oriented rescue role is blocked 

approximately at the time when such a person, having cared for minimal, 

.&!.&*& 'jtJrl< 
immediate personal and family needs, first recognizes that the visible 


community itself has been smashed. One might speculate that such 
persons have rather flimsy identifications with community -service 
roles, and that while they can perform these roles if they are sup- 
ported by visible and tangible evidence of a strong community, when 
the evidence shows a crushed and maimed community, they are simply 
incapable of such action as long as they are on their own (although once 
community aid begins to pour in, they can perform community service 
roles again). The helper group, on the other hand, theoretically 
should have firmly established, deeply internalized community service 
role -identification systems which operate to govern behavior even in 
the absence of evidence of external support. 

The actions of the helper group, following the first three stages 
common to the non-seriously injured and uninjured, seem also on the 
basis of a few cases to follow a fairly regular phase -pattern: 

(5) vigorous but rather random rescue, first-aid, and 
advice activities, with an effort to cover as much area 
as possible; 

(6) awareness of extreme fatigue when community aid arrives; 

(7) return to care of family; 

(8) in some cases, a second "go" at aiding the community, 
followed again by a feeling of exhaustion and futility. 

The accounts of survivor -behavior during the isolation period 
leave the reader with the feeling that it was for the most part limited 
by the emotional impact as well as by the lack of tools and equipment 


to a rather narrow range of things: physical extrication of persons; 
jacking up or propping up unstable debris; setting victims on the lawn, 
wrapping them with blanket or coat, and offering a cigarette; some in- 
efficient first aid procedures, chiefly bandaging wounds. Little or 
nothing could be done about live wires, the fires that were starting 
here and there (at least seven fires were under way), the leaking of 
gas or water, etc. , beyond mutual warning and efforts to notify people 
outside. Little could really be done about severe wounds, badly trapped 
persons, or the securing of shelter from the rain without evacuating 
the area. By the end of the isolation period, some people were begin- 
ning to do this (chiefly in order to get the wounded to hospitals), but 
there was during the isolation period no real evacuation movement at 
all. The reaction -formula seemed to be (the community-oriented per- 
sons excepted): to combat secondary impact up to the minimum neces- 
sary to preserve life in one's self and relatives, and then, unless 
specifically asked for aid, to sit and wait for help. 

The crucial factor distinguishing the two groups probably is the 
reaction of the person to the sight of a virtually destroyed community. 
Again and again in the interviews the phrase "the end of the world" 
occurs to describe the phantasy of survivors; the sight of block after 

bOJ.T3Q fiOJt f Ori 9tl1 ^Blti 

block of ruined homes, of maimed and bleeding people, fallen trees, 

scarred and lifeless lawns, bedraggled wires, and everything covered 
3/1 .".VT^iu ;->: i.-j e f c c 

with mud, aroused momentarily in many the thought that this was the 


earth's last hour, or that an atomic bomb had fallen, or that the whole 
city of Worcester was in ruins. I would speculate that the "sitting 
dazed and staring," the "aimless wandering," the "unconsequential 
small talk," and other irrelevant behavior so commonly reported by 
the first outsiders to enter the impact area was the behavior of non- 
helpers who, having done what they had to do for themselves and family, 
suddenly realized that this was not an accident, this was a community 
disaster - and simply stopped functioning. The helpers, on the other 
hand, were able to incorporate the knowledge into their action-systems 
that this was not an accident, this was a disaster, and to proceed from 
self -and -family services to community services. 

In a sample of thirty -nine cases (out of the fifty previously 
chosen) on whom there were data concerning experience during the 
isolation period, it appears that ten (26 per cent) were unable to help 
either themselves or anyone else. Nine of these cases were immobi- 
lized by the severity of their injury or the completeness of their en- 
trapment; one was immobilized by anxiety, although uninjured, and was 
finally "rescued" after several hours, by an organized rescue team. 
Eleven of the sample (28 per cent) cared only for themselves during 
the isolation period: four of these were elderly, single men, residents 
of the Home Farm, and all were seriously injured persons who rescued 
themselves; six were housewives, all severely injured and unable to 
rescue themselves, but active in calling for help and in giving 


directions to rescuers; and one was a little girl who followed directions 
and, although cut, walked to the ambulance. Eight persons (21 per cent) 
helped themselves and their families but undertook to give no aid to 
stricken neighbors nor to perform other community aid services. 
Five of these were men and three were women. Four of them were 
seriously injured. Of the uninjured, one was a member of a city 
security unit who theoretically should have been doing rescue work, 
especially since he and his family were unhurt. Two other men with 
no substantial personal or family injury gave no community aid in the 
disaster area. And one woman, a housewife, was preoccupied with 
locating and maintaining control of her six children. 

Thus, in the sample of thirty-nine, only ten persons (26 per cent) 
were able to perform rescue, first aid, communications, or other ser- 
vice to the stricken area during the isolation period. 

These ten, however, constituted 67 per cent of the fifteen un- 
injured among the sample of thirty-nine. Nine were men, one was a 
woman. Five of them had families and all of these five had cared for 
their families before doing community service. Eight of the ten already 
had a professionally assigned disaster role: three were clergymen, two 
were firemen, one was a doctor (a psychiatrist), one was the assistant 
executive director of Curtis Apartments, and one was an auxiliary 
policeman. It is notable that seven of the eight had already chosen 
these community- responsible roles as full-time careers. Two of the 


"helpers" had had no community responsibility or disaster role at all: 
one was a housewife in Great Brook Valley, uninjured, who called City 
Hospital and told them to send ambulances; one was a family man, also 
uninjured, of Great Brook Valley, who engaged in rescue work until 
his missing son was brought home, severely injured (he had been 
caught in the open and blown into a tree). 

It is difficult to estimate the significance of the percentages in 
the various categories above, because the sample is by no means 
representative: it is proportionately over-represented in seriously 
injured persons and in persons with professional disaster roles (inter- 
viewers turned to them naturally for information), and therefore probably 
the proportions of "unable to help" and "did community service" are too 

In summary, it would appear that among survivors without major 
injury somewhere in the neighborhood of 67 per cent were able within 
about fifteen minutes after impact to orient themselves, care for family, 
and begin to help the community as such. About 33 per cent of these 
relatively uninjured persons, within this approximate fifteen minute 
time limit, were unable to undertake roles of help beyond the confines 
of the family. This latter group presumably includes many of the 
"dazed" persons described by early observers. At impact-plus -5 
minutes, probably a larger percentage of uninjured persons would 
appear to be dazed; at impact-plus-30 minutes, no doubt the percentage 


would be lower. In other words, the percentage of "non-helpers" is a 
function not only of susceptibility to a "dazed" reaction but also of the 
time elapsed after impact (and, looking beyond the Worcester event, 
perhaps also of such situational factors as the suddenness, unexpected- 
ness, duration, and destructiveness of impact). 

It is difficult to comment on the patterns of leadership in the im- 
pact area during the isolation period at Worcester. The data given 
above suggest that during the first fifteen minutes after impact very 
few persons assumed roles of leadership responsibility (i. e. , commun- 
ity-oriented roles) who had not held roles of formal responsibility to 
the community before impact. This seems on the surface to be at 
variance with the frequently reported post-disaster phenomenon of 
"spontaneous" or "emergent" leadership by previously inconspicuous 
persons, partly to fill roles functionally emptied by the injury, absence, 
or failure to perform adequately of many "official" leaders. The Wor- 
cester situation, however, made emergent leadership functionally 
almost unnecessary, since (as will be developed later) the isolation 
period was short and the community counter-measure agencies were 
intact. Furthermore, during the first fifteen minutes after impact, 
persons who had leadership roles already assigned to them probably 
found it easier to act as leaders than potential "emergent" leaders, 
who probably require a longer period of orientation because they need 
to orient themselves not only to a new situation but to a new role. In 

MAP 7: Disaster Space at 5:3C . 

* total impact 
i fri~ ' .pact 

. "'.. " .er area 

organized community aid (as yet, notification and mobilization 
;f community are fr^ . . 

- . I - I. . . ** . .,... ' ... I . . L .. 


other words, even in situations, unlike Worcester, where spontaneous 
leaders do ultimately become very important, the first leaders to act 
may be those who already occupy leadership status. 

Things were happening outside the impact area, however, that 
were related to the disaster, during the approximately fifteen minutes 
while the impact area itself was still isolated. First of all, the filter 
area and community-aid areas were differentiating and assuming their 
disaster -related functions. Secondly, within the community-aid area, 
the appropriate security agency headquarters, stations, and adminis- 
trators were being notified, and were in turn mobilizing their person- 
nel. Thirdly, various operating agencies were setting themselves in 
motion: police cruisers, ambulances, and fire trucks were already on 
their way, or even (as for example, with the ladder company above- 
mentioned) already were approaching or at the scene. 

The differentiation and role -as sumption of a filter area depended 
not on official notification or mobilization, but on the virtually simul- 
taneous influx into the area of visual and auditory stimuli from two 
directions. The filter area may, in a negative sort of way, be defined 
as that zone around the impact area, virtually all the residents of which 
are aware of the disaster within five minutes, without formal notifica- 
tion, because of the visible, audible, smell, etc., evidences of impact; 
because of the influx of the first evacuees from the impact area; because 
of the development of traffic jams as hundreds of working people - in 


many cases, the parents, children, or other relatives of impact area 
people - in automobiles piled up at the barricades of trees, structural 
debris, and live wires at the edges of the impact area; and because of 
the influx of security vehicles and apparatus (police cruiser cars, 
patrol wagons, ambulances, and fire apparatus), much of it equipped 
with sirens and blinkers, also piling up in the traffic jams until both 
private cars and debris had been cleared away. Thus the filter area 
was saturated, as it were, with disaster stimuli, from both directions; 
through it passed communication, equipment, and personnel, at maxi- 
mum concentration. For the filter area, the stimulus was multiple, 
continuous, and preoccupying; in other parts of the city, it was 
selective, discontinuous, and "news. " 

During the isolation period, to judge from impressionistic 
accounts, filter -area people played a variety of roles. They were in 
a peculiar situation of knowing that something serious had occurred, 
without quite knowing what it was, and a number of filter -area people 
walked into the impact area to find out. These people were immediately 
tagged as "sight-seers." During the first fifteen minutes, however, 
probably most of the so-called "sight-seers" were bona fide residents 
of the impact area returning from work. Some filter -area people were 
beginning to step out of their homes to serve as volunteer traffic police. 
Some were giving asylum or transportation to injured refugees. Some 
were running into the impact area to engage in rescue work. Some 


were giving first aid. Some were "rubber -necking" and getting in the 
way. Some were looking out of the window and wondering what was 
going on. And some were cleaning up around their own homes after 
the severe hail and thunder storm which had struck them. A few had 
seen the tornado strike; others had not. 

The fundamental characteristic of the filter area is that it is that 
part of the non-impact region, adjacent to the impact area, where 
notification of the disaster having struck is quick and disseminated to 
almost everyone, which can provide the initial manpower for rescue 
and evacuation, and through which much communication and transporta- 
tion must pass. 

Beyond the filter area lies the "community aid" area. In contrast 
to the filter area, notification to the community aid area is selective: 
the specific security agencies (police, fire, hospitals, civil defense, 
and Red Cross) are notified at once; they notify and mobilize their 
personnel; and the general populace is not "notified" (except by begin- 
ning ripples of word-of -mouth and telephone talk) until radio or other 
communication media begin to broadcast appeals for blood, or accounts 
of the disaster, about an hour after impact. The community-aid area 
also gets its notification, not by contact -perception, but through signals 
and symbols. 

The time of notification of Worcester security agencies is diffi- 
cult to establish. Two sources of notification were built into the standard 
operating procedure of the agencies themselves: several police cruiser 


cars, with two way radio, had "beats" crossing or intersecting the im- 
pact area; and fire-alarm boxes were located in the impact and filter 
areas. Although the data have not been tracked down, some police 
cruisers no doubt radioed information to police headquarters (and 
anyone else listening). This is probably the source of the information 
received by ladder company #10, who were monitoring a radio and 
picked up a statement that a boiler had exploded at the Home Farm, 
and were on their way while a box alarm from the same area was still 
coming in. In my opinion, a combination of box alarms and cruiser 
calls probably had alerted both fire and police headquarters within five 
minutes after initial impact in north-western Worcester; by five min- 
utes after terminal impact in eastern Worcester, these headquarters 
probably had a picture of the general location and course, but probably 
not width, of the impact area. 

But box alarms and cruiser calls were not the only sources of 
notification. Telephones were still working between at least the 
southern fringe area and the center of Worcester, and some calls were 
probably coming in. Furthermore, the State Police at Holden (which 
was struck about 5:00 PM, at least fifteen minutes before terminal 
impact time in Worcester) had gotten on the radio at once and in- 
formed State Police Headquarters in Boston. Massachusetts Civil 
Defense, with its Headquarters in the same building with the State 
Police, called Region 3 (containing Worcester) Headquarters, who 


notified the regional director's administrative assistant, some time 
during the impact at Worcester (but of course without mentioning Wor- 
cester as an impact area). Worcester Civil Defense Headquarters 
were empty (the city director was caught in a traffic jam in the filter 
area, and the secretary had gone to her home.) By 5: 30, however, the 
regional administrative assistant was at Worcester CD Headquarters, 
attempting to mobilize local and regional CD units, and to find out what 
had happened. 

The hospitals, likewise, were gaining their first knowledge of 
the disaster during the isolation period. The telephone call to City 
Hospital at about 5:20 has been mentioned. About 5:25 a man with a 
lacerated scalp walked into the courtyard of Hahneman Hospital. By 
5:35 ambulances were arriving at Memorial Hospital. And, of course, 
the wail of sirens from police, fire, and ambulances (under police 
control) must have alerted the hospitals (as well as much of the rest 
of the city) to the fact that something unusual and disastrous had hap- 

Thus, during the isolation period of perhaps an average of fifteen 
minutes' duration, notification, inventory, and mobilization procedures 
were under way in three functional areas: the filter area (notification 
being almost total through the population, by sight and sound); the com- 
munity (notification of security units, particularly fire and police de- 
partments, by several channels - telephone, box fire alarms, radio 


from radio cruisers, and siren sounds); and "outside" security units 
(State Police and State and Regional Civil Defense, in particular being 
notified by radio and telephone). Police and fire were, during the iso- 
lation period, mobilized, dispatched, and penetrating parts of the 
impact area. Notification of hospitals and Civil Defense, however, 
was slower, it "took" less well, and CD in particular was, through no 
negligence of personnel, almost if not completely inactive during the 
isolation period, with its director caught in a traffic jam in the filter 
area, and its office closed for the day; the office was actually opened 
by the assistant to the regional director, who got his word about a tor- 
nado in Holden (not Worcester) via a chain of radio and telephone mes- 
sages through Boston, and to whose intuitive reaction is owing the fact 
that the Worcester CD office doors opened before 5:45 (when the female 
secretary-and-telephone -operator came in). 



With the arrival of police and fire department personnel and appar- 
atus, the isolation period came to an end, in most parts of the impact 
area, by 5:30. What happened after that is considered to constitute a 
fifth period of disaster time: the rescue period, lasting through the 
night of June 9-10. 

Rescue and evacuation operations were conducted mainly by City 
of Worcester police, fire department, and public works personnel, in- 
cluding both regular employees (off-shift as well as on-shift), auxiliary 
firemen and policemen (many of whom were enrolled as Civil Defense 
auxiliaries and wore CD armbands, but had been called out by the heads 
of the Police and Fire Department Auxiliaries, respectively). These 
people worked under loose police department supervision, more or less 
methodically going up and down streets freeing trapped persons, giving 
minimal first aid and encouragement, and identifying places where 
rescue equipment (bulldozers, winches, cranes, etc. , would be needed). 
These people constituted a nucleus of relatively well-trained and pur- 
poseful people about whom collected various random volunteer assis- 
tants: residents of the impact and filter areas, teenagers, "sight- 
seers, " et al. 

Meanwhile, all available ambulances were assembling at various 
points in the filter area and in the fringe impact area. Most of these 


ambulances were under the control of the police department; Worcester 
hospitals did not control the ambulances. But at least a few non-police- 
controlled ambulances also showed up, volunteered by funeral directors, 
industrial plants, etc. These ambulances evacuated such people as 
were carried or could walk to them; rarely did they penetrate deep 
into the impact area. Private cars, trucks, and station wagons, oper- 
ated by impact or filter area residents, drove many victims from their 
site of injury to the ambulances. Many persons were taken directly to 
the hospitals from the impact area in trucks, cars, and station wagons. 

The traffic jam in the filter area was, by 5:30, formidable, and 
was interfering with the passage of fire, police, and public works 
vehicles, and ambulances. Regular police were occupied with rescue 
and evacuation procedures, but according to several reports, "spon- 
taneous volunteers" took over the job of directing traffic in and around 
the impact area. These "spontaneous volunteers" may actually have 
been auxiliary CD police. Complicating traffic problems, of course, 
were the hundreds of fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters of residents 
of the impact area, abandoning their cars in the filter area and running 
into the impact area on foot to find and help their families. 

Mass communication devices were brought into use by police: 
loudspeakers mounted on police vehicles were employed, for example, 
to plead with residents not to smoke, in areas where gas mains were 
broken. Although most radios in the impact area were out of 


commission, a few persons heard (by radio or by rumor) the actual 

broadcast at 7:00 PM of a tornado warning. 

There are conflicting and confusing reports about the extent and 
quality of first aid performed in the impact area. Estimates by hospital 
personnel are that less than 10 per cent of casualties brought to the 
hospital had received first aid. The evacuation procedures made 
classification routing, and expediting of casualties almost impossible, 
even if there had been medical personnel to perform triage functions in 
the impact and filter areas. It would seem that actually there was a 
great deal of first aid of a primitive sort administered by victims and 
their relatives and neighbors, by police and fire personnel (who were 
trained and whose vehicles carried first aid kits), and by a few physi- 
cians and nurses who were working (without much in the way of sup- 
plies) in the impact area. Wounds were bandaged, some tourniquets 
applied, a few fractures splinted, a few persons given unidentified 
"injections" (sedatives to mitigate shock?). It is of course almost im- 
possible to estimate the effect of what might be called the negative 
canons of first aid, involving not doing the wrong thing even though 
little therapeutic aid was given. Various formal first aid stations, 
with equipment and supplies, doctors, and nurses were set up: one 
at a drug store on Burncoat Street in or near the filter area; another 
was set up by a hospital in the backyard of one of the homes; another 

24. Interview with Mr. Brisette, of WTAG. The use of loudspeakers 
to quash or explain rumors is not reported. 


was set up at Curtis Apartments; and still another at Municipal Audito- 
rium. Generally speaking, however, major injuries did not go to the 
first aid stations but were taken directly to the hospitals; indeed, most 
of the seriously injured were evacuated in two or two and a half hours - 
just as the first aid stations were getting organized. These aid stations 
tended, therefore, to care only for minor injuries. 

The fire and police departments in the first hour or two of the 
rescue period had a major responsibility (particularly the fire depart- 
ment) in combating secondary impact. There was material secondary 
impact of four major kinds: live wires all over the place; actual fires 
in buildings; escaping (and inflammable) cooking and heating gas; glass 
and other hazards in the way of pedestrians. The power company sub- 
station on Boylston Street turned off the power to much of the impact 
area within a minute after impact in that area, but this was not general 
knowledge, so the presumed live wire problem had to be met by station- 
ing guards, helping or guiding people around or over the wires, and in 
some cases chopping sections apart with rubber -handled axes (although 
this was risky where sparks might ignite gas). No deaths or injuries 
are reported to have occurred as a result of contact with live wires 
during the rescue period. 

At least nine buildings burned completely or in part; the total 
number was probably more. An industrial building on Brook Street, in 

25. Powell, interview with Provost, p. 8. 

MAP 8: Disaster Space at 6:00 P.M. 

total impact 

fringe impact 

filter area 

_.__ community aid (mobilization virtually complete) 

i oo a o community aid (mobilization still fragmentary) 



.-.. =-'-ii>.U. 

^TT- 1 . - >, x 

-/ VJ 

/ ^ 

/ O 

iWtfSfe? 3 




c> o oo o 


Q O C? c> o 


the Industrial Area, was gutted, although fire apparatus reached it 
during the fire. On Francis Street, four houses in a row were 
burned to the ground before fire apparatus could get water to the 
scene and stop the fire in the fifth house. Some reports indicate 
that if the fire had not been stopped at that point, it would have spread 
and turned into a "conflagration, " because it would have moved into an 

area of wooden housing where there was no water in the hydrants (at 

the top of the hill in the Burncoat area). A building in the Brattle 

Street area burned, although apparatus got there during the fire. 

And there were at least three fires which started in the Great Brook 
Valley section but were put out quickly by the fire department. While 
the story of these (and probably other, not-reported) fires is not given 
much space in the various narratives which I have seen, it would seem 
that the quickness with which fires were either extinguished or pre- 
vented from spreading was an extremely important factor in reducing 
casualties and damage below their potential level. 

A third Worcester city agency - the Department of Public Works 
played an important if somewhat imponderable role. As has been 
indicated already, the traffic blockage at the southern boundary of 
the impact area was the result of both an accumulation of debris, 
particularly boards, wires, and fallen trees, and of passenger 

26. Callaway, interview with George Murphy, p. 10. 

27. Powell, interview with Johnson, p. 11. 

28. Callaway, interview with Sharrocks. 


vehicles. Fire equipment literally hacked its way through and over 
these roadblocks in some places, but ambulances and lighter vehicles 
generally could not follow. Although I do not have much data on this, 
it would seem that the Department of Public Works must have quickly 
dispatched crews to the area with bulldozers, chain saws, and other 
heavy equipment, to clear the roads. This was not, however, report- 
edly completed at many points until an hour or an hour and a half after 
impact, and then only one-way passages were available. This meant 
that the impact-area edge of the filter area was a filter in a physical 
sense, tending to block movement in either direction. 

Thus within the period from impact to 8:00 PM, all severely in- 
jured persons (but not all bodies) had been removed from the impact 
area; secondary impact from fire, gas, and live wires had been con- 
trolled; one-way traffic lanes had been cleared through the debris and 
traffic jam in the filter area; and CD auxiliaries, city, and state police 
were on duty at the perimeter, manning traffic blocks and controlling 

Activity up to 7:00-7:30 was, apparently, chiefly Worcester 
activity: that is to say, such resources from other communities as were 
in the process of mobilization had not yet arrived. Thus, for example, 
one hour and twenty minutes after impact (i. e. , between 6:30 and 7:00) 
the only two rescue trucks under the control of Massachusetts State 
Civil Defense arrived at the impact area. It is difficult to estimate 





how important these two rescue trucks were in the total scheme of res- 
cue work: apparently they carried the only proper rescue tools which 
reached the impact area (Worcester CD reportedly left its rescue tools 
in a warehouse, having no means of transporting them to the area and 
no rescue workers trained in their use). The trucks were, when they 
arrived, manned by three trained men (two drivers and the Chief of 
Rescue for Massachusetts); Worcester's Department of Public Works 
supplied fifty men. These two trucks and their crews and equipment 
worked the next thirty hours until all known casualties were released. 
It is not easy to estimate, from the report, how many live casualties 
they released; my impression, however, is that almost all live casual- 
ties had already been released, and the Rescue Service was chiefly 

occupied finding the bodies of missing persons. 

Thus the period between about 5:30 and 7:30 constitutes a clearly 
defined time during which standard community protective agencies 
(police, fire, and public works departments personnel) were, with the 
assistance of a large number of volunteers who entered through the 
filter area, and with the aid of victims themselves (who seem to have 
been stimulated to greater activity by the arrival of uniformed outside 
aid), able to: 

a) neutralize secondary impact (fire, gas leaks, live wires); 


b) give extensive, if crude first aid; 

29. Knight, 1953. 

29a. In the estimation of trained medical personnel, most of this "first 
aid" was of negligible value and not worthy of the name. 


c) rescue from entrapment all living trapped victims; 

d) evacuate to hospitals all seriously injured persons. 
Such coordination as these activities achieved was exercised by the 
police, but it is evident, from the interviews with victims, police, and 
fire department personnel, that very little planning and organizational 
work was done. The agencies operating were all highly trained teams 
who generally followed a standard operating procedure, modified as 
circumstances required; like a military unit comprised of veteran 
troops who have had experience working together under fire, they 
could function without extensive direction. The untrained thousands 

of victims, absent residents who returned to the area after impact, 
and volunteers from the filter area were also able, by sheer mass of 
manpower, to accomplish a great deal, even if per capita efficiency 
was low. Thus a mass of untrained volunteers helped a fire crew to 
lay a long hose faster than such a hose had ever (in their experience) 
been laid before. Such crews of rescue workers were able to pull out 
the less seriously trapped at once, leaving the severe jobs for the 
trained teams wi^h equipment. Dozens of vehicles carried casualties 
to hospitals, roaring down Burncoat and Main Streets at sixty miles 
per hour with horns blowing. While that sort of mass rescue and 
evacuation, with professional aid at critical points, no doubt was in- 
efficient in many respects, it was perhaps as effective on the whole 
as a better organized but slower operation. The Worcester rescue 

MAP 9: Disaster Space at 8:00 P.M. 

...... total impact 

> fringe impact 
- filter area 
community aid area (notification and mobilization nearly complete) 

id area riot' sEowi . ' 

mt mobilization [here 

1 J HitW4:S3 

i x T< --} > 




and evacuation can be looked on as a kind of specimen of optimum good 
fortune in the face of disaster. 

A major aspect of the rescue period (although it continued, in the 
hospitals, until the morning of June 11) was the emergency hospital 
medical care of injured persons. First aid in the impact area has 
already been mentioned. Conceptually, this should be distinguished 
from the long-term hospital care of seriously injured persons. The 
problem of emergency care is to prevent death or intensification of in- 
jury, and involves such procedures as triage, stopping of bleeding, 
combating of shock, transfusion of blood or plasma, administration of 
tetanus antitoxin, setting of broken bones, cleaning of wounds, etc. 
Subsequent hospital procedures should, from a sociological point of 
view (if not necessarily from a medical viewpoint), be regarded as part 
of the rehabilitation process. 

The hospitals in Worcester, as was indicated earlier, do not own 
and dispatch the ambulances, which are under the police department. 
Furthermore, the hospitals - although, of course, theoretically re- 
lated to Civil Defense - are not explicitly part of the civil defense 
organization. Some of them (notably the City Hospital) had disaster 
plans, but these were generally in a paper rather than stand-by state 
of organization, and the plan (if any) of one hospital was not related to 
that of other hospitals. This placed the hospitals as a group out of the 

29b. Observers often are surprised, apparently, by this "luck" com- 
ponent in the rescue period. 


main line of communications among the protective agencies: CD, 
police, fire, and Red Cross. 

City Hospital - the largest general hospital in Worcester - had a 
disaster plan; it, furthermore, received a telephone call or calls about 
5:15 or 5:20 (probably the call from the housewife in Great Brook Valley, 
and a call from the City Police to the effect that lightning had struck the 
Home Farm) which indicated that a number of casualties were going to 
arrive. The Superintendent called the police to check on this advice. 
But at 5:40, before any disaster plan could be set in operation, City 
Hospital received its first casualties, and within minutes it was deluged. 
A number of the non-resident medical staff came to the hospital on their 
own initiative within about half an hour. Patients arrived in ambulances, 
cars, and trucks. Newspapermen swarmed into the building and pre- 
empted the telephones (as they were to do at Civil Defense Headquarters). 
Two hundred and fifty blood donors crowded into the blood bank. There 
were not enough police - not even auxiliary police - to direct jammed 
traffic; one policeman on duty there that night died of a coronary throm- 
bosis the next day. Families of the injured descended on the hospital 
in droves, and the hospital - in spite of considerable resentment - was 
forced to exclude relatives. All in all, in the words of the superin- 
tendent, during the first half hour there was chaos. 

This chaos gradually straightened out during the night. Patients 
who could be evacuated were sent home to make space for tornado 









victims: only eighty could be admitted the first night, and about forty 
more the next day. In addition to these given beds, about two hundred 
and fifty more were treated at the hospital that night. There were in- 
sufficient supplies of blood fluids and of tetanus antitoxin: Boston and 
New York were telephoned for these. Volunteer doctors and nurses 
had to be assigned; triage systems set up; a headquarters set up. After 
six hours, things were sufficiently under control for anxious relatives 
to enter the hospital. No communications of a dependable sort were 
established even by the next day, however, with agencies in the disaster 

Similar problems were met at other hospitals. At Hahneman, 
close to the impact area, the first indication of a disaster was the sight 
of a man with a lacerated scalp, his face covered with blood, who 
walked into the yard about 5:25, presumably from nearby Burncoat 
area. The director of the hospital, who was at dinner, sent an X-ray 
technician down to him. When she looked out of the dining room window 
again, "the yard was full of people streaming in all the doors. " There- 
after it was the same story as it was at City Hospital: streams of 
patients, traffic jams in the driveways, staff assembling spontaneously, 
telephone calls for tetanus anti-toxin, blood, and plasma, masses of 
volunteer workers and blood donors, newspaper reporters underfoot. 
And similar accounts were given by representatives at other Worcester 
hospitals, stressing the same general sequence of events: a mass of 


injured people suddenly piling up at the doors, without warning (at 
Memorial, which received more patients than any other, the only 
warning was the sound of sirens on the ambulances and cruisers which 
arrived about 5:35); spontaneous mobilization of doctors, nurses, and 
volunteers; calling in supplies as stock piles were exhausted; lack of 
communication with other protective agencies. 

The general impression of the activity of the hospitals during the 
emergency night is of a group of isolated institutions, unprepared as to 
plan and totally unwarned, suddenly deluged with patients, and there- 
after improvising organization as they went along. Because there was 
an over -abundance of doctors, nurses, and volunteer workers; because 
the community as a whole was intact; and because supplies could be 
obtained readily from nearby communities, administrative difficulties 
which might have led to deaths or complications of injuries for a num- 
ber of patients were overcome by the sheer mass of personnel and 
material available. 

The load of patients was distributed among the dozen Worcester 
hospitals as indicated in the breakdown of hospitalizations: 

Memorial Hospital 168 

City Ho spital 103 

Hahneman Hospital 55 

St. Vincent Hospital 27 

Fairlawn Hospital 10 

County Tuberculosis Sanatorium 8 

Doctors Hospital 3 

Emergency Hospital 

Harvard Private Hospital 

Belmont Hospital 

State Mental Hospital 









Thus, of the 374 casualties requiring hospitalization, 326 or 87 per 
cent were cared for at three of the eleven hospitals. It would seem 
reasonable to suppose that, even though the other eight hospitals may 
not have been prepared to cope with a large number of casualties, they 
could have given more seriously injured victims care, and thereby 
have reduced the burden on the three hospitals which received" the 
major deluge of patients. 

An extensive report on medical care in the Worcester tornado 
has already been prepared, and there is no reason here to recite the 
details there presented. That report, however, indicated that the 
emergency medical care was deficient at two points: in the handling 
of wound shock, and in the handling of open wounds. In the former 
case, there was reportedly a low incidence of wound shock observable 
in victims in the impact area, but a high incidence at the time of 
arrival at the hospital. The reasons for this are not developed: one 
might suspect that the helter-skelter evacuation, involving the handling 
of many patients by inexperienced persons, their hasty placement (in 
many cases) in crowded trucks, station wagons, and private cars, 
and their transit to hospitals at extremely high speed, may have 
in some cases intensified or accelerated the development of incipient 
physiological shock symptoms by "infecting" the patients with a sense 
of anxiety and lack of control on the part of the rescuing community. 
Furthermore, for some reason very little whole blood, plasma, or 


plasma extenders was administered, although this would have been an 
appropriate anti-shock treatment. In regard to the handling of open 
wounds, many lesions were sutured immediately after cleaning. A 
lower incidence of infected wound sites would certainly have been 
achieved if delayed closure had been the method followed. 



Each succeeding stage of the disaster involved a wider area. 
The impact period involved only the impact area; the isolation period 
involved the impact area, a filter area, and selected community insti- 
tutions, particularly the fire and police departments; the rescue, 
evacuation, and emergency medical care period involved all these, 
plus a wider panel of institutions within the community, a large number 
of volunteer workers and blood-donors in the community, and institu- 
tions outside the community selected for their organizational relation- 
ship to Worcester protective units: regional and state CD, State 
police, other hospitals and medical supply houses, etc. 

The rehabilitation period is the longest, the widest in area of 
involvement, and the most complex in interpersonal relationship. It 
is certainly the one which obtains the most massive publicity. In the 
rehabilitation period, the disaster is a given, and there is a tendency 
for attention to focus on the leaders of rehabilitation agencies as the 
heroes (or villains) of the whole disaster; the role of victims, and of 
the protective agencies who arrive first (police and fire departments) 

'it- > . 3 - -- ^ <* -vL:'Jji 

tend to be ignored. Furthermore, rehabilitation agencies involved in 
a disaster of the magnitude of Worcester's tend to be concerned (of 
necessity) with public relations, and to blanket the media of mass com- 
munication; and still further, they are well enough financed to be able 


to make extensive records, surveys, self-surveys, etc. 

In the case of Worcester, all of this means that while usable data 
on the isolation period, for instance, is sparse, there are great quanti- 
ties of data on the rehabilitation period. It will not be possible to do 
more than outline some of these data in this report; and on many areas 
of importance, I shall be unable to do more than to mention the area 
and make some brief indication of its significance. 

Rehabilitation aims essentially at recreating the conditions that 
were; it assumes a prior impact, and a prior emergency period during 
which secondary impact has been stopped, but at the conclusion of 
which there is a new situation. Rehabilitation aims at restoring per- 
sonnel, insofar as possible (and desirable) to their pre -impact physical 
and emotional status; and at repairing and rebuilding the damaged ma- 
terial culture to its pre -impact status (again, as far as possible and 
desirable). Complete recreation of the past is of course impossible: 
not all injuries are reversible, not all demolished structures can be 
replaced; and for various reasons, it may be decided not to re-create 
but to replace with something significantly different. 

The rehabilitation procedures are directed at two separate but 
closely related ends: the restoration of individual health (emotional 
as well as physical), employment, and standard of living; and the 
maintenance and restoration of the material culture (furniture, dwell- 
ing units, public utilities, public buildings, roads, industrial and 


commercial structures, plant cover, etc.). Various instrumentalities 
come to be of crucial importance here, and may even become temporary 
ends in themselves: financial resources; the organization of participat- 
ing institutions and individuals; the housing and feeding of rehabilitation 
workers; transportation and communication; and so forth. 

The institutions which played particularly significant and dramatic 
roles in achieving these ends, after the Worcester tornado, were: the 
American Red Cross (local, regional and national organizations); Civil 
Defense (local, regional, and national organizations); the National 
Guard (181st Regiment); the Salvation Army; various industrial con- 
cerns, particularly the Norton Company; church organizations (both 
locally and on a wider level); Worcester city welfare, public utility, 
housing, police, and other agencies; insurance companies; innumerable 
suppliers, contractors, and their labor force; the hospitals and medical 
personnel generally; communications agencies (newspapers, radio, 
telephone, and telegraph); and various state and federal agencies con- 
cerned primarily with legal and financial organization and aid. The 
complexity of the inter -relationships of this multitude of institutions 
was far beyond the rational understanding of the participants them- 
selves, and this report cannot begin to describe empirically and in 
detail the development and periodic conditions of these relationships, 
nor account in detail for all their activities, whether coordinated or 
not. Some of these institutions are still actively involved in rehabilitation 


work, a year after impact, and will no doubt continue to be, to a greater 
or less degree, for many years to come. 

Let us first consider the restoration of the health, employment, 
and standard of living of victims from the impact area. The rehabilita- 
tion period commences when the seriously injured have been evacuated 
and hospitalized; minor injuries have been given first aid at hospitals, 
by private physicians, by relations and friends, or by victims them- 
selves; and the area of total impact has been almost completely evacu- 
ated. Rehabilitation involves two complementary activities: prevention 
of any further impact, or deterioration as a result of processes initiated 
by primary or secondary impact; and the restoration of health, employ- 
ment, and standard of living. 

Hospitalization. In regard to health, several organizations and a 
multitude of individual agents become involved. Most obvious, in the 

Worcester experience, were the hospitals, caring for the major in- 

juries. Of the approximately 804 patients who entered the hospitals 

for aid during the rescue period (some of these, however, probably 
came in a day or two after impact), only 374 remained as "permanent" 
cases for rehabilitation. The rest received any required follow-up 
care in their homes or temporary quarters. There was, however, an 

30. Information on hospital care during the Rehabilitation period comes 
from three sources: Bakst, et al, 1953; American National Red 
Cross, 1952; and interviews with hospital administrators by Miss 
Jeannette Rayner. 


additional undeterminable number of persons who were major or minor 
casualties who never did reach a hospital; these must be added to the 
804 on hospital lists, and probably would bring the total number of 
casualties in Worcester alone well over the 1000 mark. My guess would 
be that the total number of persons requiring some sort of medical 
attention or first aid for major or minor injuries would, in Worcester 
alone, be 1600 - i. e. , for every injured person who received hospital 
care, another was cared for extra-murally. Hospitalization statistics 
certainly cannot be used as an adequate count of casualties. It 
might be desirable in disaster situations for some uniform procedure 
to be set up to make possible an adequate count of casualties treated 
by physicians and dentists privately, by trained nurses, police and 
fire department personnel, etc. , since these patients must play a con- 
siderable, if unrecorded, role in the logistical process. 

I do not have statistics on the number of hospitalized Worcester 
casualties who remained in Worcester hospitals at successive dates 
after impact. One would expect, however, that the number of hospital- 
ized casualties plotted by time would form a descending logarithmic 
curve, with the bulk of cases being discharged within a week or two, 
but with a few cases remaining for months. 

31. The statistics of casualties in Bakst, et al, 1953, are based only 
on the count of those who were recorded by the American Red Cross 
as having received some form of hospital care, although the authors 
indicate that not all casualties were treated at hospitals. No doubt all, 
or almost all, major injuries were treated at hospitals, however. 


In addition to the Worcester hospital staffs, private physicians, 
trained nurses, dentists, druggists, etc. , who dispensed most of the 
care directly, several auxiliary organizations played important roles. 
The Worcester Society for District Nursing mobilized at least twenty 
nurses the first night of the disaster, and thereafter its nurses fol- 
lowed many patients in their homes or temporary quarters. Civil De- 
fense operated an aid station in the Municipal Auditorium. The Amer- 
ican Red Cross mobilized the bulk of the necessary extra nursing care: 
581 volunteer or Red-Cross -affiliated nurses worked under Red Cross 
direction (142 of whom were paid by the Red Cross) for a total of 
3, 002 days, up to October, 1953, caring for critically ill hospitalized 
patients. These nurses came from no less than thirty-nine Red Cross 

The cost of this massive application of medical and nursing care 
to about sixteen hundred casualties in Worcester was undoubtedly very 
large, both in terms of personal services and facilities, and medical 
supplies used. But there was almost a competition over who was to 
pick up the check! Within a day after impact, some of the local hos- 
pitals announced that they would send no hospital bill to any tornado 
victim. Then the Governor of Massachusetts was reported to have 
announced that the Commonwealth would pay all hospital bills; this 
report, however, was denied. The Red Cross then assumed responsi- 
bility for paying all tornado hospital bills on a patient -per -diem basis. 


All in all, the Red Cross paid for medical and nursing care for 432 
families (this, however, includes other towns besides Worcester); 
probably in the end the Red Cross paid for the hospital and nursing 
care of all, or almost all, seriously injured victims. Up to the end 

of 1953, however, it would appear that the ultimate administrative 

source of funds had not been determined. In any case, the principle 

was evidently accepted that the burden of medical expense on the in- 
jured victim (who in most cases, if adult, had also suffered from loss 
of income, possibly of employment, and property) should be assumed 
by the community in one way or another, since individual responsi- 
bility would in almost all cases interfere with total rehabilitation of 
the impact area and would in many cases have been impossible to 
support. In general summary, it can be said that medical rehabilita- 
tion was largely defined as a community responsibility, and that re- 
habilitation procedures for those who were hospitalized were adminis- 
tered on the basis of medical need, not on the basis of individual ability 

to pay. What the practices of privately consulted physicians were is 

not indicated by my data. But the general definition of the medical 

situation was that maximal rehabilitation was a community aim and 
responsibility; and that the cost of it should be borne by the Worcester 
community, the state and to some extent the whole nation. 

32. CF. Bakst, et al, 38-39, and American National Red Cross. 

32a. According to later information, private physicians made no charge 
for their services. 


Welfare services. The impact area was very largely evacuated 
by 11:00 PM on the night of the tornado. This meant that there were 
about seven or eight thousand homeless persons in Worcester that 
night, to be given shelter, food, and in some cases clothing (as well 
as medical care for some of the injured). Some of these persons 
moved back into the impact area in a day or two; some (particularly 
those from the public housing projects and from completely destroyed 
homes) did not move back for several months; and some (comparatively 
few) never returned, having moved permanently elsewhere. 

A multitude of organizations and persons became involved in the 
administration of the afore -mentioned welfare services. Notable 
among these were: the Central Massachusetts Disaster Relief Com- 
mittee, appointed ad hoc to collect voluntary contributions; local, 
state, and federal Civil Defense; the American Red Cross; the Salvation 
Army; Protestant and Catholic church organizations; municipal and 
state welfare organizations; summer camps sponsored by various 
groups, the YMCA and YWCA, and the Boys' Club; and various in- 
dustrial concerns. Many private persons performed what essentially 
were welfare services for relatives and friends; many businessmen in 
various ways extended aid in the form of outright gifts, price reduc- 
tions, and expediting of shipments; many private individuals gave time, 
money, clothing, furniture, etc. 


It is notable, first of all, that of the approximately two thousand 
Worcester families displaced, very few had to be housed in the emer- 
gency shelters. The Red Cross, who took over the administration of 
welfare, including shelters, from Civil Defense on June 10, had housed 
a total of fifty-seven families (257 people) in dormitories at Worcester 
Polytechnic and Clark University up to August 1. On the first night 
there were a great many more who received emergency shelter but 
there are no records to indicate how many,, By the next day, almost 

all evacuees had moved in with relatives or friends, or rented new 


quarter So 

The Red Cross (local chapter) is said to have provided food for 
about six thousand persons (perhaps three thousand of whom were in 
Worcester) during the first night. Thereafter relatively few victims 
required mass feeding. Red Cross and Civil Defense mobile canteens 
and field kitchens functioned in the impact area for weeks, however, 
giving food - ranging from coffee -and -doughnuts to full meals - to 
rescue, reconstruction and repair workers, and local residents who 
had not evacuated,, At the peak of operations, the Red Cross had 
twenty mobile and stationary canteens in operation, manned and 
equipped by chapters in four or five states. 

33. The function of kinship ties in shelter allocation in Worcester is 
particularly interesting in view of the commonly stated sociological 
assumption that extended family ties are relatively unimportant in 
urban life in America. The extended family (consisting of several 
related nuclear families) was extremely important in providing shelter 
for the victims of the tornado in Worcester. 


Several organizations concerned themselves with supplying 
victims with clothing, since many persons had lost all clothes except 
what they were wearing during impact (and these often were extremely 
dirty). Large quantities of both new and used clothing were distributed 
by the Red Cross, most of it at the Municipal Auditorium: 200, 000 
pounds of used clothing sent in (unsolicited) to the Red Cross in 
Worcester from all over the country; $15, 000 worth of new clothing 
and 3500 pairs" of new shoes (worth $17, 500) were also given out by the 
Red Cross. 

The Red Cross also provided free legal aid and advice; its social 
workers went over individual and family problems in detail; it operated 
a registry of dead, injured, and evacuated persons, and handled in- 
quiries concerning these cases, with the particular aid of the Worcester 
HAM radio network; it ran a housing reference bureau: all services 
which, while transient and difficult to record, certainly played an ex- 
tremely important role in the welfare part of the rehabilitation process. 

Both Catholic and Protestant churches and church- supported 
organizations busied themselves in relief work, particularly in the 
matter of preparation, collection, and distribution of food and clothing. 
Church welfare policy had not been planned in advance, and there was 
often some uncertainty as to whether a given church or church-organiza- 
tion was primarily responsible to its own congregation and faith, or to 
the community. Churches seem generally to have helped first "their 
own, " then others. 


A notable incident in the history of welfare activities was the 
struggle over trailers. The Federal Civil Defense Administration had 
authority to allocate 500 trailers which had been used in re -housing 
evacuees of the Kansas -Missouri flood. The Chairman of the Board 
of the Worcester Housing Authority (all three of whose projects had 
been hit, requiring evacuation of 891 families) announced that Wor- 
cester would request that the 500 trailers be brought to Worcester 
and installed at Lincoln wood. In spite of the low incidence of mass 
care applications (as described above), and the availability of several 
hundred vacant dwelling units in the city, the city persisted in its in- 
sistence. The Federal Civil Defense Administration and Red Cross 
observers indicated that there was no pressing local need for these 
trailers. Nevertheless, after the announcement, the Red Cross re- 
ceived 665 applications for trailers (chief complaint about temporary 
quarters: nervous tension aroused by over-crowded living conditions), 
and 425 trailers were finally brought in, set up at Lincolnwood or on 
private sites, and rented or provided gratis. This move led the Red 
Cross to invest in special kits of furnishings and equipment for trailer 
living, with which the trailer residents had to be supplied, at a cost 
of $35, 000. It was the feeling of some observers that the pressure 
for trailers was generated chiefly by the desire of certain local offi- 
cials to demonstrate dramatically, by bringing the trailers into town, 
that they were doing their best for the sufferers; on the other hand, 


the trailers were used, and their use may have relieved a difficult 
housing situation which the fewness of applications for mass shelter 
accommodations did not adequately reflect. 

At the same time that medical and welfare activities were work- 
ing toward, first the maintenance, and second, the partial rehabilita- 
tion of individuals affected by the tornado, extensive procedures were 
under way toward the physical reconstruction of the area, since only 
with this could any real rehabilitation, even on an individual level, be 
accomplished. In the fringe impact area, where home -owners and 
tenants could repair minor damage, physical rehabilitation began, for 
some, almost at the cessation of primary impact, residents getting 
out with hammer and nails, brooms and pails, ladders, saws, and 
shovels to "clean up the place. " Indeed, even in the area of total 
impact, there was a tendency for dazed persons to putter about, 
sweeping, mopping, and sorting out belongings from the wreckage, 
even though such activities were so trivial in comparison with the 
task to be done that their significance lay evidently in their symbolic 
meaning rather than their practical utility. 

Estimates of physical damage by various agencies were under 
way the day after the tornado. It was reported that 50, 000 insurance 
claims were anticipated by the various property damage companies 
covering policies in the impact area. Insurance, however, did not 
nearly cover the total amount of damage, and several other sources 


of aid were invoked: compromise settlements between victims and 
institutions holding mortgages on their homes; Reconstruction Finance 
Corporation loans; and direct grants from the American National Red 
Cross to cover the difference between the cost of repair or replacement, 
and what could be raised from insurance -payments and loans. I do 
not have data on the role played by personal savings in paying for re- 
pair and replacement of property. Within a few days many crews of 
construction workers were swarming over the impact area (which was 
being policed by National Guardsmen, Civil Defense volunteers, and 
regular and auxiliary police), demolishing unsafe buildings, replacing 
roofs, windows, and walls on damaged-but-repairable structures, and 
building new structures from the ground up. Supplies of glass, roof- 
ing materials, lumber, nails, hardware, etc. , and the labor to use 
them, were brought in from all over New England and adjacent parts 
of New York. 

The ultimate result, a year later, was an almost complete 
physical rehabilitation of the entire area: Norton Company and the 
rest of the industrial area completely rebuilt; Assumption College's 
main building almost completely rebuilt, with improvements; the two 
permanent public housing projects (Curtis Apartments and Great Brook 
Valley Homes) completely repaired; the churches rebuilt or repaired 
as required; and most of the private homes, stores, etc. , either re- 
paired or rebuilt. A few signs of the tornado remained: trailers on 


the site of Lincolnwood; bare foundations at the Home Farm; a few 
empty lots here and there, and a few battered houses, still unrepaired. 
An uninformed observer would probably not guess that a tornado had 
passed through the area, and might think only that there had evidently 
been a lot of new building, in the course of which some old structures 
had been demolished and not yet replaced. 

The most important single observation about the rehabilitation 
period at Worcester, to this writer at least, is that there was a very 
large concentration of "therapeutic" agents at the site of the community's 
wound. There was, indeed, more of everything available than was ever 
brought into play. In terms of hospitals, there were more hospitals 
in the town than were ever used. The Red Cross itself mobilized some 
thirty physicians and nearly six hundred nurses; these were in addition 
to those already mobilized by the community. More clothing was sent 
in than was used. Even though only fifty- seven families actually asked 
for public assistance in housing (in mass shelters), 425 trailers were 
brought into the town. The Red Cross alone supervised about 960 
volunteers; it budgeted $1, 020, 000 for relief, and spent $1,016, 162, 
assisting 1290 families in one form or another, making 755 cash awards 
to families averaging $879 per family. Rehabilitation aid extended to 
the point of the Red Cross buying twenty-five new vacuum cleaners (at 
one -third cost), and loaning them to 300 families to clean their homes 
and furnishings - one cleaner being used, on the average, by only 


twelve families. Many of the organizational problems of the rehabili- 
tation period were not so much problems of competition for scarce 
supply, but problems of selection or dovetailing of alternatives offered: 
trailers versus existing, if over-crowded, dwelling units, State or 
Red Cross financial responsibility for hospital bills, arranging of 
respective roles of insurance, loans, and cash grants in rebuilding, 
etc. One might say that the area was stacked high with people and 
materiel trying to be of service. 

This profusion of help should be emphasized for two reasons: 
because it can be expected in most natural or accidental disasters in 
this country; but it can not be counted on in the event of atomic or 
hydrogen disasters as would very likely occur in case of a major war. 
It therefore raises the serious question of whether the same kind of 
planning (including organization) can apply both to natural -disaster - 
preparedness and hydrogen-attack-preparedness. 



A subject of considerable interest, but one on which very little 
data is available, is that of the irreversible changes which occurred 
in the culture of Worcester as a result of the tornado. As was indicated 
in the preceding section, the resources not only of Worcester itself, 
but of the state and nation were devoted to a mass rehabilitation pro- 
gram aimed essentially at restoring the equilibrium state which ob- 
tained before impact. Nevertheless, some systematic changes un- 
doubtedly did occur: some of them changes which would have been re- 
versed if that had been possible; some of them changes which were 
deliberately made, either with a view to using this opportunity to make 
improvements which would have been desirable in any case, or with a 
view to making better preparation for any future disaster. Conceptu- 
ally, "change" in this discussion means change in the system rather 
than in individual units. Thus, the replacement of a roof, a wall, or 
even a whole building with another which serves the same functions 
is not a change in this sense: the system is the same, although one 
unit has been substituted for another. Where a new building which 
performs a substantially different function replaces an old one, or 
where a site is left vacant, or a structure left unrepaired, then one 
can speak of a systematic change. The same principle, of course, 
applies to individuals: scar tissue over a healed wound does not 


represent a change, on this level of discourse, but any permanent 

functional disability, physical or emotional, does. 

It is necessary, for practical purposes again, to choose a ter- 
minal date for the rehabilitation period, and operationally to define 
changes remaining at that date as "irreversible." Let us take one- 
year post-impact date as the terminal date of the rehabilitation period, 
and therefore consider the period of irreversible change as beginning 

The most obvious category of irreversible changes are those 
changes which have taken place in individuals as a direct result of the 
primary and secondary impact. Thus a certain number of persons 
have died - dropped out of the social structure entirely - and required 
a corresponding readjustment in many social units.. Bereaved relatives 
and friends, and their mutual relationships have undoubtedly changed 
in consequence, for while an employer can in most cases replace a 
lost worker, a wife and children cannot replace a lost husband and 
father, in a functional sense. There can be no real reconstruction of 
the status quo ante here. The consequences of these deaths cannot of 
course be described properly without a slow and painstaking case by 

34. It is apparent that the distinction made above is a rough and 
practical rather than a philosophically valid one. If one took absolute 
continuity of units as zero change, and argued that any substitution of 
units, however trivial, involved some functional difference, however 
small, then the distinction I have made becomes one of degree rather 
than of kind, and the point of differentiation is recognized as the 
threshold of awareness on the part of the observer of a functional 
difference which corresponds to a difference in form. 


case analysis, and probably these individual cases would in their various 
features be similar to cases of non-disaster-associated deaths. Their 
significance in the category of irreversible change lies not so much in 
the unusualness of the individual instances as in the fact that sixty- six 
persons died at once, making a slight but noticeable dent in the popula- 
tion pyramid for the town. 

Similarly obvious cases of irreversible change are permanent in- 
juries and disabilities, of various degrees of seriousness. The number 
of these probably exceeded one hundred. Here again individual cases 
no doubt presented the same features which might have been expected 
in the same number of cases of injuries resulting from industrial 
accidents, falls, etc. ; it is the mass occurrence which represents the 
significant change in the system, since under ordinary circumstances 
they would have been distributed over a considerable span of time. 

Significant changes in the economic circumstances of affected 
families and institutions were no doubt present, in spite of the efforts 
of such rehabilitation agencies as insurance companies, the Red Cross, 
state and local welfare departments, etc. I have no data whatsoever 
on these matters, and can only draw attention to the existence of the 

As indicated in the section on Rehabilitation, physical damage was 
largely repaired by April. Several dozen house sites where homes had 
been destroyed remained vacant, however, and a few houses had not 


been repaired. Assumption College's main building had been repaired, 
using what was left of the old structure, but the frame convent had not 
been replaced. St. Michael's on the Heights had "been completely re- 
built on a more lavish scale than before, and the Community Church 
had had a new wing constructed, replacing the seriously damaged 
frame tower. Norton's plant had been re -roofed. Curtis Apartments 
and Great Brook Valley Homes had been repaired, but Lincoln wood 
(slated for demolition before the tornado) had been demolished; a few 
trailers were still there. Demolished buildings at the Home Farm had 
not been replaced. 

The tornado was followed by a number of investigations and re- 
ports by personnel and consultants to the various operating agencies. 
These post-mortem studies of the effectiveness of counter-measure 
organizations - Civil Defense, Red Cross, churches, and hospitals in 
particular - must have resulted in a great many specific alterations 
and "tightening up" in social organization which are not reflected so 
much in any physical construction as in disaster plans, inter -agency 
agreements, and definitions of authority and responsibility, and on 
these matters I have no report. Some physical reconstruction may 
already have come about, however; in this connection I recall noticing 
that a wider gateway had been made for ambulance traffic at one of the 
hospitals, and this may have been a response to the experience on the 
night of June 9, 1953, when many of the hospitals reported traffic 
jams in ambulance driveways and entrances. 


It might be speculated, at this point, that in view of the great 
concentration on rehabilitation, there may very likely be, after a 
disaster of this kind, a sort of "undertow" which works against insti- 
tuting changes rationally recognized as prophylactic against future 
disasters. In a general atmosphere of striving with considerable success 
to reconstruct the past situation, it may be relatively difficult to make 
innovations. In other words, where rehabilitation is even moderately 
successful, interest may tend to focus on recreating the old culture 
rather than on building a less vulnerable culture for the future. And 
this tendency could, theoretically, actually produce a sort of fixation 
on the pre -disaster state, which would actively inhibit the institution 
of changes designed to prevent a similar disaster's happening again. 
One is reminded here of the building -the -village -again -on -the- side - 
of -the -volcano reaction. Perhaps persons who have managed to get 
through the time of maximum stress prefer to repair rather than to 
prepare (even if repair makes it impossible to prepare). 




.---_. -_ -. . . . 

1. The Disaster Syndrome 

In my initial field memorandum on the Worcester tornado, and in 
the later memorandum on the literature on human behavior in extreme 
situations, I drew attention to what appeared to be a very common be- 
havioral reaction, which had rather definite stages. I called this the 
"disaster syndrome. " 

The disaster syndrome is a psychologically determined defensive 
reaction pattern. During the first stage, the person displaying it ap- 
pears to the observer to be "dazed," "stunned," "apathetic," "passive," 
"immobile," or "aimlessly puttering around." This stage presumably 
varies in duration from person to person, depending on circumstances 
and individual character, from a few minutes to hours; apparently 
severely injured people remain "dazed" longer than the uninjured, al- 
though this emotionally dazed condition is no doubt often overlaid by 
wound shock. The second stage is one of extreme suggestibility, al- 
truism, gratitude for help, and anxiousness to perceive that known per- 
sons and places have been preserved; personal loss is minimized, 
concern is for the welfare of family and community. This stage may 
last for days. In the third stage, there is a mildly euphoric identification 


with the damaged community, and enthusiastic participation in repair 
and rehabilitation enterprises; it sometimes appears to observers as 
if a revival of neighborhood spirit has occurred. In the final stage, 
the euphoria wears off, and "normally" ambivalent attitudes return, 
with the expression of criticism and complaints, and awareness of the 
annoyance of the long-term effects of the disaster. The full course of 
the syndrome may take several weeks to run. 

The frequency of this syndrome, and particularly of its first 
stage, is difficult to learn. If one used the data presented in Chapter 
3, one would conclude that in Worcester, at about impact -plus -fifteen 
minutes (on the average) approximately 33 per cent of uninjured or 
slightly injured persons were displaying stage one. Probably the in- 
cidence of stage one declines in proportion to time elapsed after impact, 
so that the earliest observers would have seen it more commonly than 
later observers. The conditions under which this syndrome occurs 
seem to be four: an impact which destroys or damages much of the 
visible cultural environment and kills or injures, or threatens to kill 
or injure, many people; an impact which is unexpected; an impact 
which is sudden; and an impact with whose consequences the individual 
is not trained to cope. General cultural differences seem not to be a 
major determinant, since such a "dazed" reaction is reported from 
widely scattered disaster -struck communities. I would speculate that 
the more sudden the impact, the more unexpected, the more destructive 


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and the less trained the population is to act in its wake, the more severe 
and the more widespread will be the "dazed" reaction. 

In this section of the report, I shall try to delineate further some 
of the characteristics of the syndrome and the conditions under which 
it occurs, after presenting certain documentary materials relating to 

A psychiatrist at Worcester State Hospital, and a resident of 
Curtis Apartments, was in his car during impact. After caring for 
himself and his family, he went into the Great Brook Valley and other 
areas to give first aid. His description of the isolation period in one 
of the worst parts of the total impact area is the best single account, 
in my files, of the quality of behavior and emotion during the isolation 
period. I should like to quote from it in extenso: 

... I got into the rubble and by a foundation was an elderly man, there 
were five people sitting there, an elderly man, say sixty-five, with 
his wife (I presume) in his arms, her buttocks on the ground and he 
was holding up the back part of her and bracing her and crying, Momma, 
Momma, Momma and she was obviously maimed, uh, as I got closer 
and a young man and a young woman, the young woman had a baby, I 
would say fourteen, sixteen, eighteen month old baby. The baby was 
a little bit bloody and the woman had a, as though she had a huge super- 
ficial abrasion on the side of her face. Made her face look, her 
features were intact but entirely red and raw. I looked at the old 
woman first and she had a severe compound fracture of the humerus. 
You could stick your fist into the wound and see the radial artery and 
what I presume was the radial nerve, something white in there, ap- 
parently intact. Although I doubt it, I think she was probably just 
dazed. She had a head wound, her eyes were closed. She was in- 
coherent, uh, uh, moaning. I, uh. . . . and she kept moving her arm, 
this was her right arm, and that gave me the creeps, seeing her do 
that with this horribly broken arm, but she could move the forearm. 
I told her husband to lie her down and she was on a hillside, that whole 


street is. She was head down on the hill, and I, and she was quite 
obese and she didn't lie well on the ground. It worried me that she 
wasn't in a comfortable position but then I thought well, if she's gonna 
be in shock, it's better that her head is down anyway and then I thought, 
well she might start bleeding from her wound but she wasn't. She had 
some blood smeared on her but she wasn't bleeding; and I told her 
husband, and I told her husband, and I must remark that he was one 
of the few people who seemed to be able to function in a purposeful 
fashion. Really purposeful. I said, "I'm a doctor, I'll help her, go 
and get some blankets. " So he did and I looked at the thing and then 
I looked for something to cover the wound with. It was full of little 
bits of glass and it was just a wretched mess, and I couldn't find any- 
thing. The curtains were all full of dirt, there weren't big enough 
pieces of anything to make a tourniquet out of or a bandage; and as I 
was searching around in a fairly aimless way for something to deal 
with the wound someway with, he came back with the blankets. So I 
covered her up, and she was lying on some cardboard or some boards 
or something, and I thought well it would be best not to turn her over to 
get blankets underneath her because she's not on the ground and is 
probably warm enough and she could be made more seriously injured 
elsewhere. So, I covered her up. And then I spoke to the young woman, 
and she said, "My baby, my baby, is my baby all right. " I looked at 
the child, and apparently it was. Seemed a little dazed but it didn't have 
any marks of any wounds on it, just was dirty and had some blood, I 
think from its mother, on it. ... 

We found an old man who was dazed in the grass in his underwear and 
stocking feet. I couldn't find a pair of shoes or anything to put on his 
feet and there were nails and glass and things all around so he and this 
attendant went off down the hill to get into the street at the foot of the 
hill to be moved later, at least to get him out of there. I went past his 
house and there was a woman lying in the only clear space I saw in 
this dead-looking lawn - all the lawns were killed by this instantly, 
they looked brown and old. She had a, what I thought was a compound 
fracture of the femur, the right femur, but I got a progress report on 
her later and it wasn't fractured, she just had a severe laceration as 
ifalx6ora2x4 something like that, had gone right through her 
leg and passed on. It was a horrible wound, as big as your head, and 
she was very upset, but did not complain of pain. Later I found out 
she had a fractured pelvis and a fractured, oh, clavicle or ribs or 
something like that and was bleeding inside, but she didn't complain 
of pain. But I told her I was a doctor, and I had to get right up close 
to her and talk right into her ear because she was just moving around 
aimlessly looking, searching, out of contact more or less. I took her 
face in my hands and I said, "I'm a doctor and I'll try to help you if I 


can. " And she, the only thing she said was, "Will it come back? I'm 
afraid it's going to come back. " And I said, "No, it's not going to 
come back. " 

I covered up this woman and her husband was standing - let me give 
you a picture of it a little - of what the situation was and I can place 
these people. I was rather curious. There was a plot of grass, per- 
haps fifteen to twenty yards square, and at one side was part of a house, 
the floor and pieces of partition, off its foundation but sitting there. 
There was a woman, who was the daughter of this wounded woman I 
saw who I'd covered up with blankets (it was the only thing I could think 
of to do. I was still all alone; the people who had come to help had 
gone back, I'd sent them away. That thought had never occurred to 
me before). This woman, the young woman, was wandering around in 
the grass not doing anything, and would say something to her mother 
lying there and then wander away; and I don't remember what she said 
but it strikes me that it was inconsequential conversation. Her husband 
was standing on the corner of the floor going through something like uh, 
some old papers; mind you this was not more than, at the most, the 
most generous guess was twenty minutes after the thing hit. I don't 
think it was that long but say twenty minutes. He was going through 
some papers (my fantasy is that he was humming while going through 
these papers; I don't think he actually was, but he was very much un- 
concerned) and then it started to rain, and God damn it, all these 
people get wet, what could be more miserable? So I said to him, "I 
don't have enough covering over your wife, she's badly hurt, get me 
some blankets, you must know where there's some in the house." 
Well, there was none in the house, it was all outside and he tried to 
lift a partition off the bed and get some and he was very reckless about 
it because the thing was too damn heavy - nobody could lift it off; but 
he kept trying in a very desultory fashion. Closet wall was off and I 
just reached in and I said, "I'm going to take some of these coats and 
cover her up, " and he said, "Oh, yeah, you go ahead and do that;" and 
then he stopped me and said, "Don't take my good coat. " And I had 
the feeling that he was like a crazy person, not in good contact or what- 
ever words would describe it, childlike; and I said, "All right, I 
won't, " and I took what coats I needed anyway and covered her up. . . . 

Then George, the attendant, came back and we went up, I told him 
probably the best thing to do was get the walking wounded people down 
as fast as he could, just get them out of there in a group; and he pro- 
ceeded to do that and I presume he did for quite a while, because there 
were a lot of people obviously superficially hurt but bad enough to need 
medical attention, and he was taking them down because they were just 
either sitting or walking around or doing nothing. 


There was a young man there I would judge twenty-four, and he looked 
very business-like and sort of preoccupied and looked at me like, "What 
the hell are you doing here? I'm taking care of things;" not exactly 
hostile, but self-sufficient. And I said, "I'm a doctor. Is anyone hurt 
here?" And he said, "Well, my mother's under the house. " That 
house was off the foundation by ten yards and I looked under the house 
and this woman, it looked like the whole house was sitting right on her 
chest. There was some blood on her mouth and I thought perhaps she 
was bleeding from her lungs. She was taking very short breaths and 
had very little breathing space. He had gotten an automobile jack and 
put it under the house and jacked it up as hard as he could to keep the 
house from going any further down, but he couldn't lift the house. Then 
I found George and we tried to, we thought perhaps it might teeter, and 
we tried to lift up and it wouldn't, and we tried to pry and it wouldn't 
pry up with a long lever; and so then I decided perhaps we should look 
around for some more automobile jacks and see if several couldn't 
lift up the house enough that we could get her out. I didn't want to 
crawl under there. Uh, then I heard sirens and I felt relieved because 
they were obviously coming to our area and we would have some help. 

So, George was back and we decided to get some more automobile jacks 
and had a hard time finding them because the cars were, they were 
sprung, you know. There were lots of them lying all over, but we 
couldn't get 'em out. And in one of those cars was a fellow who be- 
haved very curiously. The car was on its side, and he was sitting in 
the car on the back seat with his foot out the back door, and the weight 
of the car was closing the door, or course, and his foot was outside. 
His friend was standing there and called me over when he heard I was 
a doctor and wanted to know what could be done. I got in the car. I 
had them hold the car because it was teetering and I got in and looked, 
and as far as I could tell the leg wasn't broken and he was, the guy was 
complaining of no pain. It's curious though that he had a gun beside 
him. I didn't notice this but George did, and George had the fantasy 
that he was going to shoot himself; uh, I just say this because perhaps 
George's observation was more accurate than mine, but as far as - I 
don't really remember the fellow except that he seemed to be very 
cool, that is, in his talking. He was obviously tense, and quite pale, 
but he was very cool. He said, "Don't tip over the damn car. It 
doesn't hurt. It throbs a little bit but let's just leave it there. I don't 
know what the hell will happen if you tip over the car. " So, I got out 
a jack and gave it to somebody, I forget who it was, and said to go 
back and put it under that house; and then I crawled underneath the 
car, by the trunk, and could see that the foot, and again I didn't think 
it, there was no bleeding and I didn't think it was broken, and I looked 
at the car and decided we could tip it over if we tipped it over easy. 


So several of us got together and tipped it over a couple of feet, and 
using a pry, himself, a piece of stick, pried open the door enough to 
get his foot out. It didn't seem to be broken. But he was very relieved 
and then became very - uncool. The climax was over and he was very, 
well, "I don't want to do another damn thing, I'm all tired out, I'm 
drained of energy, " and things like that he said, and he sat down on a 
rock. . . . 

. . . on the lawn was a boy about twelve years old and his father was 
sitting by him. His head and upper chest were swathed in bath towels 
and he had a cut, very deep, extending from the vertex going down 
behind the ear and into the neck down into the chest. It was about a 
foot deep and laid open a flap almost to the right orbit, and he was 
twisting and jerking and I thought perhaps he might have a cord injury 
or that he was dying. I lifted up the towels and looked and felt that I 
could do no better, wrapped him a little tighter, a little pressure, a 
lot of it was necessary; and then I told his father, I looked up on the 
hill where there didn't seem too damaged houses and I said, "Your 
boy is terribly hurt, but not dead. Go up to the . . . those houses up 
there, and get somebody with a car, and put him in a car and get him 
to a hospital immediately because he's very seriously hurt; or if you 
can find a phone, call somebody; or anything you can think of to do, 
up there where these people aren't hurt. " And he left, and I got the 
kid's brother, who was sixteen, I would say, to sit by him and watch 
him if he started to bleed or anything like that. And then I went around 
the corner and here was this kid's father, talking with somebody in a 
friendly, neighborly sort of way, reminiscing or something; and I said 
to him, "Can you go?" And he looked at me almost breaking down and 
said, "No, I just can't leave, I just can't bear it." So I said, "You go 
back with your son and I'll, as soon as possible I'll see that somebody 
comes for him. " 

. . As I would encounter people who were not hurt I would say, "Help 
me move some of these wounded people out, " and they couldn't. I 
would talk with them and explain what I had in mind, and they seemed 
to react and respond in a normal way, and then just stand there or 
wander away, and nod their heads and not do anything. I wouldn't say 
that they were dazed, but they were not functioning; and almost every- 
one I met was like that. And as I look back, my own behavior shows 
this, although I wasn't aware of it at the time. I was beginning to get 
tired. I don't know how long all this took, it seemed like about a half 
hour, but it must have been longer than that. Must have been an hour 
or more. I went back through the rooms, and helped carry some people 
down. I asked a man if anybody was hurt in his house, and he pointed 
to his dead wife on the ground and said, "She's hurt, " and I said, "No, 


I mean somebody I can help, " and he shrugged and said, no, he 
guessed not; and then he went back into the rooms of his house to 
pick over some things; he seemed to be unmoved by the fact that his 
wife was dead. Many people, when told I was a doctor, became very 
dependent on me, uh, "What shall we do, where shall we go, " but 
then couldn't do it; and other people didn't seem to be able to take in 
the fact that I might be able to help them. Wouldn't answer me. I 
would say, "Is anyone hurt here?" And they wouldn't answer. 

The impression to be gained from the psychiatrist's account 
agrees with the estimate, made earlier on the basis of interviews with 
victims themselves, that a large number of the persons in the impact 
area during the isolation period (i. e. , up to about half an hour after 
impact) were incapable of more than minimal (and often inadequate) 
care for themselves and their families. Many of these uninjured ap- 
parently were unable or unwilling even to walk out of the area. Far 
from panic, there was a dissociated state variously alluded to as "daze, " 
"shock, " "apathy," in which the normal cognitive structure was severely 
limited and effect was limited except for occasional emergences of ir- 
rational dependency, hostility, or "hysteria. " One has the feeling 
that the dazed, helpless, floundering state represents a partial regres- 
sion to a level of behavioral organization in which the individual is 
limited in his ability to perceive the actual physical environment and 
cannot act coherently with regard to the objects and dangers around 
him. We shall discuss later possible determinants of this regression. 

The first rescuers from the community aid area found the sur- 
vivors in a random movement state, similar to that described above 
by the psychiatrist. In the words of a fireman in the Home Farm and 
Great Brook Valley area: 





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A. ... then we saw the people that were walking around there in a 
daze. They didn't know what hit them. 

Q. You mean, just walking? 

A. Just walking around as if the world had ended, you know. Some 
of them, you could see that look in their eyes, didn't know what 
hit them, see. 

After recognition that help had arrived, however, the dazed and 
apathetic stage disappeared, and survivors participated more exten- 
sively in rescue, first aid, and evacuation activities. Another fireman 
described both the "random movement" and the probably following 
"helpful" stage as his fire engine moved through the Burncoat Street 
area on a circuitous route toward a fire on Francis Street: 

There were quite a few people around, but they weren't in any particular 
spot; few here, a few over there. And everyone had, although not 
exactly a stunned attitude, a shocked attitude. Some, enough to realize 
that there was somebody in that house and needed help to get out. 
Others just seemed to, well, watch you go by; probably completely 
shocked for the time being. . . 

. . . when the officer told us that we were to lay our lines down to the 
pumper on lower Francis Street, I don't know where all the help came 

. . . that thousand feet of hose went down that street just about as fast as 
you could let it run; and there a couple that hollered, "Come on, give 
us a hand with the line. " And just as fast as one man could pull it out 
of the wagon, it was goin' away from us. It was amazing. In fact, 
I've never seen a hose line move quite as fast as that one did. The 
people around there were very cooperative in that case, very coopera- 
tive. And some of them, I imagine, from that house where we were 
trying to get the little girl out, to help us. But there was more on the 
line than there was over at the house, so they came from other places 

The pastor at St. Michael's on the Heights Episcopalian church, 


was away from the impact area at impact, and was able to return by 
6:30, during the height of the rescue period. By this time, it would 
seem, a common modality of behavior was mutual reassurance. Find- 
ing his family unhurt (the house was in the fringe impact area), he 
donned his cassock and made the rounds of his parishioners' homes 
asking, "Are you all right?" "People would cry when I asked. " "I 
feel they knew I represented God as well as my own personal concern 
for their safety. " "People wanted more than anything else to know 
people cared about them. " "If they knew me, they would give me a 
hug. They wanted to be reminded that they were all right." "They 
wanted comfort rather than physical help. " Another minister who was 
also making the rounds of his parish about the same time remarked, 
"Almost everyone wanted to go beyond a handshake, wanted an embrace; 
wanted to lean on you. Some want to kiss and be kissed in reassurance. " 
Both ministers referred to the cooperativeness, politeness, and will- 
ingness to help which the people showed to each other in the impact 
area during the rescue period. 

Among those being evacuated to the hospitals, a similar type 
of complaisant, helpful, and grateful attitude was observed. A series 
of interviews by Miss Rayner with medical personnel, who were acting 
independently at the hospitals during the disaster, convey a remarkable 
uniform picture. 

A neuro -psychiatrist who saw victims at Memorial Hospital from 
5:15 PM to 2:00 AM: 


A. ... I am not sure whether this was apathy or not; it seemed more 
as though these people felt themselves a very small part of some 
one great thing. It was not a real apathy. People were extremely 
patient - not demanding, and seemed not to be focused on them- 
selves. The only outcries of pain were patients with fractures who 
had to be transferred. They did respond to pain, a few to the 
needle, but not as many as I had expected. I was impressed most 
by the quiet. Responses were less than expected. There was real 
concern for family and house. I saw one man quietly crying to 
himself - he had a fractured leg - when I asked why he was crying, 
he told me that his little girl had been killed. A twelve -year old 
kid asked to have others cared for first. " 

Q. Had they an awareness of the environment? 

A. Yes, but the severity of the experience has numbed them down. I 
have my own theory, it's related to Selye's work - trauma like 
nothing they had ever experienced before. 

Q. Did you overhear any of their conversations? 

A. Victims by and large were not talking. The medical personnel did 
all the talking. My usual technique of kidding and trying to cheer 
people didn't work. These people did not respond. Children were 
helping (kept them occupied) and very grave - behaving like 
"miniature adults," no fooling among themselves. 

Mrs. : Much more confusion - more feelings expressed. The 

expression was not adequate here in this situation. Most were 
oriented, no anger expressed or that type of emotion, character- 
ized by "why did it happen to me." There were no complaints. 

A. They seemed at once lost in a vast human field. They were not 
like a regular accident victim. A day later they were in a dazed 
state. There were no complaints - no kidding - no horse -play by 
youngsters. It was such a part of such a big thing, there was a 
transient loss of individuality and identification with something 

Q. Did this appear as withdrawal? 

A. It was withdrawal from the self to something bigger than them- 
selves. A vast investment of interest in others. No one came 
to office without referring to tornado. 


Mrs. : There were no evidences of selfishness at all. There 

seemed a high threshold for pain. Separation seemed to be the 
most traumatic to them. 

A. A few were confused - dazed and "blank." Mothers were going 
through wards at City Hospital looking for children, and acting 
"like animals. " 

Mrs. : They had a one track mind. The nearest to panic occurred 

when others began looking for family. There was an urgency and 

The Superintendent of St. Vincent's Hospital: 
Q. How did the patients look? 

A. Stunned, but very cooperative and willing to do whatever doctors 
told them. 

A nursing adviser and coordinator: 

People so shocked they didn't know what had happened. They were 
so stunned, their response to local anesthesia -- was even not 
where it needed to be used. When you talked to victims they didn't 
seem to respond. 

. . . Wednesday at 9:30 A. M. the Red Cross took over first aid. 
Hospitals were still taking patients. People didn't realize that 
they were injured until several hours after the tornado. 

In an interview at Memorial Hospital: 

Dr. C: There were an extreme number of patients in shock (wound 

Q. Did you notice an element of emotional shock? 

Mrs. K: The relations were in a state of apathy; it made them easy 
to handle. One grandmother had lost two children; she showed 
little response. 

Dr. C: One man simply stated that his wife was dead; there was no 
emotional expression. 



The Superintendent, Worcester City Hospital: 

They were dazed individuals, many unconscious, many cut, 40 
per cent fractures of long bones, head and chest injuries. Most 
were so dazed they felt no pain. Parents were disturbed over 

The Director, Hahnemann Hospital: 
Q. How did the patients seem? 

A. No hysteria - they were stunned - just came in and were willing 
to do as asked. 

Q. How did they look? 

A. Dirty! Just covered with mud. Gravel was ground into their 
scalps and skin. 

Q. How did they respond when spoken to? 

A. Oddly enough, most were well oriented. It was not until you lis- 
tened to their stories that they reacted. They seemed to feel 
lucky that they were alive. Great appreciation of what has been 
done for them. We got them to homes and friends. All knew of 
someone who would take them. Only a few had to have temporary 
shelter away from friends and family. 


The Superintendent of Worcester State Hospital: 

A. I went directly to the housing project (Curtis Apartments) in an 

ambulance from Worcester State Hospital. Then went to Memorial 
Hospital and worked. In actually only about a half hour later, Dr. 
Hicox was there. 

My feeling regarding the thing - my interpretation of those actually 
in the area, especially those brought to the hospital was quite 
surprising. People actually in the area were calmest of all. 

Q. What kind of calm? 

A. Most of a pathetic, lethargic, somewhat stuporous type. /He told 
an anecdote about a woman patient./ It was as though she were 
almost in shock, yet still standing. Unemotional, complete flat 
effect, nothing seemed to mean much to her. One woman was 


standing with a piece of cloth in her hand in a ruined house. I 
asked her if she were hurt - said no - she refused to leave home. 
I found that she was hurt. There were no complaints . . . Some 
were completely unresponsive. 

At the hospital no one was hysterical, complaining or crying. 
They were quiet and stayed put. The people working, nurses, 
Red Cross, attendants, volunteers, nurses aides, those groups, 
were excited - rushed about here and there, causing commotion 
and interference, and emotionally were all upset. Some of the 
nurse's aides even would start out for something and never get 
back. There were a lot of patients but no complaints. One woman 
claimed she was unhurt, that she had no pain; said she had a 
muscle strain. A doctor examined her and she had six ribs frac- 
tured. Had to demand to examine them; most denied pain. One 
man had both hands fractured - this patient disclaimed injury - 
said he was waiting for his wife. The doctor set the fractures 
and the patient rolled over and went to sleep. He didn't care. 
Those in it, it was such a shock, that they were insensitive to 
sensation or demands. They were admitted, but most didn't know 
quite how they had gotten there. 

Q. Were there any really disoriented? 

A. Some were partially so. One woman had three kids with her, aged 
eight, nine, ten. .She knew and asked me to take care of the chil- 
dren. She didn't know she had been hurt, or how she had gotten to 
the hospital. She said she was going back to the house to get her 
husband and a shoe for one child. She didn't realize that one child 
was missing. When I mentioned the missing child, she wanted 
then to go to find the child. I had volunteers take her and the 
children to the Auditorium. She wasn't upset; she didn't cry; she 
was not hysterical, and stuck by the kids. I was astonished at the 
general public - wonderful, but helped in a. confused way. Wanted 
to help but didn't know how. There was not enough supervision. 
No one would stick with you, doctors and nurses were the only 
ones who would keep their heads. The volunteers interfered with 
functioning of the hospital. 

Q. Was there apathy all about? 

A. If these people were not shocked they'd be very difficult to handle; 
because they were shocked you could handle them easily. It 
probably helped them through the immediate post-impact period. 
I was most impressed by their lack of pain. No patients (mentally 


ill) were received at State Hospital as a result of the tornado. 
Some of the patients at the hospital lost family (two schizophrenic 
patients). They had no reaction to news. You could do anything 
to the patients (victims), but could get no response. Those who 
came into the areas (sightseers) and those volunteers in hospitals 
were shocked by what they saw, but couldn't seem to do anything. 

A Civil Defense secretary: 
Q. How did people at the Municipal Auditorium aid station look? 

A. Right up tight! The elderly were very calm, seemed almost to 

enjoy it; the kids played as usual. The men, well one man seemed 
to blame himself, "shouldn't have lived there." No emotion, sort 
of "deadened. " One girl (from a well-to-do family) just went to 
pieces. She didn't seem to care; then when we found her, she 

The medical report by Bakst et al, 1953, included the follow- 
ing comment: 

During the first night of the disaster emotional reactions requiring 
special attention were rare in the hospital; most observers were im- 
pressed with the composure and docility of the casualties. Indeed, 
some patients were in a state of apathy so extreme that serious in- 
juries did not seem to be of concern to them. Even the injured children 
were quiet, obedient, and anxious to be helpful. 

These observations on victims in the impact area and in the hos- 
pitals during the rescue period show a partial continuation of the dazed 
state, with relatively flat affect, but an improved capacity for action if 
organized community aid personnel (physicians, nurses, firemen, 
police, et al. ) were present to give directions. In the presence of 
such personnel, with equipment, giving instructions, the victims were 
markedly obedient. They also indicated intense gratitude and pleasure 
at receiving any help or verbal expressions of concern or interest. 
Injured victims seem usually not to have gone into wound shock until 


after evacuation; but the incidence of wound shock after evacuation was 
apparently high. The interplay of physical and emotional trauma in 

producing the "disaster syndrome" should be investigated. 

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The next stage, the early rehabilitation period, saw a further 

development of the syndrome. In this stage, a cardinal feature was 

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altruism. The dazed component and the extreme passivity had passed. 

In the words of the Bakst report (p. 28), quoting Bishop Wright: 

The general impression of observers is that the injured and un- 
injured alike were more concerned for others than for themselves 
and were so awed by the enormity of the disaster that "each per- 
son became a saint for about ten days." 
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One Protestant pastor whom I interviewed also testified to the prevalence 

of the altruistic component among the residents of his part of the impact 

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area up to June 19. This pastor noted that among his parishioners, in 
the Burncoat area, there was a real "revival" of community and church 
spirit; there was much freer personal contact; manners were more 
"natural;" everyone pitched in to help clean up the church property; 
old feuds were forgotten, and persons with mental disease symptoma- 
tology or histories of hospitalization showed a notable remission of 
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symptoms or at least no relapse. Another pastor commented on the 

continuous desire victims felt for people to come to them, their anxiety 
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and fear at having to go to apply (e. g. , to the Red Cross). Perhaps the 
altruistic component has a demanding and dependent side as well as a 
generous one. 


Consolidating the data given above, one can describe the overt 
behavior of the disaster syndrome as displaying three stages, corres- 
ponding roughly to the isolation, rescue, and early rehabilitation 

1. isolation period: many survivors in the impact area, injured and 
uninjured, are "dazed," "apathetic," "stunned;" awareness of the ex- 
tent and intensity of destruction, to person, family and community, is 
inadequate; efforts at first aid, rescue, and evacuation are perfunctory, 
frequently inadequate, and often entirely absent; many people simply 
stare, wander aimlessly, "putter about;" expressions of strong emotion 
(grief, fear, pain, anger, etc.) are missing or sporadic and inappro- 

2. rescue period: with the arrival of organized protective personnel, 
with equipment (firemen, police, Civil Defense, Red Cross, etc.), 
survivors remaining in the impact area are able to perform routine 
tasks in rescue, fire -fighting, etc., operations, under orders; sur- 
vivors evacuated to hospitals, aid stations, and other mass care centers 
are also able to follow orders and are extremely docile and obedient, 
but they tend to remain "dazed" longer, or, if injured, to go into 
severe wound shock; both groups are better oriented than during the 
isolation period and can usually tell an interviewer what happened to 
them; both groups are extremely grateful for care and concern; both 
groups are also self-sacrificing and willing to let others be cared for 

3. rehabilitation period (first ten days at least): both injured and un- 
injured, in hospitals and in the impact area (but perhaps not to the 
same degree if they are no longer receiving evidences of mass care, 
as in cases where evacuees have gone to live with relatives) show a 
mild euphoria, marked by intense altruism and willingness to work 
for the community welfare, readiness to give up old grudges, to ignore 
barriers of social distance, and to merge the self in a kind of neighbor- 
hood revival spirit, to participate in a strong "we-feeling" shared by 
impact -area survivors but not by others; at the same time, in spite of 
professions of thankfulness and gratitude, there is also a tendency, in- 
consistent with the foregoing, to complain of the coldness and efficiency 
of mass care organizations, to become very sensitive over applying for 
aid in any form, and to be willing to accept assistance only if it is 
brought to them. The three stages of the syndrome might be labelled, 
for purposes of reference, the random movement stage, the suggestible 


stage, and the euphoric stage. (In the earlier description, a fourth 
stage - an ambivalent stage - was differentiated from stage three. ) 

This syndrome describes the behavioral modality of an unknown 
proportion of the survivors in the impact area. Some persons - notably 
those with pre-defined roles to play in a disaster - do not succumb to 
the syndrome, although they probably have tendencies toward it; some 
few persons seem to escape it by immediate and direct "hysterical" 
outbursts; some, of course, are so severely injured that physiological 
trauma governs behavior. (The incidence and nature of the "hysteria" 
occasionally but vaguely described is another point worthy of investiga- 
tion. ) I would hypothesize that this syndrome will invariably occur 
following a disaster characterized by a sudden impact involving physical 
destruction and injury affecting a large part of the survivors' visible 
community environment, and that cultural differences will not affect 
it appreciably. 

The determinants of the syndrome are, in my opinion, not primar- 
ily physical injuries, physical shock, physical upset by buffeting and 
being "pushed around by a lot of air;" they are psychological. This is 
evidenced by the fact that the disaster victim can display this syndrome 
whether or not he has been injured; it is also evidenced by the fact that 
injured disaster victims display the syndrome more frequently than do 

35. Descriptions of "typical" behavior at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and 
in severely bombed German cities, after earthquakes, and after sudden 
floods, while not organized as here, seem to be referring to the essen- 
tial elements of the disaster syndrome. 

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accident cases (the latter being said usually to be noisier, more demand- 
ing, more sensitive to pain, more susceptible to the physician's bedside 
manner, etc. ). The precipitating factor in the disaster syndrome 
seems to be a perception: the perception that not only the person him- 
self, his relatives, and his immediate property (house, car, clothing, 
etc. ) have been threatened or injured, but that practically the entire 
visible community is in ruins. The sight of a ruined community, with 
houses, churches, trees, stores, and everything wrecked, is appar- 
ently often consciously or unconsciously interpreted as a destruction 
of the whole world. Many persons indeed, actually, were conscious of, 
and reported, this perception in interviews, remarking that the thought 
had crossed their minds that "this was the end-of the world," "an 
atom bomb had dropped, " "the universe had been destroyed, " "the 
whole city of Worcester may have been destroyed, " etc. The objects 
with which he has identification, and to which his behavior is normally 
tuned, have been removed. He has been suddenly shorn of much of the 
support and assistance of a culture and a society upon which he depends 
and from which he draws sustenance; he has been deprived of the in- 
strumentalities by which he has manipulated his environment; he has 
been, in effect, castrated, rendered impotent, separated from all 
sources of support, and left naked and alone, without a sense of his 
4 own identity, in a terrifying wilderness of ruins. 


The response to the assault of this realization is withdrawal 
from perceptual contact with this grim reality and regression to an al- 
most infantile level of adaptive behavior characterized by random 
movement, relative incapacity to evaluate danger or to institute pro- 
tective action, inability to concentrate attention, to remember, or to 

follow instructions. Such individuals appear to be "dazed," "shocked," 
"stunned, " "apathetic. " Actually they are far from being indifferent; 
it is the intensity of the previously-felt anxiety which has prompted 
this blocking of perception and this regression. 

The remainder of the syndrome represents the gradual resti- 
tution of the pre -impact behavioral organization. The individual first 
seems to emerge from the cocoon of apathy at the appearance of rescue 
personnel from the outside; he becomes very dependent on these people, 
identifies with them, is extremely suggestible and obedient, idealizes 
the care they give, rejoices in embracing and touching them. This is 
the suggestible stage. Following this comes a stage in which there is 
a joyful resurgence of identification with the community, a re -accep- 
tance of the adult role, although the reassurance of unsolicited aid and 
assurance is constantly demanded. Finally, there is the development 
of complaints and blame. This is an ambivalent stage. Eventually, 
no doubt, most individuals return approximately to their pre -disaster 
state, after perhaps two weeks or a month. The various phases of the 


syndrome, after the initial plummeting regression, appear like a tele- 
scoped passage through the familiar stages of behavioral maturation. 

The most transparent case-history of the first two stages 
of the disaster syndrome is provided by an interview obtained with a 
middle-aged small -businessman who weathered the impact in his truck. 
After impact, he crawled out of the truck and got back into his place of 
business; it was a shambles, but the phone was still intact. 

A. ... I came back in here and I called up a friend of mine up at the 
Brookside Home and I said, "My old truck blew down - can you 
give me a lift?" And he said, "I'm eating my supper and I'll be 
down. " So, I thought I was, that this was just something that 
happened to me, that was, you know, the old shanties here could 
blow down any time, you might feel. I called up this friend of 
mine, he says, "Everything gone?" And I says, "The whole works 
blew out." He said, "I'll be down after supper." Well, you know, 
my damage wasn't as teetotal as what happened to a lot of people 
so I don't bother around here (laugh) or anything. I couldn't quite 
convince him that something had happened. He didn't get here 
until well, past eleven. 

Q. Tell me, when was the first time you realized that something was 
really going on that was really wrong? 

A. I think when I was on my hands and knees. 

Q. Didn't you realize when the desk went out in front of you? 

A. No, there was so much . . . oh, suppose that you were sitting 

here. . . and a tidal wave flowed over you, you were just struck. 
I think - that you struggle before you think, you know, you don't 
plan anything at all. 

Q. So, it was about when you got on your hands and knees that you 
really felt something was . . . ? 

A. Something was bad wrong here - but I'd never had any, well, I'd 
read in the papers and so forth, you know about tornadoes, and 
about terrible disasters high winds had caused everywhere else; 


and I was right here, uh, I lived across the street to here durin 1 
the hurricane and the hurricane wasn't as terrible as this. And 
I was only on the fringe; it's a lot worse, two minutes walk from 

A. ... Remember I had my head down and my nose down; I was taking 
care of my eggs, and my chicks, and making for the truck - I 
felt if I could get in the truck . . . I'm not sure whether I can re- 
member it - if part of the roof had gone by then or not. The 
noise was, terrific. But on a tar paper roof here in a hail storm 
like that the noise is terrific too - what you would expect, a good 
steady roar there for a couple of minutes before I got out of here. 
So, although a whole lot of people can give you a detailed descrip- 
tion of how the storm looked as it approached, and all that - I 
think if they were busy - and of course after the storm got here 
they would be busy - I can't see how people could see it at all. 
I've been over in the Adirondacks, washing dishes when I went 
to school, wash dishes up in summer resorts, summers; and 
they used to have terrible hail storms over there, cloud bursts 
and thunder storms, worse than I've seen around here. And I 
do think that perhaps this, as far as I knew it was just a bad 

Q. Then when you got in the cab of the car, were you looking up and 
seeing what was going on? Or what was going through your mind 

A. No, I looked at uh, 'course through the windshield I could see that 
other building there, and there were a lot of stuff in the air; but 
the air was thick with stuff. Your vision wasn't far, or anything 
like that; the air was actually thick with debris, shingles, dust, 
and dirt. Kind of a red powder. Gray or reddish powder. That's 
as much as I remember. 

Q. And you say when you got on your hands and knees, you felt that 
this was something happening just to you? What did you think it 
was ? 

A. Well, I didn't uh, it was just a bad time (laugh) I was getting out 
of it if I could. 

Q. Did you have any idea what it might be due to, I mean, did you 
have some thoughts about it? 


A. No, I was a lot scareder afterward when I walked up the street 
and saw, you know, uh carrying bodies out and so forth. Until 
that time I didn't realize the seriousness of the storm except that 
it had blown hard and like I said we are educated here to how much 
damage a tornado can do. So, if the wind blows hard here, it 
blows a gale, we have a thunder storm; that's all I thought we'd 
have here. 

Q. You say you didn't feel scared really until . . . 

A. I think, you know, after the truck came back up, and still kept 

swinging and heaving in the wind, and trembling - I kept, I'd look 
up through the windshield and think I shouldn't have got this truck 
(laughing) I should have kept the old Dodge I had. The windshield 
was too wide on there (laughing) and it looked terribly big to me 
with the stuff that was in the air - shingles, roofs, and stuff, like 
that swingin' by there, that is, you could see something come by 
you, you couldn't actually identify it. 

Q. Did you notice any feelings inside yourself at any time during 


A. No, (loudly and slowly) I don't think that I noticed any feelings, al- 
though people came in afterwards said they thought (chuckling) I 
must have been stunned a little bit. 

Q. Why did they say that? 

A. Oh, they thought I should have got going a little quicker, gettin 1 a 
hold of the insurance man and stuff like that. 'Course I thought at 
the time I was doing my utmost and no one could do any better, 
(nearly inaudible). 

Q. Looking back on it now what do you think about it? 

A. I think I might have been sort of ... riled (low voice) because I, 
uh, after the . . . died down, was gone, my phone was working for 
ten minutes or so. I called up this fellow and asked him to come 
down and give me a lift and straighten this place out down here, 
not realizing the extent or the seriousness of the storm. I thought 
this was just something that happened to me. I called up my wife 
and she said, "Well, there's a couple of trees gone in the back 
yard, but that's all. " So I said, "Good for you, sit tight, where' s 
Ann?" That's my daughter and she's working over here at Holmes, 


that's the greenhouse. They were hit bad over there. So, I left 
with the truck and I went up to as close as I could get to Holmes, 
and I couldn't get up there. There were trees lying down across 
the road, so I came back and went down to the drug store and 
tried to call Holmes but the wires were down. I came back here 
and left the truck and walked over to Holmes. Some way or 
another I missed my daughter, she was down here looking for 
me. But the people in the house here told her I was all right, 
that's as much as I know about the storm. 

Q. You say maybe you were a little slowed down, I wonder if some- 
thing like this happened again, heaven forbid that happening, but 
do you think you could be more efficient in the next one or do you 
think you'd do about the same? 

A. Yeah, I think that in another one perhaps I could think, you know, 
I wasted a lot of time here. I couldn't do anything myself, here. 
I could have gone out and given some other people a lift, if I had, 
uh, if another wind blew like that I would know that someone pos- 
sibly could be hurt or dying on the next street, and I could go help 
them. But, uh, and I think I could have even with the truck and 
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Q. But thinking back on what you actually did how do you feel about it? 

A. I think I looked after myself. And, of course, the first half hour 
or so I thought it was something that only happened to me. Fin- 
ally, after an hour or so, my father lives up on Garfield Street; 
I walked up to see if he had been home, and if he was, how he 
was. But he wasn't home, and I made certain of that, and that 
he was safe. But I think in another storm I would know a little 
wind can do a whale of a lot of damage; and I'd get right out there. 

Q. But you think that not knowing any more than you did, and the 

situation being what itis, how do you feel about the way you car- 
ried things off? 

A. Oh, I think I did all right but maybe I was a little dopey; maybe I 
still could have got over there. I didn't know for a couple of days 
afterward that these houses up there on the hill were tumbled down 
and moved off their foundations. It didn't dawn on me at all. Of 
course, at the same time I live in this section and we had no tele- 
phone, most of the time no newspaper, and no electric lights and, 
of course, no radio and no communication at all with the outside 

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excepting with people that you talked with. I think that facilities 
should be set up in a mobile form that could be moved in, and take 
over telephone communication on each street, or something like 
that. Because the people iri a devastated area can't call out. 
People outside that are looking for them or might help them can't 
call in, and do not know the extent of damage or anything. I think 
actually that partially was why I didn't get out and do my best to 
help out. Because I was perfectly able to do it, perfectly able. 

Q. Did nobody, nobody came to help you then until 11:00 o'clock that 

A. That's right. 

Q. Nobody showed up around here, rescue workers? 

A. Of course, first I went over to Frank Adams over here to tell him 
my troubles and I see his roof is falling off, and so forth, an' 
they're sweeping the street; so I said well, I said I'd better go back 
and sweep my place. So I got back and gee, you know I worked my 
trade in that building over there, I worked in that building twenty- 
one years; and when I got back here it caught fire and was burning. 
So I walked back down there but there was nothing I could do. The 
fire apparatus had gotten there, there was nothing to do but sit 
here and watch that old shebang burn down. Well, it burned, you 
know, it gutted it pretty well. This is the building that -- 

Q. The building that was burning was not your building? 

A. No, it wasn't my building; but I figured it was home, once upon a 
time, practically. 

Q. You say there was something here that blew over? 

A. The building that blew up that the car was parked against, which 
is that one. I didn't even see it go but it went that way. It was 
right here. 

Q. Oh! The foundation that's left there was its foundation? 


A. That's all, there's nothing but the foundation there now. Took 

most of Murphy's heart, I guess. 
Q. What? 

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A. Most of Murphy's heart. There was the foundation - $9, 000. 00 
worth of stock . . . which, of course, is nothing if you didn't have 
your house blown down and lose some of your family. 

Q. But it's still pretty hard. 

A. Yes, this was hard-earned, you know? (earnestly). The wood- 
working industry never was highly paid. I served a long appren- 
ticeship - and during the time that I worked at it, although I liked 
the trade, and the work, and the people I worked with, I never was 
able to accumulate two cents during that time. Later when old man 
Young died, the place was sold out, liquidated, the estate was; I 
went to work at Norton Company and, of course, as long as you're 
willing and able at the Norton Company you get a good break. So I 
was able to lay by enough to start myself, very humbly, in busi- 
ness in the old trade. So I hated to see it go. But, like I say, I 
am still thinking of myself like when I was (chuckle) crawling out 
there. . . . 

Q. ... at any time during this thing did you notice any physical 
symptoms ? 

A. I don't think so. 

4 ^ I \A/ rf 

Q. Did you ever notice your heart beating fast, your mouth getting 

A. No, not a bit. 

Q. Haven't had any diarrhea or constipation? 

A. Not a bit. 

Q. No pains in your stomach? 

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A. Excepting that I can't sleep. 

Q. You can't? 

A. No. 

Q. What about that? 

A. I don't know, of course, it might be these kids (laugh) we have 
home the wife is taking care of but I had the, the best night's 
sleep I had was four hours. 


Q. Do you have nightmares? 

A. No. I think I dreamt something last night but uh -- 

Q. What do you dream about? 

A. (Pause) Dreams are kind of vague. (Vigorously) you know one 

time when I was a kid, I went to kindergarten over here at Carter 
and Fairhaven Road. And during recess I climbed the apple tree 
and slipped down and got my foot caught in the crotch. And you 
know I can remember, well, the kindergarten teacher, Miss 
Bancroft came out and unlaced my shoe and yanked my foot out, 
after I didn't answer the bell. I suppose at the time I figured 
that was about as bad a thing as had happened to me. You know, 
last night I dreamt something about Miss Bancroft bringing me 
back in school. Something odd like that (Pause). That's about 
the -- 

Q. That's about the worst thing that had ever happened to you up until 

A. I think I was terror stricken, you know, when my foot was caught 
in the crotch of that tree and I couldn't move. And, I don't know, 
I suppose that when she unlaced that shoe and yanked my foot out 
of there, and then got my shoe back out of the crotch of that tree, 
that was security and safety. But there was something in what I 
dreamt last night about Miss Bancroft. 

Q. No more than four hours sleep since this thing happened. How do 
you feel now? 

A. Not too bad. I'm fairly efficient today. I've made out forty-eight 
invoices, and, of course, I've got to send, uh, I'm planning out 
some kind of a note that I can send to everybody that, all that buy 
my stuff here; that if they know that they owe me, would they 
please let me know how much, I have no record at all. I've got 
5, 700 bucks on the books and I don't know for certain where it is. 

Q. (Whistle) You really have to trust people. 

A. I've never worked in anything but dungarees all my life, (laugh). 
Still it isn't as bad as what I've seen happen around here. 

Q. How's your appetite been? 


A. Well, I didn't eat much supper or any dinner last night, and I had 
a cup of coffee and a bun for breakfast yesterday. Uh, today I 
didn't eat any breakfast but I ate a good dinner down at Stewart's 

Q. Is today the first time you've eaten well since - 

A. Yeah. Yesterday I bought a steak out but I couldn't eat it. It was 
the finest looking steak (laugh) I've seen in a long time. And I 
don't know why; because I can eat one of those good big steaks on 
hand down at Durgan and Parks, down there. 

Q. (Laugh) If you can eat one of those you're a good steak eater. 
A. That's right and it was a crime to leave that steak. 

Q. Right after the thing hit you weren't hungry then - you didn't eat 
that flight? 

A. Ne>, 1 didn't that night. No. (Pause ten seconds) I didn't, I went 

home that night and came back here, then I didn't go home for a 
couple of days. When I went home that night, 'course the electric 
stove was off and the refrigerator and all. My wife said, "Drink 
the milk up, any way, if you can't eat, if you didn't feel .like eat- 
ing. " I said I didn't feel like eating. So, I had two glasses of 
chocolate milk and came back here. 

Q. You stayed here, you didn't go back home? 

A. No, I didn't go back home for a couple of days. 

Q. You just stayed right here and worked? 

A. Yeah. The rubble and debris were tremendous. So I took twenty- 
three truck loads of stuff out of here before we could even see 
where my material was, where the machinery was and anything 

Q. Did you notice anything else, or have you noticed anything else? 

A. Only that, you know, I'm kind of a happy cuss most of the time 
and I do have . . . well I haven't today but ordinarily I - you know 
I've had a couple of hours a day that I feel the worst for myself. 
I could just sit back and sympathize with myself, and what had 
happened to me. I've had bad things happen to me, maybe not as 


bad as this, but nothing ever got me down. Because I've been 
broke before (unsteady laugh) but it shouldn't bother me too much 
(nearly inaudible) there's other things to think of. 

Q. You just felt sort of like crying? 

A. Yeah. 

Q. Have you ever been able to let go and cry about this? 

A. No. 

Q. You don't do that sort of thing? 

A. No. Come pretty near it though, (briskly) Fellow came in here 
that I had worked with years ago and he works at Martins now and 
I heard that his house was gone. He lives over on Randall Street. 
They bought the house years ago, oh, during the depression; bor- 
rowed everything they put into it at the time; but since then, of 
course, he's come up in the world. But they're tremendous work- 
ing people, good people with a tremendous capacity for work and 
know how to work and how to do things and spent all their money. 
You couldn't duplicate the house over there for $30, 000. And it's 
a total ruin; and they may get $6, 000 or $7, 000 out of their wind 
damage. Well, that guy came in here and I could feel for him. 
That's as close as I came to bawlin 1 during the time. But he's got 
a lot of guts, and what I heard last was he's going to put a trailer 
up on the next lot and after the house is demolished he'll rebuild. 
That really takes somethin' because when he does rebuild, now, 
there was a house that was free and clear; he's going to assume a 
tremendous mortgage, and he isn't a young man any more. It's 
all right for someone like, if you figure you have twenty -five or 
thirty years of good productive years ahead of you, you can get out 
of anything, anything under the sun. But if someone gets along to 
be about fifty -five or fifty-eight, something like that, it's a dif- 
ferent story. In their lifetime they can't, I can't see how they can 
put themselves back where they were. 

Q. How old are you now? 

A. I'm forty-three. 

Q. You've got a little while yet. 


A. I've got a little while but I have a lot of heavy labored years in back 
of me. Really heavy years in back of me. I haven't got the pep I 
used to have, the get up and go, and I know I haven't. If I need 
something done that's got to have get up and go to it, I hire it done. 
And ... I know I'm not as good a man as I used to be. 

Q. Tell me, have you noticed any tremulousness, any shakiness? 

A. Yes, I have been shaky, yes. 

Q. When did you first begin to notice that you were shaky? 

A. Oh, a couple days ago. I had a sliver in my hand and I went to take 
it out and I couldn't even get a hold of it. 

Q. This was about a day or so after? 

A. Yes, maybe a couple of days after. 

Q. You don't know whether you were shaky before that or not. 

A. No, I don't know. 

Q. I wonder, one last thing. While you were lying on the cab of that 
truck, must have been a pretty rough moment there, wonder what 
sort of thoughts were going through your head then, can you remem- 

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A. Well, you know one time I saw a tree had blown down on a car and 
you know it crushed the car in a ways, but it didn't go all the way. 
If that roof was going to come off and land on that truck, and I had 
my choice of being in here or in that truck, I'd rather be on the 
floor of that truck. That roof won't come down any further, I 
don't think than the . . . top of the dashboard. But I don't think I 
thought of that especially. 

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Q. You were wishing you had the old car with the narrow windshield? 

A. But, I did look up and think, "Oh, how big that windshield is! " 

Q. I was wondering if you could remember what thoughts you were 
having at the moment that you were lying on the floor and the car 
was bumping up and down and tippin 1 back. 

A. I just wondered if the truck was going to go back over again. 

;' 139 

Q. You were remembering these other things then? 
A. No. 

Q. Worry you? 
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A. No, I don't think I said a prayer (laugh). It might be a sin not to 
but I was hanging on. 

Q. Far as you know not thinking about anything. 

A. That's right, it was just like a drama now that I think of it. 
You're doing the best you can for yourself. 

Q. None of this "life passing in review" like some drama people tell 
about ? 

A. Not a bit. 

Q. And when it was all over, you thought first of your wife and then 
your daughter ? 

A. And then I went up to see my father. 

Q. Actually, first of yourself. 

A. That's right, first of myself, that's right (laugh). 

Q. No, that's perfectly understandable. 

A. Yeah. 

Q. And all this time you never noticed your heart beating faster or 
your stomach tightening up or your mouth getting dry? 

A. No. 

Q. Have you been sweating any more lately? 

jav.* ; , . i-:u.iruri o- '*-'' '{ la.uoisanco jjfl^s;a^o.">i lo -.- -j .'--. ,iy 

A. No more than usual - yeah - at night in bed. 

Q. At night in bed? 

A. I got awfully warm in bed. I wake up from a, at home we have a, 
it's a nice cool place where we live. We have a blanket and sheet 


on the bed. It's been very comfortable when I go to bed, I know 
it doesn't get any warmer in the room but I woke up awfully warm; 
and I can't go back to sleep. 

Q. You say that you think the disaster work should have had some 

communication in here for you, I wonder if there is anything else 
you can think of that could have been done in the way of making 
disaster work more efficient. 

A. Communication, that's about - the thing. After all, I sat on my 
fat backside here and did nothin 1 but look after myself. I could 
have gone up the street and helped some people. If I had realized 
or could have been informed, even within a half an hour, of the 
extent of the seriousness of the storm. See, even within half an 
hour I still thought this was just something that had happened to 
me. This was my area, here. 

In the evolution of the disaster syndrome in this man, who was 
uninjured or only slightly injured (he does not mention any injury), one 
can see the syndrome from the inside. Although it becomes apparent, 
from an analysis of his text, that virtually everything in sight around 
him was severely damaged or completely destroyed, he thought for 
half an hour that only he and his property had been damaged (thus 
blocking out awareness of the community's destruction). At the same 
time that he said he thought consciously the storm had affected him 

alone, however, he was expressing concern over the welfare of his 


family in other parts of the city. It was half an hour before he was 

capable of recognizing consciously that this was a community disaster. 

.bsd Hi Trvgnt tS - ii6V 1&U&U OBriJ S-TtOm r-i'i 

Days afterward he is dreaming that nothing has happened to anyone but 

him, and that his teacher (mother) is going to come to his rescue 
.& *vf,iL $># onaod 3* ,e cnoil ejtr astsw I .jssxf at crstjsw Ylluivr-fc Jog 1 
promptly; at the same time, in the dream he is a passive, helpless 


little boy again. His altruistic identification with other victims 
makes him come close to bursting into tears. His behavior seems 
inexplicable to himself. And he admits that other people thought he 
was "stunned." His memory for personal experience during impact 
is very clear, but as far as the record goes, there is partial amnesia 
for the first half hour after impact with the exception of recollections 
of trying to locate his family. He did not make any effort to engage in 
rescue or first aid. During this time, apparently he was quite liter- 
ally unaware of the extent of the disaster, in spite of the fact that 
buildings were visibly in ruins and one of them on fire all around him; 
and he was puttering about aimlessly trying to sweep up twenty-three 
truck loads of debris with a broom. 

2. The Counter -Disaster Syndrome 

Persons in the community outside of the impact area at the 
time of impact, but with close emotional ties to persons and places 
struck, suffered from a complementary behavioral and emotional 
syndrome. If the essential behavioral characteristic in the first 
phase of the disaster syndrome was passivity and (after a first aware- 
ness of the extent of damage) ignoring of community trauma, and the 
responsible mechanism denial and regression, the essential character 
istic in the counter -disaster syndrome is over -conscientiousness and 
hyper -activity, and the responsible mechanism is a defense against 


feelings of guilt. Fewer observations have been made on the counter - 
disaster syndrome, partly because many of those who are in a posi- 
tion to describe it are suffering from it and hence are rather defensive 
in the presence of interviewers or readers. 

In| : .ts initial stages, the counter -disaster syndrome seems to 
be characterized by extremely vigorous activity oriented toward res- 
cue, first aid, the making of a contribution of some kind. Certainly 
there is nothing pathological in activity aimed at helping victims of a 
disaster; the quasi -pathological quality appears when this activity is, 
despite the enthusiasm of the helper, relatively low in efficiency and 
is unduly "panicky." It is interesting that at Worcester, the only two 
groups whom I have seen described as being "panicky" after impact 
were absent parents and other relatives returning to the impact area 
and finding that it had been devastated in their absence, and hospital 
personnel. "Panic" is not technically the proper word to use: "hyper- 
active and less rational than normal" might describe it better. Trained 

:y*J i 
personnel, such as firemen and police and local relief personnel, are 

affected, as well as untrained volunteers. 

lie-*-* in i ': -, -.)-.'^;- .>r.r. yJj-vi<(6jsq axw ^motfcnva T9Ja*eJj stil lo 98rir ; 
The first stage, which prevails chiefly durjng the period of 

rescue, evacuation and emergency medical care, is characterized by 
extreme anxiety, with a profusion of autonomic symptoms: tachycardia, 
shortness of breath, sweating, muscular cramps, etc. The rescue 
worker is likely to over-exert himself physically, sometimes to the 


point of collapse; perhaps some of the exhaustion should be ascribed 
to the large quantity of energy consumed in maintaining internal 
tension. Far from being passive and dependent, the sufferer is likely 
to prefer working on his own, or to take a position of responsibility. 
He does a great deal of work, and its value is considerable, but it is 
apt to be hastily done and it may require checking and possibly re- 
doing by less emotionally involved personnel. An example of this in 
Worcester was the suturing of contaminated wounds by doctors on the 
night of impact. 

There are a few descriptions of the counter -disaster syndrome 
in the interviews. One observer, a psychiatrist, commented on a res- 
cue worker who got into the Great Brook Valley very early: 

. . . He happened to be driving past and got out and went into the wrecked 
area that I'm talking about. It was the worst area in terms of destruc- 
tion, I don't know about the wind, how fast the wind was blowing or 
where the storm was worst, but this was the worst place. I think they 
eventually took about fifty dead people out. I didn't think there were 
that many. I had no idea. But he was overwhelmed by what he saw, 
as I interpret his behavior, and he just ran around over the tops of the 
rooms, just running around and I don't know what he thought he was 
doing, that is, I don't know what he did. I'm sure he thought he was 
doing the best he could but he didn't do anything, at least at that time. 

There were also various descriptions of the behavior of returning par- 
ents: men running up the hill to their homes, and virtually collapsing 
with exhaustion when they got home; a hysterical woman screaming 
when a neighbor tried to comfort her; a pastor who spoke of his feeling 
of "guilt and frustration" at having been away from home when he was 


needed. To a minor extent, even trained crews of firemen seem to 
have suffered from this syndrome: 

... it was very hot, we had rubber goods on anyway, you know all our 
rubber goods, and it made it awfully hot; and the way we were running 
around there like mad, trying to do what we could . . . Sweating, oh 
yes. We were exhausted. We were exhausted, that's what it was,, 
Exhaustion was coming on, because we were rushing, trying to do 
everything we could, it was really exhaustion that was coming on, 

And I myself was panic stricken. I was panic stricken all the time. I 
didn't know what had happened to my family. 

I believe the captain felt the same way; now, I didn.'t speak to the other 
fellows about it, but they probably felt the same way . . . (The captain) 
was excil ed. He really was because he ... But he was working like 
mad, and directing us here and ordering us there, you know, and he 
was carrying out his duty and in the meantime you could see that wor- 
ried look on his face. 

It should be emphasized that it is the reaction to concern for family, 
friends, and community that is referred to as the counter -disaster 
syndrome, not the concern itself. Certainly it is not implied that a 
sense of responsibility for the welfare of others is undesirable. 

Within a few hours, the impact area was swarming with people 
who had come in from the community outside to help; hospitals had long 
lines of blood donors, and finally had to turn people away; people called 
up the Red Cross, Civil Defense, and other agencies, and offered 
their services. Much of this urge to help simply resulted in obstruct- 
ing the efforts of trained personnel, or required the detailing of such 
personnel essentially to combat the counter -disaster syndrome in the 
community. Hospital corridors and entrances had to be guarded; road 


blocks had to be established and traffic police assigned; the National 
Guard had to be assigned to keep out "sight seers" (many of whom un- 
doubtedly were people anxious to help in some way). 

In succeeding days, the continued pressure of the need to demon- 
strate conclusively the adequacy of one's charity and conscientiousness 
contributed directly (in my opinion, at least) to the peculiar inter -agency 
squabbles. These squabbles took two forms: squabbles over the justifica- 
tion for "red tape" (e. g. , in Red Cross registration and inquiry practices); 
and squabbles over the "possession of the disaster" (to use John Powell's 
happy phrase). The former type of squabble tended to divide local agen- 
cies and popular opinion from regional, state, or national offices: thus 
the National Red Cross was accused of "seeking publicity," was bitterly 
criticized for trying to register evacuees, for inquiring into financial 
status of those being assisted, and even for expecting candidates for 
assistance to apply. And Federal Civil Defense, who requested a hous- 
ing survey before ordering five hundred trailers sent in from Missouri, 
were similarly attacked for stalling, hearties sness, etc. One suspects 
that the relatively unemotional, uninvolved, professional competence 
of the outsider simply aggravates guilt feelings of the local action- 
people, who see someone who obviously can't be blamed for what hap- 
pened, coming in to help and advise (thereby implying the local agencies 
aren't able to cope with it themselves). Local personnel tend to feel 
threatened by outside experts, anticipating (not too rationally) criticism 


of their efforts, and loss of opportunity to make good before the world. 

Squabbles, however, between local agencies - e.g., between the 
Red Cross and Civil Defense over welfare administration - also grow 
out of this competition for the privilege of giving help. In situations where 
supply is so ample that everyone who wants to help can be given a slice 
of the material to distribute, it does not matter, but the consequences 
of competition for short supply could be a disastrous waste of manpower, 
time, or materials. 

The only two cases of severe mental breakdown as a result of 
the tornado (in my records, at least) occurred among people who had 
shown the counter -disaster syndrome. Traumatic hysterical symptoms 
(e. g. , phobias for thunderstorms) were common among victims from 
the impact area, but several observers testified that some notoriously 
unstable personalities seemed to be undisturbed. This is possibly be- 
cause, in the disaster -syndrome, there is minimal conflict, minimal 
guilt, simply regression and later restitution. The core of the counter - 
disaster syndrome, however, is guilt, and this means conflict, and 
this means the possibility of conflict -induced mental breakdown. The 
first case was a man who was out of the impact area during the tor- 

A. ... it seemed that everybody was looking for their families. Like 
this fellow I know that lived up near us at the project, when I was 
taking my wife and kids out I met him. So, he said, "How's my 
wife?" And I said, "Well, I don't actually know how she is; your 


mother-in-law is all right," so it was an assumption that they were 
both all right. So, he run like hell up to the project. Well, his 
wife called up my wife; but he's in Memorial Hospital with a nervous 
breakdown (laughing). She says, "The son of a bitch, I went through 
the whole tornado, he wasn't there, I'm up here with three kids; 
and he's in the hospital, with a nervous breakdown!" 

The other case was a woman hospitalized five or six days after impact. 
The year before impact, her house had been hit by lightning. Her hus- 
band had been very active during the tornado rescue period; she herself 
was ashamed of her timidity, 

A. ... And so, as I say, there's nothing I really did. I mean, the 

whole business - it's just ... I think the fact that I am here is just 
because I've been sickly. He was out on the, on the road heading 
Red Cross units, gathering the ambulances and getting tractors to 
start and clear the road and all this business and I was all alone 
with my children an' it. , . an 1 all the soldiers coming and going, 
the policemen and things going around, you know, I couldn't sleep, 
I couldn't sleep till he got in the house, an' he didn't get in the 
house until three or four o'clock in the morning. So for five 
nights neither of us hardly slept a wink. An' then, to top it all, 
I thought I would get out of the area and take my car and go down 
to Framingham, to Jordan's; it was getting the following week 
and this week is Father's day so we have a present in mind down 
there that my daughter and I were going to buy. So we got into 
the car and managed to get out through the area -- you know you 
have to have a pass to get in and out -- and so we got out and got 
down on to the turnpike and started down a short ways for . . . All 
of a sudden, a car, we have a brand new 1953 Ford, that somehow 
started going clank, clank, clank, like that, and then it slowed 
down and wouldn't drive very well. I said to my little daughter, 
"Joy, something's wrong with this car" and she said, "Oh, Mummy, 
it's just because you bought a Ford." So I, er, then all of a sudden 
she said, "Mummy, people are looking at this car" and so I thought 
I'd better stop. We stopped. We drew up into what we thought was 
off the road into a by road, y'know? Turned out to be a lady's 
yard and was I glad afterwards because we got out of the car, I 
shut the motor off and it was still going. It was smoldering an' 
burning like - it wasn't burning; but it was smoldering. I am 
telling you, I was so upset that I was almost in tears, I guess, 


since I went through the tornado. I dashed up to the lady's house, 
we practically banged the windows out in trying to get in the 
house, and I said, "Lady, will you send for the Fire Department, 
my car is on fire." So she says, "Oh, calm down, calm down" 
and so I tried to; but anyway, she sent for the Fire Department 
and they came out and stood their distance and watched the car. 
In the meantime, the State Police came up - we had quite an ex- 
perience - the State Police came up and I said, "Did that lady send 
for you?" thinking perhaps she had called the State Police instead 
of the Fire Department, an' he says, "No, a truck driver down 
there told me a car was on fire. " So he came up and he started, 
he looked at the hood and he said, "Lady, I just think you're out 
of water." I said, "Oh, no, it can't be, it's a brand new car and 
I always get water everytime I get gas. It can't be. " Well, he 
waited for the Fire Department and they came up and he said, 
"I think she's out of water." The unscrewed the thing, which was 
so hot it practically burned their fingers doing it, you know, and 
that was all that was wrong with it. They put in five gallons of 
water. So when they finally fixed it up they said, "I think you can 
go on for awhile, to Framingham if you want to. " But I had no 
desire to go to Framingham, I wanted to get back home as fast as 
I could. So I got home and I just left the car plunk in the driveway 
an' I wouldn't touch it again, so we didn't have too much to eat for 
supper that night cause I didn't have any (laughing) - I - in fact, I, 
I didn't even get supper that night because my husband came home 
and I told him all about it, yet I was too scared .to tell him but I 
told him, and so he started scolding me for not watching the dial 
or something that it shouldn't get hot but I had really felt that it 
wasn't my fault, you know, and I felt a little bad about it, so I 
started to cry; and I cried and I cried, and then, all of a sudden 
everything went black and I landed here, (laugh and sniffle) I 
mean they . . . they called, they called the doctor; I mean all I 
could remember after that was that he lifted me up and laid me 
on the couch, I can remember them laying me on the couch. Then 
they said I'd better come here and rest for a few days. So, as they 
said, they said it was too close. So they said it was once too 
much. They said it was once too much. They came to find out it 
wasn't my fault at all, it was the, er, on the thousand-mile check- 
up, on the car, they hadn't bolted down some part of it, or what- 
ever it was. My husband was awful mad, he said, "I won't settle 
for anything less than a new engine in that car. " But they said 
the car wasn't damaged, I thought so but it wasn't harmed. But 
that was just the climax which landed me up here. 


Q. Well, I think your story is most helpful to us because you're a 
person who was not hit directly by the tornado but it shows the 
emotional impact even when there wasn't a physical impact on 
people, you see, 

A. That's what the doctor said. I just talked to him today. And he 
said, "I was telling him cause I feel like such a sissy, that the 
people that were hit just a little bit were lucky because they were 
taken to the hospital right off and that emotional upset was subdued 
whereas mine has been building up for five or six days. 

Q. Until something just had to come along and in a way in which you 
felt guilty about, just some little thing, and it was just too much 
for you to take. Under ordinary circumstances you could ride it. 

A. That's right, under ordinary circumstances I would ... it would 
have just slid off of me, and I'd have got a little mad about it, 
most likely; but I didn't ... I took it differently. 

Q. How are you feeling now, Mrs. X? 

A. Oh, I'm feeling fine now. Don't know exactly when I'm going to 

go home, but I hope it won't be too long. They took some punctures 
out of my spine and took some pictures of my head to see why I ... 
why I blacked out, I guess, and if there was anything wrong, but 
there wasn't, it was just an emotional upset. 

A. . . .just a year before that we'd had a tree that well, it hit the 

house, the aerial on the house, and went down through the drain 
pipe and out through the septic tank and hit the - blew a big hole 
in the back yard, and hit a tree. I got excited when I knew the 
storm was coming, so I made my nephew go up and get her and 
bring her home, much against his will; he said he had a lot of ... 

Q. You knew a storm was coming? 

A. I thought it was a thunder storm because the radio said it was 

going to be a bad thunder storm. So, and you could see it was so 
black over there. So I had him go up and get her, and he was so 
provoked, he said he had a lot of letters to write and get out in the 
mail before the storm broke, but I made him go, and I'll bet that 
he's glad today. So that we were all at home and all together when 
it happened. And we ... sometimes I wonder if we'd been right 
plunk in the middle of it, right in that whirling section of it -- we 


were right on the edge of the whirl, whether we'd have ever made 
the cellar soon enough. I wonder that because /^we/were upstairs 
and ... er . . . the living room . . . something crashed through the 
living room and we were standing near the dining room and the 
trees went like this and broke in two right in the living --in the 
dining room. So then my husband said . . . before that, I kept 
saying to my husband, "Let's go down cellar, let's go down cellar, " 
'cause I didn't like the looks of it. And so when that happened, 
my husband said, "C'mon let's go to the cellar as fast as we can." 
But lots of people they say, you know . . . 

Q. So you did get down to the cellar? 

A. We did get down to the cellar, yes. A little more went on while 
we were down in the cellar, because all this black . . . 

Q. What were you saying to one another while you were down in the 
cellar? Do you recall? 

A. It all happened so quickly, I mean it was all over within five or six 
minutes. I mean we just got down cellar and all this black stuff 
came at you, and he kept sayin 1 "Let's get in this other corner of 
the cellar, let's get in this other corner of the cellar." He was 
tryin' to think in his mind which corner would be the safest. We 
were mostly caught in the middle anyway. But then it was all over 
with before you could . . . 

Q. Did you talk about what you thought happened to you all ? 

A. No. You didn't even have time. The only time we talked at all was 
before we went down to the cellar. We were standing in the dining 
room before the trees went down, and my husband knows I'm timid 
and so I tried to be brave and started talking about somethin 1 . In 
fact the funny part of it was before it started, I was sitting in the 
living room and I thought, "Well, I'll just sit still and try to behave 
myself. " I didn't want to upset the children too much so I opened 
the evening paper and here it was Flint, Michigan you know an' all 
the . . . (laughing). But even then that didn't bother me, because 
I didn't realize what was happening. Well, then it started getting 
a little bit --oh no, then the hail stones came. Ooh! Huge hail 
stones big as golf balls - actually as big as golf balls. I never 
saw any so big in my life, in fact my son opened the back door and 
brought one in. So that made me pop up from the living room. So 
we stood there in the dining room watching it, well watching the 
hail stones. My husband says, "Y'know this is a funny storm." 


He watches weather all the time, because he has an airplane and 
he flies a lot, so he watches weather all the time, he has a special 
radio in his bedroom that indicates weather, but that still didn't 
tell him that it was going to be this kind of a storm, or at least 
he's not enough educated in the weather to know. But he says 
"This is a funny storm, you know it's coming from the north and 
the wind is coming from the south. " That's about all he had time 
to say cause the trees started going like that and broke off like 
sticks. So we went down to the cellar. Then when we came up 
it was all over. Well, it had passed us, it must have still been 
going on beyond us, when you stop and think, because we saw that 
house go down. 

The desire to be of assistance and to receive recognition for 
having been a competent actor in the emergency is a powerful one, and 
if it is not satisfied, disturbed behavior can result (presumably, in pre- 
sensitized persons particularly) as resentment and guilt build up. Sur- 
vivors from outside the impact area need to "get into the act" and 
interference with their efforts to play a satisfying relief role may pre- 
cipitate emotional conflicts which reduce efficiency in rescue and relief 

3. The Length of the Isolation Period. 

It may be contended that one of the most crucial factors govern- 
ing the incidence of casualties and property damage is the length of the 
isolation period. 

The logic behind this statement is as follows. If two tornadoes 
(or any other impact agent) strike two inhabited areas, occupied by the 
same number and sorts of people and structures, but if a given quantity 
of protective personnel and equipment moves into the impact area after 


half an hour in the first case, while they move in within five minutes 
in the second: there will inevitably be a larger number of casualties 
and more property damage in the first case than in the second. In 
symbolic form, 

D=f(I . P) 

where D is the quantity of damage in some category of phenomena (e. g. , 
number of deaths), I is the length of the isolation period in hours, P is 
the pre -impact quantity of the phenomenon. This relationship should 
be valid because within the impact area, during the isolation period 
after a sudden impact, a continuous process of secondary impact will 
increase damage: fires, exposure, sepsis in wounds, shock, and the 
continuation of lethal processes (like bleeding, asphyxiation, etc. ) set 
in motion by the primary impact. The chief function of the rescue 
force is to terminate secondary impact before it increases casualties 
and damage above the amount left by primary impact. Anything which 
lengthens the isolation period for an impact area, or a part of an im- 
pact area, will thereby increase the incidence of injury or damage. An 
added fifteen minutes of isolation in Worcester would certainly have 
substantially increased both property damage and casualty lists; one 
recalls that the fire engines were barely In time to prevent a major 
conflagration in the Greenhill-Burncoat areas (the three -house fire had 
almost passed beyond the reach of hose lines from the few still -function- 
ing hydrants). If, instead of a warm June evening, it had been windy, 


subzero weather and night-time, exposure would have been an important 
factor, and time here would have been of critical importance. One 
would venture to predict that, in the absence of aid from outside the 
impact area, damage would increase somewhat as follows: 

The reason for the acceleration-point in the isolation period is that 
certain types of secondary impact (bleeding, asphyxiation, lethal wound 
shock, and fires) should, if unimpeded, combine to produce a second 
wave of injuries several minutes after impact. The reason for the 
leveling of the curve is that the dazed state will eventually "wear off" 
by itself, and after this point an increasing number of victims will be 
able to care for themselves, while many of the most serious conse- 
quences of secondary impact will already have run their course. 

Various factors affect the length of the isolation period at any 


particular point in an impact area. One of these is the distance from 
that point to the edge of the impact area - in other words, the larger 
an impact area, the longer the average isolation period for all points 
in the impact area. Another factor, of course, is the extent to which 
the impact has interfered with communication and transportation. A 
third factor is the distance from the edge of the impact area to the pro- 
tective units. A fourth is the quickness with which the protective units 
are notified; a fifth, the quickness with which they mobilize; a sixth, 
the completeness of the reconnaisance and inventorying by the protective 
units, both before and after reaching the impact area. The list can ob- 
viously be extended to include a great many other factors which affect 
the length of time which passes before a given unit of impact area 
space is reached by outside aid. 

It is evident also that many other things, having no relation to 
the length of the isolation period, also affect the amount of damage: 
the nature of the impact agent, the kind of structures in the impact 
area, composition of the population in the impact area, the efficiency 
of protective personnel and equipment, and the quantity of protective 
personnel and equipment brought to bear, at any given point, are par- 
ticularly important, I have emphasized the time factor in the relation- 
ship between the protective agencies and the secondary impact: here 

there is, as it were, a race between rescue agencies and secondary 

,-ns is ?: :i/v>q no.tfsi&ai ;sii> "*& ni^nesl arf* J^sIXe Kiui^fci Kjioj-xfiV 
impact agents to reach potential targets. 


4. The "Cornucopia Theory" 

The rescue and rehabilitation operations at Worcester were 
considered to have been relatively successful. The isolation period 
was short, rescue and evacuation was fast, medical care was quickly 
made available to all victims requiring it, and the rehabilitation pro- 
cedures of every kind were furnished with lavishness. While specific 
instances of inefficiency were pointed out, very few instances of fail- 
ure could be. The principles of "wave supply" and "mana from heaven, " 
pointed out by Rosow, meant that even when efficiency was low, the 
sheer mass of services and materiel were able to satisfy needs as they 
came up. Comparison might be made with military firepower: a good 
marksman with a finely-tooled and sighted rifle may be more efficient, 
but a machine gun gets better results in holding down an enemy position 
-- provided there is more ammunition available than is needed to 
account for each enemy soldier. In disaster operations, when ma- 
teriel and personnel are pouring out of a cornucopia, deluging the 
impact area, the results in rescue and rehabilitation are almost in- 
evitably impressive. 

This is what happened at Worcester. The impact area was 
blanketed with protective agencies: hundreds of police, firemen, 
National Guards, public works people, CD volunteers, and miscellan- 
eous helpers invaded it during the rescue period; hospitals had more 
blood donors than they could handle; the Red Cross mobilized hundreds 


of nurses; equipment and supplies of all kinds were funneled into Wor- 
cester from all over the northeast, and four hundred twenty -five 
trailers came from Missouri. While the results of this sort of pro- 
vision are so good that post-mortem studies have little to criticize 
except relatively minor matters and little to recommend except more 
efficient utilization of what was already available, they take for granted 
the fact that the cornucopia principle's successful application at Wor- 
cester depended on the fortunate (and not at all inevitable) co-existence 
of two conditions: a complete lack of damage to Worcester's own pro- 
tective agencies and to those of any other source of regional aid; and 
the absence of any competition from anywhere nearer than Ohio for 
emergency supplies and personnel. 

A glance at the map of the city, showing the path of the tornado 
and the location of protective agencies, will show that this impact 
could, however, have wiped out or severely crippled most of the 
police stations (including ambulances), fire stations, hospitals, Red 
Cross and CD headquarters, and government centers, if it had passed 
through Worcester on a different course. If it had taken such a course, 
also, the number of primary-impact casualties (to say nothing of the 
results of secondary impact) would probably have been much greater. 
Furthermore, if the tornado had proceeded another thirty miles, into 
the Boston area, considerable quantities of supplies, personnel, and 
equipment which in reality found their way to Worcester, would 
probably have stayed in (or gone in) to Boston. 


The cornucopia theory thus rests on the two assumptions that 
any given disaster will not destroy the cornucopia itself, and that any 
given disaster or combination of disasters will be unable to exhaust 
the cornucopia before adequate relief and rehabilitation can be pro- 
vided. I have the feeling that this theory is widely held if rarely 
formally stated. In all probability, these assumptions are valid for 
most natural disasters (fires, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurri- 
canes, tidal waves, epidemics, etc.). It is a question, however, 
whether the assumption does apply to disasters which might be pro- 
duced by atomic or hydrogen explosions. In such events, it might well 
be that the cornucopia would be itself largely smashed and its supplies 
exhausted long before the secondary impact was under control. 

Now pointing out the potential inadequacy of the cornucopia 
does not imply that there is anything wrong with having a cornucopia. 
The questions which I should like to raise, however, are: (1) Does 
the faith in the cornucopia, as experienced in natural disasters, pro- 
duce a tendency to think in terms of repair rather than prevention? 
(2) Does the faith in the cornucopia tend to produce organizations 
which are better adapted to excess supply than to inadequate supply? 
In other words, there is a basic question whether the type of organiza- 
tion and planning which gets results where there is more than enough 
of personnel and supply will be most effective when everything is 


I don't have ready answers to these questions. But it is strik- 
ing, in the case of the Worcester tornado --a severe natural disaster, 
but minor in comparison with what a military disaster would be -- that 
for most rescue and rehabilitation functions, there were several re- 
sponsible agencies with overlapping jurisdictions, and usually more 
than enough personnel and supplies to go around. Indeed, many people 
were kept busy simply acting as organizational traffic policemen, to 
keep people and agencies off each other's toes. Everything seemed to 
move in an atmosphere of, "There's plenty to go around, and if I run 
short, I'll call Joe on the phone and he'll send some over." The cor- 
nucopia nourishes a sort of autonomy and duplication of organizations 
in the midst of plenty. If Red Cross and Civil Defense dispute over the 
supervision of welfare activities, the solution can wait for thirty- six 
hours, and finally both can be given some responsibility in this area. 
This is fine when supply exceeds necessity. But if there weren't enough 
food or clothing, or shelter in the area, and two autonomous agencies 
squabbled over what little there was, not only would the utilization of 
that little be inefficient, but the personnel of one of the organizations 
would be wasting their time while they could be doing something else. 

Furthermore (referring to question ]_ !_/ above), a profusion 
of rescue and relief agencies seems to be conducive to an atmosphere 
of waiting till it happens before doing anything about it. Reams have 
been written about the behavior of organizations after the tornado; but 


only passing attention has been paid to analyzing the factors which 
allowed a tornado to march for an hour through central Massachusetts 
without any part of the general population ever being warned to take 
cover. A combination of radio announcements and telephone calls from 
central exchange points could have had perhaps 90 per cent of the popu- 
lation in cellars within minutes. Such a warning would have saved 
more lives than any conceivable improvement of procedures in the 
rescue and rehabilitation phases. In other words, I wonder whether 
we ought not to put more stress on "stop it from happening, " even 
while we keep "repair and replace" procedures at the highest possible 
peak of effectiveness. And this would apply with even greater force 
to anticipations of military impacts, following which the "repair and 
replace" cornucopia may not be there any more. 

October 1954 



American National Red Cross. Massachusetts - New Hampshire Tornado 
of June 1953: Final Report. Worcester: Disaster Headquarters, 
n. d. /1953/. Mimeographed. 

American Red Cross. Worcester Tornado News. Worcester: Disaster 
Headquarters, 1953. 9 bulletins. 

Bakst, H. J. , Berg, R. L. , Foster, F. D. , and Raker, J. W. The 
Worcester County Tornado: A Medical Study of the Disaster. 
Mimeographed, 1954. 81 pp. This study was sponsored by the 
Committee on Disaster Studies. 

Bowman, H. L. Physical Damage from Central Massachusetts. Tornado 
of June 9, 1953. Washington: United States Atomic Energy Com- 
mission, 1953. Mimeographed, photographs. 3pp. text, 18 

Brodsky, C. M. , Muldoon, J. F. , and Herzfeld, R. F. An Exploratory 
Study of the Role of Catholic Church Organizations in Disaster. 
Washington: Catholic University of America, n. d. /^1953/. Mim- 
eographed. 73 pp. This study was sponsored by the Medical 
Research and Development Branch, Office of the Surgeon General, 
Department of the Army, at the suggestion of the Committee on 
Disaster Studies. 

Flora, Snowden D. Tornadoes of the United States. Norman: University 
of Oklahoma Press, 1953. 

Harold, R. P. "Downtown Worcester Due for Transformation. " Ameri- 
can City. 67 (1952): 101. 

Knight, Richard C. "Observation of Worcester, Massachusetts, Tor- 
nado Disaster." Memorandum to Rescue Division, Federal 
Civil Defense Administration. 22 June 1953. 2 pp. 

Kranich, Wilmer L. "The Role of the Protestant Churches in the Cen- 
tral Massachusetts Tornado, June 9, 1953." Memorandum to 
Welfare Division, Federal Civil Defense Administration. 21 June 
1953. 5pp. 


Landstreet, Barent F. "Field Trip - Central Massachusetts Tornado 

of June 9 5 1953." Memorandum to Evacuation Planning Branch, 
Federal Civil Defense Administration. 1 July 1953. 15 pp. 
This survey was done in cooperation with the Committee on 
Disaster Studies. 

Morris, F. D. "City That Didn't Cry Uncle. " Colliers, 125(1950): 

Powell, John W. "Investigation of the Worcester Tornado, June, 1953: 
Preliminary Narrative and Impressions. " Memorandum to 
Committee on Disaster Studies, National Research Council. 
20 July 1953. 16 pp. 

, and Rayner, Jeannette. "Progress Notes: 

Disaster Investigation. " Contract report, Chemical Corps 
Medical Laboratory, Army Chemical Center, 1952. 

, Rayner, Jeannette, and Finesinger, Jacob E. 

"Responses to Disaster in American Cultural Groups." In 
Symposium on Stress (Washington: Army Medical Service 
Graduate School, 1953. 

f See "Interviews and Field Notes. " 

Rayner, Jeannette F. See "Interviews and Field Notes." 

Rosow, Irving. Communications in the Worcester Emergency. MS, 

1954 (draft of extensive report to Committee on Disaster Studies). 

Schultz, P. L. "Tornado Hits Three Worcester Housing Projects." 
Journal of Housing, 10 (1953): 223. 

' . "Mobilizing for Disaster. " Journal of Housing, 

10 (1953): 264. 

Wallace, Anthony F. C. "Memorandum on Worcester Disaster Study." 
Memorandum for Committee on Disaster Studies, National 
Research Council. July, 1953. 6 pp. 

Human Behavior in Extreme Situations: A Sur- 

vey of the Literature and Suggestions for Further Research. 
Washington: Committee on Disaster Studies, 1953. Mimeographed. 


. See "Interviews and Field Notes." 

Worcester City Directory, 1953. Boston: R. L. Polk & Co. , 1953. 

"Worcester Plants Pick Themselves Up." Business Week, 20 June 
1953, pp. 30-31. 

"Worcester Tornado." American City, 68 (1953). 

Worcester Telegram and Evening Gazette, 10 June - 18 June 1953. 

WTAG (radio station), typescript of tape recordings of "Tornado 1" 

and "Tornado 2" (special information broadcasts on the tornado). 



During the preparation of the report, several collections of 
transcripts of original interviews and questionnaire responses were 
made available to the writer. 

Maryland, University of, Disaster Research Project (sponsored and 
given staff assistance by the Committee on Disaster Studies). 

Personnel and friends of the Disaster Research Project, Uni- 
versity of Maryland, headed by Dr. John Powell, made a number of 
interviews in Worcester. These interviewers (Dr. John Powell, Dr. 
Enoch Callaway, and Mrs. Edna Barrabee) had all had considerable 
experience with "depth" interviewing in clinical psychiatric situations. 
These interviews were relatively unstructured in that the interviewers 
allowed the respondent to develop his narrative and associations freely, 
but the interviewer guided the interviews as a whole by bringing up and 
probing for material on a series of topics about which information was 
required. The following interviews were available to the writer: 

Interviewed by John W. Powell -- 

Five firemen and one individual from the fringe impact 

Interviewed by Enoch Callaway -- 

Three individuals, all victims of the tornado, one a 

Interviewed by Mrs. Edna Barrabee -- 

Twenty -five individuals, twenty-three of whom were hos- 
pitalized victims, one individual from community aid area, 
and one individual related to a victim. 

National Research Council, Committee on Disaster Studies. 

The team sent into the field by the Committee on Disaster Studies 
made several separate surveys. Available to the writer, from this 
group of studies, were transcripts of recorded interviews by Miss 
Jeannette Rayner, and of course his own interviews: 


Interviewed by Jeannette Rayner -- 

Eighteen individuals, three of whom were hospitalized 
victims; the others, persons in official medical positions. 

Interviewed by Anthony Wallace -- 

Six individuals, all occupying community leadership 




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