Today, nine thousand more people are running the Boston Marathon than last year. Officials expect over one million spectators – roughly double the average. Hotels have been booked for months, and people looking to volunteer have been turned away for weeks due to the crush of applicants.
I take a couple of points away from this and all the other outpouring of support for today’s race, runners, and the Greater Boston area:
- To steal NSFW terminology from Big Papi, this is basically a big fuck you to terrorism. It doesn’t work if people aren’t scared, and the people of Boston, Massachusetts, and runners and spectators from across this country and world are obviously not scared.
- Not only do Bostonians (and Cantabrigians and Watertown-ians(?) and etc.) not scare easily, Americans in general do not scare easily. So I hope pundits leave behind flawed concerns that the unprecedented shelter-in-place order on the Friday following the Marathon bombings was a sign of underlying weakness rather than determined strength born out of in-the-moment operational necessity.
- We as a society are resilient. Yes, there are significant concerns about infrastructure and emerging threats. Things can and should be improved across a range of sectors and issue areas. However, I simply have not read nor heard convincing proof that our current society is any less resilient than in decades past. Stephen Flynn I’m looking at you. Instead, we live in a different world with different vulnerabilities but also different strengths.
Leading up to today, there has been much said about the potential of missed clues or signals that could have led authorities to prevent this attack. There has also been much shared about the resilience of those directly affected by the bombings. Rightly so.
I’d be lying, however, if I didn’t admit to being a little concerned. The medical response to the attack has been lauded. It has not been sufficiently explained. It should not be taken for granted.
The concept of a “dry run disaster” has been advertised. Lessons learned from the Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Israeli experience have been explored. It is easy to point out that the explosions occurred yards away from a medical tent, and that Boston is blessed with an overabundance of world class hospitals just minutes away from the scene.
Yet the underlying strength of the Boston response originated from years of planning, practice, and collaboration. Similar examples of which are difficult to find across our nation. Boston was, and is, strong because it has, and continues to, work on preparedness.
Boston Strong because Boston Ready.
This should be noted and shared.
All I have to offer in addition is a few suggestions:
- The Federal goverment, both the Administration and Congress, should increase funding to such programs as the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) that aims to instill the cross-sector collaboration that was so successful in Boston. It would also be nice if top Administration officials not only talked about resilience but actually did something to drive actual change in their departments.
- State and local governments should embrace the “whole of community” approach. This would require that first responders embrace the possibility of a robust civilian response in their plans, as well as encouraging cooperation among private stakeholders.
- Those private stakeholders, hospitals and healthcare systems and etc., should understand that cooperation and collaboration with others should not be viewed as a net loss on the ledger books, but as an overall positive contribution to their business model.
- And finally, the individuals among us should realize that having health insurance is a good thing. Not unduly burdening the emergency medical system during times of unexpected stress, such as the Marathon bombing, could save lives. Learning what to do to help our neighbors would be even better.
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Recently, NBC’s “Meet the Press” aired a segment on “Boston Strong: The Marathon Bombing, One Year Later.”
You can watch a video of it here: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/boston-bombing-anniversary/boston-strong-marathon-bombing-one-year-later-n79161
It was a round table discussion with an audience of Boston first responders. The individual making the incisive observation I took as the title of this post was Senator Ed Markey. His full quote:
And, you know, we were prepared. We were Boston Strong, because we were Boston Ready. The city was ready. And the commissioner has a lot to do with that. The people who were here. There was a lot of cooperation at the local level. And then we needed the bravery of people then to respond on that day. And they did. And the resilience of people afterwards.
He makes a subtle and often overlooked point.