Thinking about a decade ago….
I’ve been doing my best to stay operationally focused lately – much going on in the world – and telling myself that the 10th anniversary of 9/11 wasn’t going to impact me all that much.
I was wrong.
It started earlier this week as the media started replaying the coverage from that awful day. The world changed. For all of us.
Being in California we were stuck in the position to watch and be able to do very little about it. Which of course ran counter to every instinct those of us in public safety have. It still causes knots in my stomach when I see the footage and think about all those inside; the desperation of the jumpers, the sheer force of will in the firefighters running up stairs, and chaos for those trying to come down.
Indeed, the world has changed.
For me it ultimately resulted in a career change (sort of…). I left the full time EMS world a few years later and ended up where I am today – leading a group that I would argue is the most innovative emergency management team in the nation.
It’s interesting to me how things evolve and mature. Right after 9/11 preparedness meant duct tape and plastic sheeting. Then after Katrina the focus shifted to go kits and evacuation plans…now, we’ve evolved past the immediately reactionary stuff (ok…SOME jurisdictions have, like SF) to recognizing that preparedness means a resilient community that stands together and solves problems big and small, everyday.
A strong community is the single best prevention model going. It lessons disenfranchisement and isolation of individuals, which are hallmarks of those easily converted to violence. It makes it easier for communities to not only notice the out of place elements but to act on them as well. It stands as a barrier to those elements which aim to fragment our society and instill a hatred of others.
Strong community cross cuts demographics… race, religion and income are secondary factors in this context, for community is something that lives in the hearts of those in that community. The bond between the individual members makes the community strong. You can disagree politically, practice different religions, even be in different tax brackets and still be a strong community. The key is recognizing the individual while at the same time making the interest of the community a foundational value. Easy? No, not always. But there are successful models out there…just look around.
So, as we remember those we lost on 9/11/01 and those we’ve lost since in places far away and close to home take a pause to honor their sacrifice by recognizing how far we’ve come and take the next step in continuing the journey to build a stronger, more resilient community. Go beyond duct taping yourself in a room with 3 MREs and talk to your neighbor about cleaning the graffiti or planting some new trees. Funny thing is that if you take that first step and it every comes to duct taping your house you’ll have help…and company for the long days ahead.
It’s starts with you.