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.
Recognizing the Many Who Have Helped
Family Assistance Evolve
“There is a saying in Tibetan: ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’
No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful the experience is, if we lose our hope,
that’s our real disaster.”
– The 14th Dalai Lama (1935- )
Wednesday, August 2, 2017 marks 32 years since the crash of Delta Air Lines Flight
191 at Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport. Within a few days, the death toll grew to
138, and others died within a few months.
I was at DFW that day awaiting the arrival of my fiancé. Walking around the terminal,
with no information and feeling as powerless as the airline employees were, I began
to think about how things might be different for family members and friends – and
employees – if only we had a greater understanding of how this might take place
and what that training might look like. That was the beginning of Human Services
Response™ training and eventually, the Family Assistance Education & Research
At the Foundation, we know that none of our accomplishments would have been
possible without the contributions of countless others. We feel a sense of gratitude
to all of the survivors, family members, responders, leaders, and others in the
“ripple” who, individually and collectively, helped drive the evolution of emergency
management to where it is in business and industry today. While we recognize
that we do not know all the groups around the world who have contributed to this
field of family assistance, we have the privilege of having met many individuals
and group leaders who have and continue to contribute to our understanding
of disaster response best practices. They have helped increase compassion
toward, and ensure effective support for, all who survive disasters and crises.
Our research indicates that the first official aviation disaster family support group
emerged after a Soviet fighter jet shot down Korean Air Flight 007 in 1983. The
group honored the 269 who perished in the disaster and called attention to
the needs of families for information and acknowledgment by government and
In Japan, families formed a support group following the 1985 crash of Japan Airlines
123, in which 516 people died due to a structural failure. To this day, on each
anniversary of the crash, the families and airline officials still climb to the
mountainside accident site to honor the souls of the dead. In their work with airline
staff and government authorities, the JAL123 families have also raised awareness of
survivor needs, leading to improvements in their own country and others.
Another family group arose after a bomb destroyed Pan American Flight 103 in
1988, killing 270 passengers, crew members, and residents of Lockerbie, Scotland.
Victims of Pan Am 103, Inc., has worked tirelessly for families’ rights, including that
of traveling to the crash site and being informed of the on-going investigation
involving the terrorists responsible for the tragedy. Foundation member Glenn
Johnson received an award for his personal contributions to work that he did with
fellow family members after he and his wife Carole lost their daughter, Beth Ann,
in the tragedy.
And in the 1990s, after a series of airline crashes, passenger and family survivors
of both passengers and crew members joined to help pass the Aviation Disaster
Family Assistance Act of 1996, which later led to the Foreign Air Carrier Act of 1997.
These laws have helped shape policies and practices around the world and have
improved the way that survivors are supported. These changes have been felt
across aviation, cruise and maritime, freight and passenger rail, energy,
manufacturing, retail, and more. The evolution of family assistance has been,
and continues to be, a truly collective effort for which all who have contributed
deserve recognition. We thank them for their courage, dedication, and willingness
to make a difference.
a different toll. Four passengers survived.
“One cannot do great things on earth. One can only do small things with great love.”
– Mother Theresa, Roman Catholic Nun & Missionary (1910–1997)
to the use of what they have taught us by companies who respond daily to
accidents, deaths, and other tragedies. At the Foundation’s recent Air, Land, & Sea
Workshop in Miami, where many cruise line Care Team members and leaders were
in attendance, those who participated saw many of the lessons learned from
the larger tragedies being put into action for responding to one family, one crisis at a
time. As Foundation leader and experienced cruise line Care Team leader, Ray
Gonzalez reminds us, a cruise line does not wait for a ‘big one’ to occur—but rather
recognizes that one family’s crisis is, to that family, the ‘big one.’ As such, they
deserve to be afforded the same dignity and respect as if they were part of a larger
tragedy involving many people, one that would make headlines.
Those in planning and leadership roles would do well to prepare for the big ones,
but take care to treat every survivor and their family the same, regardless of whether
the mass casualty plan is needed or not. For to those involved, a crisis involving
them and their family is indeed ‘the big one'!
© 2017 Higher Resources, Inc./Aviem International, Inc.
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