One moment two years ago arrived with devastating effect. It was abrupt and binary. What had been a bright, pleasant day of individual and collective celebration rapidly darkened, as the brutal vision of two “losers” was realized. Three people lost their lives, and over two hundred were injured, some gravely so. Yet immediately after that moment, something remarkable happened.
Immediately after that moment, radios were keyed; clear voices began to relay vital information; gloves were donned; diesel engines turned over; and an exceptionally complex ballet began.
Immediately after that moment, bystanders – total strangers – pitched in alongside medical professionals to control bleeding, bind wounds, assess the severity of injuries, and get the injured on the road to definitive care.
Immediately after that moment, the need for medical preparedness that includes but transcends the remit of the hospital emergency managers and emergency medicine departments became all too clear. It is imperative that individual hospitals and health systems view preparedness as a basic aspect of their daily operations. Thankfully, many now do.
Disasters have a way of clarifying, a way of reducing the complexity of daily life. To be sure, they also introduce unique, unfamiliar challenges that are impossible to fully plan for or appreciate in advance. But all of sudden, there’s a job to do. One job, and it’s more important than anything else. Help. Get in there. Get your outstretched hand dirty, bloody, whatever. Just help.
The speed with which bystanders and professionals alike acted on the urge to help was too fast to be anything less than instinct. That instinct - properly supported by systems, training and resources - was what drove the response to that moment two years ago, and it will be there following all the moments to come.