A long time ago, my husband and I had a conversation. I am not
sure who broached the subject first. It might have been Joe. After
all, he is a Chicago firefighter who is forced to think about
disaster on a regular basis. On the other hand, it might have been
me, someone who witnessed the confusion and chaos of a company
impacted by 9/11. Either way, the outcome of our discussion
resulted in a single blueprint, a detailed plan, one that we
When the Sh*t Hits the Fan
For the sake of brevity, I'll just call it WTSHTF from here on
At the time of our first draft, we weren't quite sure what the
impetus might be for needing this document. Yet I could not forget
how much time and effort was spent putting together Crisis
Continuity binders for my former company. Everyone from the CEO
down to the head of IT had explicit instructions and
accountabilities for ensuring the safety of personnel and the
continuity of business operations.
Corporations define "crisis" broadly. It might involve a natural
disaster, a global upheaval, or anything that threatens business as
usual. Years later, I felt that my family was no less important
than any big corporation out there. I had my own vested interests,
my own long-term projects to consider.
They were called Daniel, Jack, and Joey.
When the tragic and confusing events began unfolding in Boston
Monday afternoon, many Chicagoans offered up prayers and
condolences to all those effected. And even though I recognized
that Boston was hundreds of miles away, I was suddenly overcome
with the overwhelming desire to implement Step 1 of the WTSHTF
Plan, which is:
GET THE KIDS.
Call it paranoia, call it over-reacting, but I could not shake
the impulse to grab my sons as quickly as possible. I tried to
stifle this urge, but then I remembered how Oprah always said to
never ignore your gut. As Joey was already home from preschool, I
eyed the clock. Daniel was on the bus home, so that only left Jack.
Joey and I arrived at the principal's office in record time, and I
sheepishly requested my middle child. The secretary pointed to the
binder where I was to sign him out. There, in big letters, was
typed: "REASON FOR DISMISSAL." Without hesitation, I answered
Jack appeared and we then retrieved Danny off the bus. Jack
seemed perplexed. He asked if he had a dentist appointment.
My WTSHTF Plan did not include a single detail or recommended
lie for keeping the kids calm while mommy lost it. Before I had a
chance to answer, I noticed some fat raindrops, so I improvised
until I could find the right words to help make sense of Boston
"Oh, since it was so close to the end of the day, I didn't want
to get caught in this thunderstorm because I didn't bring my
Jack eyed me suspiciously.
"You pulled me out of school because you didn't want to GET
I think Jack may work for the FBI one day.
Regardless, we arrived home, and for whatever reason, my Spidey
Sense that had been blaring like a tornado siren only an hour
before had now completely subsided. I felt no pressure to implement
Steps 2-18 of WTSHTF. My kids were with me, I could protect them,
and the tight grip on my chest loosened.
I cannot imagine how difficult it is for those in Boston this
week. I pray for the parents, the children, and all those first
responders who once again ran towards the smoke because that is how
they are wired. My husband is one of those people. Sadly, I am not.
I have often thought that people reveal who they truly are by where
they go when danger lurks (real or imagined).
On Monday, I ran towards my kids. When I confessed to my husband
later that evening what I had done, I felt embarrassed. In
hindsight, I figured he would chastise me for being irrational and
reactionary. But instead, Joe responded:
"You are a mother, Marianne. I would not expect you to run
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.
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