When software engineer Joseph Stack in his fury over the IRS and the government,  crashed his single engine plane into a Northwestern Austin Office Building on Thursday, February 18th, 2010, there was not only a trail of physical devastation left, but an emotional one as well.

IRS worker Vernon Hunter was killed in the IRS attack along with Stack. Thirteen others were injured in the incident. Workers in the building were faced with the immediate need to evacuate the building, but once the immediate danger was over, and the reality of what happened to them sinks in, it is likely that some of the workers, first responders, and possibly others in the Austin area may begin experiencing some type of post traumatic stress disorder as a response to the event. It is also possible to experience PTSD if a loved one or friend experiences a life threatening event or is harmed. Sometimes if a family member or loved one dies unexpectedly it is possible to have PTSD occur in friends or family members of the victims.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or (PTSD) may occur when someone experiences a life threatening or traumatic event. 

Signs/Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:

1. Reliving the Event Symptoms:

  • Having recurring thoughts about the event itself, or reliving the trauma in the mind which can be similar to replaying an episode of TV on a DVD or recorder.
  • Experiencing intrusive thoughts or frightening thoughts
  • Dreaming about the Event: or experiencing nightmares

A person with PTSD may be “triggered” to relive the event by sights, sounds, smells or objects that are reminders of the event.

2. Avoidance Symptoms:

  • Avoiding the area or situation where the event occurred
  • Experiencing blurred memories or losing one’s memory about the event
  • Depression, losing interest in people or friends or things that the person enjoyed in the past
  • Guilt feelings or feeling like “Why Did I survive, when others did not?”
  • A feeling of being spaced out or “numb”

3. Hyperarousal

  • Startling easily (don’t approach someone from the back or quickly who has PTSD as it may further startle them or cause them to be even more alarmed)
  • Feelings of being very “wired” or tense all the time
  • Difficulty in sleeping, or being tired but unable to rest
  • Problems with anger or outbursts of anger


ptsd It is natural for anyone experiencing a life threatening or traumatic event to have these symptoms. What you can do as a friend or loved one is to offer support to the person and offer a non-judgmental listening ear for them to talk about their experience when they are ready. Some people may benefit from early intervention with a doctor or medical professional, to make sure that they are appropriately diagnosed and treated, especially if their symptoms are severe or interfering with activities of  daily living. You may have to make a call yourself for your loved one or friend, and accompany them to an appointment.  Sometimes medications are used especially short term, to help PTSD survivors get through the acute stage of healing.  Learning about the symptoms of PTSD can be helpful for friends or family members so that they can support their loved one or friends through the healing process. Support the person, but also encourage them to get out and participate in activities such as walking or other activities that can be distracting. 

Always take any threats that a person may harm him/herself seriously. If you or someone you care about needs immediate help then call 911, or go right away to a hospital emergency room for assistance.  There is also a 24 hour toll-free hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–TALK (1–800–273–8255); TTY: 1–800–799–4TTY (4889) where trained counselors take calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.