It’s funny how chance meetings can impact our lives… change our perspectives.
Three specific occasions immediately come to my mind.
The first occurred, of all places, on a cruise ship to Alaska. My wife and I were playing cards in one of the lounges when in comes a large group of service men and women—all ages and nationalities. As it turns out, there was a veterans meeting taking place. We hung around to listen. People literally from both sides of the conflicts in Afghanistan to Hiroshima to Hamburger Hill.
The selfless explanation of the heroic acts these men and women carried out under such extreme circumstances made me feel superfluous…
The second happened about a year ago.
By chance, I learned that the Sacramento Chapter of an EMC Affinity Group was hosting the Tuskegee Airmen. I had seen films about this group so I was familiar with their story and excited to meet them.
But what I heard that day I wasn’t prepared for.
At dinner, I sat next to Airman Lenny Yates, who regaled stories not of heroism but of overcoming adversity and ‘just doing what he thought was right.’ Powerful words by any account, but by a teenage boy… wow. Sadly, Lenny passed away a short while after our visit, but this chance meeting will go down as one of my most cherished moments.
The third occasion happened just a few weeks ago.
I was in New York and was asked to attend a panel of IT professionals to talk through their experiences with Hurricane Sandy, one year later.
To be honest, like most of you, I had read the news and watched on television the devastation this storm inflicted on the people of NY and NJ, but at the risk of sounding trite, once again, I wasn’t prepared for the first-hand stories I heard.
Off-camera discussions about how 9/11 had helped prepare them for this tragedy; stories of how in the midst of their own personal strife, many of them had to leave their own families and work around the clock for days sleeping in conference rooms, of engineers working out of cars using cigarette lighter jacks for power, and of how one engineer even set up a war room in his house for the local team as he was the only one with a generator.
Like the first two chance encounters, as I listened to the stories of the devastation and the backstories of their own personal situations, I found it impossible to logically assimilate what had happened.
What really struck home wasn’t the technology or the strategic readiness, but the great lengths that people went to in order to ‘save the day.’
I live on the West Coast, if ‘the big one’ (meaning an earthquake) hits and my family is in trouble, would I emotionally be able to handle the juxtaposition of my own personal situation and my job? Would you?
I didn’t live through Hurricane Sandy, or Tuskegee, or Afghanistan, Hiroshima or Hamburger Hill, but I can say that I was truly humbled by the stories I heard from those who did.
You can read the article that accompanies the on-camera discussions of the Hurricane Sandy panel by clicking here. I hope you find the output of the meeting somewhat instructive from a disaster-preparedness perspective.