Making Meaning of Disaster Experience in Highly Trauma-Exposed Survivors of the Oklahoma City Bombing

Min Hyung Lee, Josh Raitt, Barry A. Hong, Alexandra Diduck, Anna Marie Thi Thanh Nguyen, Ariel Villareal, Michaela Moden, Brittany Turner, Carol S. North, David E. Pollio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Survivors of disasters can be expected to form meaningful perspectives on their experiences that shape their trajectories of recovery; thus, these perspectives are important to study. If humans are naturally compelled to create meaning from traumatic experiences, the creation of meaning should be evident in survivors’ discussion of the effects of the disaster in their lives. Therefore, the purpose of this study of highly trauma-exposed disaster survivors was to identify meaningful aspects or outcomes of their disaster experiences in their perspectives. This study examined a random sample (N = 182) of survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing 6 months after the disaster using open-ended questions. Text responses (N = 650) were compiled, themes identified by multiple coders, responses coded into the themes, interrater reliability established, and the themes were then interpreted. A total of 6 themes were identified and grouped into 3 general categories: personal aspirations (reprioritizing life and altruism and selfimprovement), connection with others (a freestanding category/theme), and making meaning (appreciation for life, religion and spirituality, and contemplating life, death, and humanity), which contained the majority of the responses. The findings from this study affirm the human need to make meaning from the experience of a traumatic disaster and suggest the potential relevance to survivors’ recovery of therapies based on the creation of meaning and the promotion of positive growth

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • disaster
  • meaning making
  • perspectives
  • qualitative methods
  • terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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