When Life Gets Rough

I have been constantly amazed at the resiliency, determination and courage of those who fall under my command.  Over the past four weeks, we have charged headlong into trainings and preparing for our adventure out into the fields of work. 

Today marked our first day in twenty-five days that we have had a day to ourselves without having to work, move or be on call for immediate response to work (15 minute reporting time). 

Just over three weeks ago, we graduated from Corps Training Institute (CTI) and were the first ever Corps Members inducted into FEMA Corps.  It was a day of celebration that involved a Leadership Breakfast, Press Conferences, Media, and various other activities that prevented us from focusing all our energy into the tasks of preparing and packing for an additional two weeks in Anniston, AL. 

We arrived the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP), hesitant and not knowing what to expect after hearing horror stories of how strict the instructors and security were supposed to be.  We began the delicate game of witnessing how flexible each of us could be as we found ourselves on call, having to be willing and able to respond at a moments notice. 

After the first couple days of complete and utter chaos, we found ourselves in the presence of amazing individuals that had knowledge beyond anything that we could have ever imagined or experienced.  The instructors had real world experience that echoed throughout their stories as they willingly poured their lives into ours. 

At times, we did get frustrated when we went over the same information for the second, third or fourth time.  It was hard to hear that our position (Individual Assistance) was not highly recognized as one of the best positions to enter into, like Community Relations.  It was difficult to sit there at a desk, witnessing death by power-point. 

In the end, we survived and scattered to the winds once again.  Teams departed across the country, from NOLA and Baton Rouge to West Virginia and Pennsylvania, Mississippi to Georgia, and every where between.  We left behind friends, family that we have come to love, and charged recklessly into the unknown. 

My team, Ocean 7, found ourselves on the outskirts of Atlanta as we found ourselves working with the Voluntary Agency Liaisons (VALs) and Reports Specialists at the Region IV headquarters based out of the city.  We were not trained for what we are currently doing, but we have adapted and become, as some people call it, “FEMA flexible.” 

Our housing situation took some time to get used to, living in cabins with no running water, stove or highly used cooking supplies.  We found ourselves battling the darkness of night, traffic commutes into and out of the city, little critters (bugs and rodents) and our own selfish need for something more civilized. 

We found our breaking point.  As one of my CMs stated “You can only be so flexible before you snap.”  Each of us has found that point, as some of them broke down, experienced panic attacks, and lost focus on what really mattered. 

And yet, somehow we found the strength in one another to rise up from these hardships and become something more, something stronger than before. 

As the skies cleared and the morning came, we found ourselves refreshed, awakened by something more powerful than words.  Our eyes have been opened to the possibilities that our situation holds. 

This morning, after sleeping in, we had the opportunity to experience the sacred tradition of West African Drums and Dance, an experience that opened us up to something within ourselves.  It was a joy to watch my team smile, genuinely smile for the first time in weeks, as they learned the notes on Djembe, the rhythms of times so long ago, the flow of something within. 

We may not be living in the Hilton Inn, but the accommodations provided by Youth Villages had become a blessing that I had never imagined. 

We may not find ourselves in the situations that we enjoy, but we know that our hearts and our lives have been connected through this experience.  We are a team that has come to rely on the strengths of one another as we face each day with the uncertainty of the next, but the courage of all those who stand behind and beside us in our journey. 

God Bless and PEACE

[Note:  Again, sorry for the weeks of no posts.  Internet is a rare commodity and sometimes it is hard to come by.  I hope to get better at updating throughout the year, but I can make no promises.  If I can learn to be flexible, so can you.]

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