American’s long held assumptions of security were shaken to the core, superseded by widespread feelings of person vulnerability and ushered in the era of homeland security. In New York City, the attack resulted in the collapse of the Twin Towers and killed 2756 civilians (Hirschkorn, 2003). These events have also had significant social and economic consequences, to include extensive property damage as well as serious and extensive financial disruption. 146,000 jobs were lost in New York City due to the attacks (Westfeldt, 2002). From the perspective of national healthcare, the events of September 11th generated public health, including mental health consequences of unparalleled proportions.
Catastrophic events have far-reaching effects on social infrastructure. Disruption of life ways, vital resources, and services cause significant change in social system operations and behavior. Community disaster response may be organized and effective or disorganized and in some cases, nonexistent. Human resources are diverted from routine work functions to disaster relief operations. Disaster recovery, the long-term process of community restoration is a problem-solving process that includes not only planning for reconstruction and return to economic solvency, but also sustaining community health (Gad-el-Hak, 2008). Inequities in the distribution of social and material resources can adversely affect disaster recovery and community health.
The 9-11 disaster posed unprecedented and unique challenges to the U.S. emergency management infrastructure. However, unlike less developed nations, the U.S. has the social and economic capital as well as the technology to build a defensive infrastructure for mitigation of disaster threats and provision for relief and recovery operations to its citizenry. The scope of involvement of American social institutions includes such activities as emergency preparedness, hazard mitigation,