The other night when I was getting ready to hit the rack, I checked my social media feeds as I usually do, and caught the beginnings of the tragedy in West, Texas. With Boston also heavy on our hearts, the news will go where the news will go and the manhunt , to be candid, was exciting news. I don't blame the media for that; they have a job, and that job is to tell the public what is going on in the world. Much of the world was affected in one way or another by the drama unfolding in Boston. And truthfully, very few of us, myself included, even knew where to start to look for West, Texas, much less have had any ties to this small community.
But as things happen, I just so happened to be online when the first reports were being communicated, and since I am actively working on a research paper whose subject is social media use in disasters, I engaged. And by the time I went to bed, I had used the resources at my disposal to not only read what was going on there, but to interact with people who lived there and worked there. I knew where the plant was and the relationship of the nursing home, the school, the apartment complex, and the hospital to the disaster scene.
The other night, there was 1,128 miles between me and some of the people I was interacting with. There is a concept these days that people don't seem to relate to, and this is, regardless of the physical space the internet puts between you and the next person, there is still a live, feeling, breathing human on the other end of the signal. There is a community of individuals, people who do the things we do for a living, attend churches similar to ours, and read the same books.
I don't know anything about the firefighters who engaged the fire that evening, but I know this: I have thought about the situation a lot and realize that they must have really been cognizant of what was about to occur, yet they went in and did the job anyway. Hearing some of the reports now, I relate with what it must have been like for Dallas Fire Department Captain Kenny Harris, a career firefighter with no jurisdiction there other than being another member of the community. Capt. Harris obviously felt things were dire enough to help the West Fire Department do something, be it to begin an evacuation of the nearby nursing home, or to try to establish an unmanned stream, or whatever strategy they were trying to employ.
From what I understand, there was an EMT class going on and those individuals were also involved in trying to help. I don't know that they had any duty to act, but I am guessing that perhaps they did not, but they tried anyway. And as always, when you live in a community of 2800 people, neighbors are out helping neighbors, despite the imminent danger, and defying all of the survival tendencies wired deeply into our subconcious.
One of the things that makes Man an evolved species is the capacity for empathy. These stories coming from West, Texas, friends, are REAL heroism, not the stuff that people pretend they have when they do something dumb for a lost cause. This is the stuff I admire and everyone of you should as well. These individuals could have very well run in the other direction; if they were trained and knew what was in that plant, there's no reason to believe they didn't understand the ramifications for staying. But they saved many people by their actions and in the long run, gave up their lives for the benefit of others.
I realize that the events in Boston were very emotional. I have also been to Boston and certainly appreciate the importance of the city and the people there. And I too admire the courage of those who ran toward the event to help, and those who ran to the hospital to donate blood, and the courage and the determination of the people of Boston in tracking these murderers down. I grieve like all of the rest of you for the dead, for the injured, and for what this has done to our nation.
But there is a story to be told in West, Texas that I think we need to know more about. Before this event gets lost in the other events of this week, we as a nation need to reach out to them and grieve with them as well, support them, and help them to recover.