Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Not a Typical Tuesday

Image courtesy Chicago Tribune, unedited video screencapture

Every morning I make the decision of taking either the brown or red line. But today, it was neither. At 9:30 this morning, none of my fellow Fullerton commuters were going anywhere for a while.

There’s a pattern when uncertainty strikes: confusion, anxiety, panic, frustration.
Just because I am a Red Crosser doesn’t mean I am always calm and collected (in fact, I am certain I would have been more at ease had I carried a Red Cross Safety Tube).

In attempt to ease confusion, straining my ears to listen to both the muffled announcements from the CTA and surrounding crowds got me nowhere. I turned to the classic default of a public relations person: Twitter. Nothing yet- so I knew it was a fresh incident. Second public relations default: ears. A girl next to me said her friend had heard of a derailment. But that was it. Checking Twitter again, there it was- “Brown line derailed. Major CTA delays going south.”

Slowly, the information poured in. Upon learning the accident was just a few hundred feet north of us, crowds became eager to find a way to get where they were going.

A strange thing happens when disasters strike. We’ve seen it with Haiti and Japan, but not everyone gets to witness the intimate local bonds when everyday disasters happen.

Though I wasn’t directly on the scene of this disaster as Red Cross personnel, I still felt the energy of our mission to respond. After spending 30 minutes waiting on one of the many motionless trains affected by the delay, I (like any true city-paced Chicagoan) was getting restless. As CTA passengers, we all had the same goal: just get where we wanted to go. But how we did it was a bit remarkable. Deferring to a Red Cross commuter safety tip -- Learn alternate routes and ways to get where you need to go -- I followed suit. All in the same situation, people began to pile with strangers into cabs to help each other reach their destinations efficiently. I was one of them.

Uncertainty is part of the culture in working in the disaster response field, but the comfort in that is the part that proceeds the “un-”. There will always be help. There will always be a way.

“We’re always there.”

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