Monday, November 16, 2009

And Then There Was SILENCE

Good Morning Neighbor: 

You were all so close to my heart this past Friday.  I cannot thank you enough for the prayers and support as I ventured off to Baltimore to be a part of the National Working Group for Chemical Emergencies.  The morning started with introductions of the group - we set at tables facing one another with large nameplates in front of us (of course everyone had an acronym under their name).  Part of the introduction was to interview the person beside you - the gentleman I met was Todd Jordan from OSHA (Occupational safety and Health Administration) who told me that he works with the responders anytime something blows up in the nation - he said anything we see on Fox or CNN he is there.  And, as the day went on, I met many others in the group that also carry very high ranking jobs that are created to help the workers and the citizens of this nation.  

We had a working lunch and this is when I gave my presentation.  I was only given 10 minutes to speak and I tried to make it as concise as possible but the truth is I did not care about the time.  I felt the citizen story is the most important story and my talk ended up being 22 minutes and thankfully no one tried to stop me.  I created a handout with a litany of failures from agencies and elected officials that they could look over as I spoke - I also included Dr. Glickman's PowerPoint with the obvious spike of animal illness in our area in the summer of 2006.  By the time I completed my presentation, there was stone, cold silence.  I felt it midway through my presentation - they were all sitting there in absolute shock.  You can only imagine if you are the one to design disaster response plans on many, many levels and they were never implemented in reality how that must of felt.   

Many came up to me later to tell me how glad they were that I was there and it was said to the group by one member that he had never heard a story with so many failures to not protect the citizens - I interjected this story is not unusual whatsoever this is happening to thousands of communities all across this nation.  

We broke into two groups to begin making strategic plans for tackling our group charge to redesign how to best respond to a community toxic exposure.  Our story is to be incorporated within a matrix to look at the failures and then create the appropriate response within that matrix.  It was really fascinating watching these great minds work together and create this very involved matrix within a matter of 30 minutes.   It was even more wonderful as the day progressed to be asked, "Is this process okay with you Connie?"  It felt very sincere - is this meeting the needs of the citizens - and I can say for now that this group intends to put their best foot forward.  You must also know that these agencies are not all happy with one another - there is still a lot of anger with regard to the response of 9/11 and Katrina so there is still healing that needs to take place on that level as well.  

I am so very, very grateful and humbled to be a part of all of this.  I still cannot believe that setting up a card table, making a few signs and a petition has brought me to this.  Thanks for your continued support and we still need more signatures on the petition so I am pasting it below.

Your neighbor,


Constance (Biemiller) Thomas, Chair
South Fulton and Fayette Community Task Force
Ph. -770-314-6999

As Margaret Mead once said:

Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

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