Resilience

“The greatest glory in living

lies not in never falling,

but in rising every time we fall.”

~ Nelson Mandela

Resilience is defined as the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something detrimental happens. In recent weeks, our nation once again witnessed the renewal of a community as the Boston residents rallied to exemplify their strength and alacrity to survive. The term “Boston Strong” again rang true. Not only to those individuals who suffered at the hands of terrorists who chose to perpetrate heinous crimes, but to all who survived the losses and injuries resulting from the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon. As our nation mourned alongside those who grievously suffered, we resolved in our convictions to not accept the label of “victims,” but rather “victors.”

For more years than I care to acknowledge, I have attempted to rebound from the emotional effects of a traumatic injury. And sadly, I must admit that I have far too often felt sorry for myself. That was, until I listened to the stories of those harmed at the 2013 Marathon. It is said that disappointments are inevitable, but bitterness is an option. In watching one valiant warrior after another, I was in awe of their ability to deal with all that had transpired. One after another embraced the concepts of forgiveness and fortitude. And for many days following their interviews, I was reminded of three words: bravery, fidelity and integrity. The unofficial meaning behind the acronym of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). An agency in which I once served. Although the three letters stand for the name of the organization, all those who have served also identify the lettering to symbolize behavioral traits expected to be part of every man and woman employed by the Bureau. It is true of those who experienced the horrific events of the Marathon. They epitomize the very meaning and shine brightly as testimony of the ability of the mind, body and spirit to replenish and renew.

As I observed this year’s gathering in Boston, I felt such pride in viewing the sea of people who assembled not only to participate in the race, but to share in the day. It is estimated that a crowd of one million individuals were present. A mass of humanity that rose in defiance of circumstances that were meant to terrorize and defeat. But all present refused to be silenced by the acts. Instead they became victorious in their defiance to never allow such acts to define them. From across the nation, individuals converged in support of the many who braved to compete again. Those who participated not only represented themselves, but served as a symbol of us all. One nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Justice for those lost. Justice for those injured. Justice for all who refuse to be afraid.

During my tenure in law enforcement, I witnessed far too many grief-stricken individuals. In the initial stages of grieving, I watched them struggle to regain a sense of balance. As their healing process progressed, it became apparent that the individuals who were most resilient found the strength to persevere. This healing process seemed to accelerate when the element of support from family and community was added to the equation. I have found many examples of resilience in our nation’s history, among them the days following 9/11 and horrific crimes perpetrated in our communities, military bases and schools alike. The cry that is raised following such tragedies always leads to the intercession of the many who rise up in their determination to move forward and thrive. I contend that these amazing survivors are to be admired for all they have accomplished and all they have brought to this world. Their purpose has indeed aligned with the greater good of humanity, their triumphant lives a shining example for all to emulate.

images1

In the Line of Fire

In the early onset stages of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), flashbacks were a common occurrence in my daily life. They were a constant reminder of what I saw, what I heard and what I smelled. Any similar prop that presented itself caused the prompting of the distant memory to become the reality of the day. The past merged with the present and my mind became a tangled web of misunderstood messages and thoughts.

Over these many years since September 11, the flashbacks have decreased. Now their arrival is usually beset by some incident that resembles the carnage viewed on 9/11 at the Flight 93 crash site. These remembrances result because I am drawn to a story viewed on television or heard in the daily occurrences of life. One such incident took place this past week as I watched the tragic events at the Boston Marathon unfold. Like others, I was transfixed to the television and listened as every fact was presented by the newscasters.

As I watched the video of the explosion replay time and time again and heard the screams of the injured, my mind became less focused on the violent act and more drawn to the reaction of the individuals in the crowd.

What I saw was truly inspirational. Instead of running away from the epicenter of the incident, many ran toward the carnage that was now very visible to one and all. These first responders were not only those dressed in blue uniforms and wearing a badge — or the insignia of the emergency medical services — they were the everyday people participating in the once jubilant occasion of the marathon. They were the marathoners who had just triumphantly crossed over the finish line. They were the bystanders awaiting the arrival of a loved one. They were the volunteers who helped to organize the event. And they were the many faces who were once part of an enthusiastic crowd of on-lookers. Yet when they witnessed the tragic results of the terroristic acts, they did not give flight. Instead of fleeing the scene, they turned toward the danger and ran in the direction of the devastation to assist others. These amazing individuals moved in tandem with the police officers and other emergency responders who were there to render aid. In photo after photo published by the news agencies, there were innumerable people who displayed acts of heroism in response to the horrific events of the day.

A hero is defined as a person noted for a courageous act. And courage it is said, is not the absence of fear, but rather, the judgment that something is more important than the fright felt. By placing themselves in harm’s way, I view these brave men and women as heroes. For they committed selfless acts of valor and portrayed the traits of fidelity, bravery and integrity.

In the years since 9/11, our country has watched as one violent act after another is perpetrated against humanity. And each time, we have witnessed the devastation to human life. But as we all suffer from the effects of these tragedies, there are also positive themes that prevail time and again: the indomitable spirit of the citizenry of this country; the gentle hand of a stranger; and the willingness to reach down and uplift one another. With each tragic event, our nation has risen from the ashes because of fearless individuals like those who served at the Boston Marathon and in the days that followed.

Although these amazing individuals do not wear a badge, nor have they sworn an oath to serve and protect, they have served as bravely as any law enforcement officer and earned a well-deserved badge of service for their courageous acts. As a former law enforcement professional, I praise those who chose to respond in the best interest of mankind. And give thanks for their willingness to place themselves in the line of fire.

A Word about Heroism

A Word about Heroism