Bank's hostages shaken Recovery likely to take some time

September 20, 1992|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

One banner headline proclaimed, "Hostages unharmed in bank standoff." Indeed, the 11 hostages held at knifepoint Monday at a Glen Burnie bank escaped without physical injury.

By Thursday, customers streamed in and out of the small bank on the corner of Crain Highway and First Avenue. On the surface, things seemed back to normal. They weren't.

Three days after the ordeal -- in which a mentally ill patient held the 11 hostages for four hours -- none of the bank employees involved had been able to return to work.

Two had tried, reporting to The Bank of Glen Burnie Wednesday morning, said Dorothy A. Abel, a bank vice president. But neither made it through the day, succumbing to fears and anxieties related to the hostage-taking incident. Bank manager Janet King, also a hostage, suffered an anxiety attack and was hospitalized overnight at North Arundel Hospital, she said.

"None of them were hurt physically, but emotionally, they all were," said Ms. Abel. "Right now, we're concentrating on working with our people."

The hostage drama began just after 9 a.m. Monday when Darrell T. Cornish, a client of the Omni House program in Glen Burnie, entered the bank and put a knife to a teller's throat. It ended when a police officer shot Cornish in the shoulder, after he turned toward two of hostages in a menacing way, police said. The rest of the hostages had already been released, a few at a time.

Cornish, who has been charged with armed robbery, assault with intent to rob and 11 counts of kidnapping, was transported to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he was treated. He is now being held at the Anne Arundel Detention Center without bail.

Marion Timity, a bank teller from Severn who was one of hostages, said she is doing her best to put the trauma behind her.

"I'm doing pretty good. Only time will heal it," said Ms. Timity. "Everyone has there own way of healing."

Dr. George S. Everly, a nationally known expert on post traumatic stress disorder, said it is common for victims of violent crime or other traumatic events to suffer a variety of stress-related symptoms in the weeks, and even months, following the trauma.

The magnitude of the symptoms, which range from panic attacks and headaches to nightmares and depression, depend largely on the duration of the event, the degree to which a person felt threatened and whether the person suffered physical harm.

Many people who experience traumatic events try to avoid people, places or things that remind them of the event, at least initially, said Dr. Everly, chief psychologist at Union Memorial Hospital and co-author of 10 textbooks on stress. Most are able to overcome the anxieties eventually and can return to previous activities.

After Monday's hostage taking, even individuals who escaped early were rattled by the experience. Maria Pregent, a bank customer who escaped through a back door about 10 minutes into the ordeal, said she is still upset.

"I was scared to death," she said. "I instinctively knew he would take hostages. He didn't say anything like, 'Give me the money,' or anything that would make you think he wanted to get out quickly."

When the man ordered everyone in the bank to back up, Ms. Pregent said, she continued to back right into a rear office, where she found an exit. Returning to the bank the next day to complete her unfinished business was a disquieting experience, she said.

"I had to go back."

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