Foundation, reminding you that a fully-integrated approach for assisting survivors of
traumatic loss involves a balance of head and heart. Wednesday Wisdom is written
and copyrighted by Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D. and distributed by the Family
Assistance Education & Research Foundation Inc., fafonline.org. Reprint is available
with written permission from the Foundation.
Lessons Learned Are Part of Honoring Losses
“Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience.”
– ALBERT EINSTEIN, PHYSICIST (1879-1955)
All of us at the Family Assistance Foundation were shocked, horrified and
saddened over the inhumane attack on the lives of innocent people during the
shooting at Fort Lauderdale on January 6th. Because we are part of the formal
response plans of the airport and several airlines who were impacted, many of our
team members were directly involved in the response for several days following
As responders return to their regular lives and the airport and companies involved
resume normal operations, it is natural and healthy that we all begin discussions
about how the response went and look for lessons learned with the intent of
improving responses to future crises.
In the mid-eighties when the Foundation’s research on needs of survivors of
aviation and other workplace tragedies started, results indicated that those affected
by the crises were pretty much on their own in terms of having their emotional
and psychological needs met. Interviews with survivors showed that support came
from their own families and personal resources like their own pastor or counselor.
Many resorted to plaintiff lawyers and other legal advisors as a means for
having official communication with the airline or companies they associated with
their losses – not just for obtaining restitution for monetary claims but for basic
needs like information on what happened and why.
Today, however, since much more is known about the need for immediate support
by helpers on the spot at the time of the crisis, organizations and agencies are
better prepared to respond quickly with the intent of bridging the gap
between local temporary resources and survivors’ community support. It was
encouraging to all who seek to serve in crisis that the response to those involved
in the Fort Lauderdale shooting was consistent with this newer trend. Many
resources came together to provide support for the primary survivors, crew
members, other employees, and all families involved.
Now that such a proactive response, at the site in real time, is a given in many
parts of the world when tragedies involving the workplace occur, we see the need
for greater emphasis and focus on the logistical side of delivering
“Humility is the acceptance of the possibility that someone else has something
to teach you that you did not already know.”
– ARTHUR J. DEIKMAN M.D. (1929-2013)
At the Foundation, we know that identifying and acting on lessons learned is a crucial
part of honoring unthinkable losses. We thus seek every opportunity to provide input
and share information from our perspective as to what would have helped us respond
better in support of our partners. We recognize that having the knowledge of
survivors’ needs, and what must be done to meet those needs, does not
automatically transfer into being able to deliver the necessary services. We continue
to see that communication and logistical coordination is a must if we are to be
successful in responding effectively to a crisis. Communicating quickly about what
resources are needed, and where, and which agency can best provide for survivors’
specific needs in a timely manner is a necessity.
Now that the crisis has passed, we look forward to participating in logistical debriefs
with our partners. We anticipate learning from others who responded as well as
sharing our own ideas about improving planning, multi-agency coordination, and
communication so that we can better work together as a team in meeting survivors’
needs in the future.
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