Chaos / Collision

Today I’m working on a hard section of my Big Fat Writing Project. It’s a particular stage of long term “recovery.” When the needs of those impacted directly collide with the bureaucracies intended to “assist”. I’ve struggled with this chapter. Wrestling with this material is a good mirror of the experience itself. (Mirror: a reflection […]

Starting Places

Five years ago, Judge Ed Emmett rang me up as I was juggling two phones trying to get information about which of our centers were flooded and which were dry. As then CEO of BakerRipley I was thinking past the immediate emergency of drastic flooding and stranded people, trying to inventory what assets we had […]

The Sweat of Terror

Australia Ten years ago I was in Australia, near Melbourne, with people who had lived through a nightmare. The Kinglake fire is still often referred to as Australia’s worst natural disaster. The Black Saturday bushfires killed 173 people, 120 in the Kinglake area alone. Another 414 people were injured. More than 450,000 hectares burned and 3500 […]

Commandments of Help

How to help in disasters Trust is everything. You can move at the speed of trust. Perform within the container of trust. You will go as far as trust can stretch. Improvisation is critical if you want to be effective. If you lack the courage – or the cover – to break useless rules – […]

Faith and Hard Work in an Era of Upheaval

(part of a series from the “Shipwrecked Project”)There are many definitions of a hard childhood. By any definition Mario had a hard childhood. A childhood shaped by deprivation and struggle. Mario did not have a complete understanding of the reasons his father abandoned his children and his wife. Though his father at one time served […]

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR …. well … nothing

UPDATE: 47 deaths thus far I am in awe of the scale of hubris, greed and neglect that produced this disaster. But every aspect is very “on brand” (as my son would say) for Texas. I predict there will be an inquiry and reports galore. And some years from now, just like the sequence after […]

Short Essay on How to Survive a Long Journey

Most of us can fairly easily be divided between sprinters and marathoners. Perhaps more accurately, we can be placed on a continuum between sprinters and marathoners. Sprinters have a particular set of muscles – they’re wound up tight and when they spring into action they just become a blur. Sprinters in disasters are terrific. They […]

Upheaval

Yesterday I wrapped up another class about disaster and displacement. Lessons learned by those whose lives have been washed/bombed/burned away. One of the deepest realities: we’re all vulnerable creatures on a common journey. Upheaval is a part of the journey. War or weather. Loss of health or wealth. This ain’t heaven. It’s earth. We’re all […]

Louisiana On My Mind —

I am thinking of some of my most treasured relationships. People in Louisiana. Friends and family. Many Louisiana friends are “storm friends”. We came to know one another in the aftermath of Katrina. We’ve seen horrible stuff. We’ve hugged in a street surrounded by wreckage, when everything was gray dust covered, with the smell of […]

7 Stages of Disaster Recovery: How the Light Gets In

“There is a crack in everything. It’s how the light gets in.” -Leonard Cohen About twelve years ago I began collecting stories — stories that emerged from working with people who had survived disasters. There were so many lessons in these stories. After a time, I began to notice that the wisdom I heard and […]