Experiences of GSA employees involved in the re-establishment of federal operations after the bombing of Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building: A qualitative work-family study
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The purpose of this qualitative research study was to explore the phenomenon of individuals employed in white-collar occupations who were exposed to a traumatic stressor event via their involvement in re-establishing work operations after a terrorist attack. This study specifically explored the experiences of the United States General Services Administration (GSA) employees involved in the re-establishment of federal operations after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. A qualitative research method combined with a phenomenological research strategy provided the researcher an opportunity to understand the unique experiences of the GSA employees. The specific research objectives were to explore: (a) what the experiences were of the GSA employees involved in the re-establishment of federal operations after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building; (b) what their perceptions were of the event, the stressors they experienced, the resources they used to assist them in handling the stressors, and the coping strategies utilized to adjust to their work assignments; and (c) how their families were impacted, as perceived by the GSA employees, during this experience. The Family Stress Theory provided a useful framework for investigating perceptions, stressors, resources, and coping strategies of the GSA employees reflecting on their experiences. A purposive non-random sample was used to recruit 11 individuals who met the following criteria: (a) employed with GSA on April 19, 1995, (b) a current or former GSA employee who was involved in some aspect of the re-establishment of federal operations after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, and (c) self-defined as a family member. Face to face interviews were conducted with each participant utilizing open-ended questions. The interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed to determine themes. Of the 11 participants, the majority were White males, ranging in age from 28 to 57 years at the time of the event in 1995. Eighty-two percent of the participants were married, and 91% owned their own homes. Sixty-four percent of these families had children ranging in age from 6 months to 35 years. In 1995, 54.6% of participants described their overall relationship with their families as being close or good and 45.4% described their overall relationships as very good or great. All participants identified with a specific religion with the majority being Catholic, 36.4%, followed by Methodist, 27.3%, and described their degree of religious involvement as regular to limited. Ten themes and 29 sub-themes emerged from this qualitative research study: (a) it was the best of times, it was the most stressful of times; (b) constructive perceptions; (c) stressors experienced; (d) resources utilized; (e) maintaining perspective; (f) supportive perceptions; (g) family stressors experienced; (h) family resources utilized; (i) maintaining communications; and (j) family adaptability. Conclusions, implications, and recommendations for future studies were identified as well as suggestions for family sciences professionals, counselors, researchers, and employers working with white-collar employees and their families involved in future traumatic stressor events.