As weeks go for America, this one has been a truly difficult one. From the bombing in Boston on Monday through the manhunt that gripped America until Friday night, most of us watched the surreal events unfold on our televisions as first responders from all over the country converged to track down the people responsible for the attack on one of America's most prestigious traditions. We collectively mourned the loss of three victims at the attack site and a young police officer later, and we continue to pray for the hundreds who were injured.
As I watched in my living room I was impressed by both the coordination of the law enforcement community and the courage of everyday Bostonians. This was not an accident. Last October, Boston participated in a massive exercise designed to simulate "large-scale public safety incidents in the metro-Boston area."
The training involved first responders from 10 law enforcement agencies from Massachusetts and New Hampshire as well as area medical professionals.
As Boston's Mayor Thomas Menino said, "Training is vital for our first responders. They are on the frontlines when an emergency occurs, and we want them trained in the best ways possible to handle any situation."
In the midst of this tragedy, we saw the best in people. From the marathoners who, after finishing a 26-mile foot race, continued running to Boston hospitals so they could donate blood, to the law enforcement officers from around Massachusetts who sprang into action to help safeguard their fellow citizens, to the elected officials at all levels -- from Mayor Menino to Governor Deval Patrick and President Barack Obama -- who informed citizens and Americans of the situation and coordinated local, state and national law enforcement so that they worked in tandem to catch the alleged bombers and killers.
At its simplest, politics is about people, and in the midst of national crisis, elected officials should be working to support law enforcement and the citizens involved in the situation -- or they should be quiet. Unfortunately, one Arkansas Republican State Representative, while Bostonians were in the middle of an order to stay in their homes, decided it was time to play politics. He tweeted: "I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine? #2A"
Needless to say, Bostonians from all sides of the political spectrum did not take kindly to being called cowardly.
What happened in Boston could have happened in any city in America, but because Boston's political leaders had decided to unite together and prepare in advance, they had a plan in place to respond to these horrific acts.
In the upcoming weeks and months, state legislatures will play a critical role in making sure their communities and states are also prepared. They are responsible for providing funds for training and exercises like the one Boston undertook; they ensure that our first responders have proper staffing levels and resources to respond to future crises; and their oversight role can be used to help improve coordination between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
The biggest lesson from this week is that in the midst of tragedy -- whether you are a marathoner who decides to literally go the extra mile to help a stranger in need or Boston's elected officials and law enforcement leaders -- egos must remain in check and political ideologies sidelined. Americans respond to crisis as one.
Rhetoric and actions like Rep. Bell's, which were designed to divide and stereotype people to push a political agenda, do not help.
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