First Response

I’m about to hit the road but I feel compelled to write this before I do.

Justifiably, this is an emotional moment for most of us. A good chunk of the country is under water, so many have lost everything after perhaps just getting on their feet from the war years, and our government seems to have, once again, failed us miserably. I have a slightly different take on the latter.

We all know what to expect and what not to expect from our beloved institutions. First response, particularly in a poorly organized country like ours, should have been a complete disaster. But it wasn’t. Not even close. Hear me out.

Crisis is a time to come together. And that we did. Granted, the resources and response (or lack of) from the Civil Protection Force was less than admirable. However, the armed forces response was swift and effective. The mobilization of GSS (mountain rescue service) and the rafters made my heart swell with pride. They not only came through put passed this very crucial test with shining colors. They saved lives, many lives. And that’s what it’s all about people. These folks are damn good at what they do, especially with the limited resources at their disposal.

We may be angry or feel even desperate – especially for those watching (or trying to watch in between cooking and music programs) from afar. And although it all seems that the response has been less than mediocre – we came together and in a very meaningful and effective way.

We’ve shown ourselves, once again, the true meaning of solidarity. It should feel good.

The tasks ahead are monumental indeed. First response will soon be over as the water dwindles and everyone is brought to safety. The overwhelming show of support from ordinary citizens was heartwarming but the spontaneous civilian mobilization and organization of emergency aid that reached people within 24 hours was fucking amazing. It proves to me that can have a country, in fact, there just might be one buried under this veil of incompetence and nepotism. We just have the wrong people running it at the moment. Do us all a favor and vote them out this year, will ya!?

The next phase is crucial and cannot be an emotional improv job. We need to get organized…and I honestly believe that is on the horizon. Many may want to hurl insults at the international community for doing nothing but let’s be honest with ourselves, first response is our job. Our friends will be here (and, in fact, already are) for the very complicated and technical next phase of emergency response, rebuilding homes and infrastructure, and working to build the capacity of our slow and inefficient civil protection force.

This could (I know…I’m the irrational & eternal optimist) be a wake-up call to the powers that be that October is close and we won’t forget this. In a cataclysmic event such as this I think it could have been much worse. With years of uncontrolled logging, authorities turning a blind eye to illegal development on unstable terrain, poor water management, and little or no investment in organizations that are supposed to protect life and property – I’d say we did ok. Not great. But ok.

Can we do better? Always. I hope we all realize there is a long road to recovery ahead of us and that we don’t get collective amnesia in a month’s time. People will need our help and I’m confident that in the coming days the organization of the aid effort will improve. It’ll never be perfect, it never is.

Keep the faith. And thank you for reminding me why I’m proud to call this place, fucked up or not, home.

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