The Phases of Disaster as a Relationship Between Structure and Meaning: A Narrative Analysis of the 1947 Texas City Explosion

November 2005 (VOL. 23, NO. 3)

Download this article

Developing disaster phase models has been useful, particularly for understanding response efforts to emergencies and disasters. However, such models are limited in their ability to explain the phases encountered by a social collective, or community, as it progresses through response and recovery efforts. This study examined phases of disaster response and recovery as a sociological problem. A grounded-theory analysis was used to examine 60 personal narratives of the 1947 Texas City explosion, which is an example of a cosmology episode (Weick 1985). Survivors of the explosion provided narrative accounts describing their memories of the incident. Results support the idea that social collectives depend upon a transactional relationship between structure and meaning to make sense of events. The study develops a phase model depicting four phases experienced by the Texas City community prior to, during, and after the disaster. This study reveals contributions gained through analysis of personal narratives to illuminate the relationship between disaster and human activity.