iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Rev. Earl E. Johnson

GET UPDATES FROM Rev. Earl E. Johnson
 

The Competition to Care

Posted: 05/06/2013 5:34 pm

A second disaster phase in the Boston Marathon bombing consists of the multiple federal, state and local governmental and non-governmental responders. Literally hundreds of faith-based and community-based organizations deployed to assist the survivors of the explosions and assist the City of Boston in the hours after the explosions.

Since the marathon had many international entries and participants from every state of the union, the dispersal of disaster clients (victims/survivors) may immediately be global in scale. Victim services primarily will be for emotional and spiritual care -- PTSD of varying exposure -- and the secondary trauma continually re-visited by telling the story repeatedly and family and loved ones hearing the story repeatedly.

Anyone watching the explosion on television and social media also has been impacted as the news coverage may become addictive as the need to know what criminal perpetrated these outrages and "why."

One may argue that we live in a constant state of traumatic exposure and this past year with Aurora, Newtown and, now, Boston, a particularly hard one. One must never compare disasters. What about Tucson? What about London?

The night before the 1996 London Marathon, I distinctly remember hearing the bomb going off several miles away in the city. A complete news media blackout/embargo was immediately announced and no photographs telecast or transmitted. Social media, of course, was still in its infancy. One million spectators were expected to enter London to watch the marathon. More than 30,000 runners were selected by lottery and charities to run. No one knew just how bad the bombing was until we actually ran through the City of London and saw entire skyscrapers with every window shattered or blown out and shades flapping in the wind. At a pub in the City of London, the British Prime Minister was there watching the runners go by while holding a pint. Truly, keep calm and carry on. The power of symbols.

On Monday morning, the press embargo was lifted and the newspaper published horrific photographs of the extent of the London bombing. The decision not to publicize the damage was roundly applauded due to the impact it might have had on keeping spectators away from the marathon.

After the London Blitz in World War Two and numerous IRA bombings, the public were used to being targeted, combatants and political leverage for the terrorist acts. Killing civilians -- non-combatants -- is a tactic of great psychological value in evolving war strategies. The Boston bombing resonates more because of the death of an 8-year-old boy so soon after the death of first-graders in Newtown. Let the focus remain on the innocent victims of the bombing and not the infamy of the bomber.

Based upon the experience of recent communities impacted by natural and/or human-caused disasters, hundreds of community-based and faith-based organizations will respond and have already started to arrive in Boston. From therapy dogs to Buddhist Disaster Response, from survivors of Aurora and Columbine, to "prayer puppies," are there or on their way. Many are there to support their local faith groups, survivors or the community. Victims Assistance from the FBI is there and offers extraordinary support through the immediate hours but also through the entire legal process when the perpetrator is caught and tried for these crimes. Disaster Assistance may have become the social action of our time.

Not all respond should respond, or will have the resources and training to help. Unless invited and trained to perform a specific task like support local churches, temples and mosques in recovery. Trinity Church is yards from the bombing. Their congregation will struggle with recovery knowing that such a tremendous act of violence occurred within sight of their front doors. Many who seek to care for others may not know how to take care of themselves. Self-care is essential to those who seek to help victims of disasters.

There will be delegations of graduate students and commercial disaster preparedness and response industries that will seek to study the event to gain insight that can be shared with a larger public. Articles on who benefits from the bombing have already started to appear and name security consultants and businesses that thrive after each new catastrophe. Many are legitimate and necessary for the new battlefields of war.

There are best practices for business and industry for continuity of operations. What happens if your office is destroyed? There is now a plan. Your state or local government crippled? Same thing. When something catastrophic happens, as anticipated universally, leadership and managers know what to do to minimize disruptions.

"Sheltering in place" was also disconcerting for some marathon participants and visitors. Current recommendations now urge preparations for staying where you are for at least three days after an event -- at your school, at your office, at home, airport or at the mall. Public safety is imperative. Future explosions may be anticipated. Until public official give the all clear, one is not allowed to return home. You stay where you are. That takes much advance thought and planning. Preparedness is just as important and response.

Stress inoculation, for emergency responders -- police, fire, mental health, chaplains, EMTs -- is a basic part of clinical training today. Training that is automatic -- critical in traumatic medical response -- saves lives. It certainly did in Boston, until someone asked the attending physician his name. That's when his voice cracked and he realized that the Boston Marathon Terrorist Bombing was real, and people needlessly were maimed, and two women and a child died. It could have been his child. It could have been his daughter.

Only, this time, a marathon runner was in his care.

 
FOLLOW RELIGION