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Recovering from the Shock

Recovering from the Shock

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Things came to an abrupt stop on September 11, 2001. The news was difficult to fathom. The accounts were too incredible. The images conjured up from the radio account of what was happening were in fact accurate. The remaining events of the day were grist for proving one's mettle and abilities. Priorities needed to be reordered while progress on what was scheduled to occur was maintained as best as possible.

Still, one shock after another kept unfolding.

The news kept unfolding. The Pentagon was hit. Cognizance of the fact that there were people populating these buildings, going about their usual routines for opening a business were present in at least my mind. Innocent people who had absolutely nothing to do with the warfare going on in some remote part of the world far, far away from the United States. Then a report was given that a plane that supposedly was headed for the White House was diverted to a field in Pennsylvania.

Priorities kept being reordered. On the news that there was no transportation to Los Angeles' downtown area, it was time to simply stop and do the alternative activities. I returned to my SOHO and wrote When All Are Losing Their Heads. There was nothing else to do in order to dispell the acidic events. Then diffuse the situations by writing about them. And focus on what's needed in order to be a leader in times of [continue reading]


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I came here from your IAG Members email. The piece is well written and the thoughts are well received. That said, I'll say I've always wondered if I'm perpetually numb and unfeeling or just so completely out of step with the rest of the society surrounding me that I might be better suited living on a deserted island or in a cave. Oddly, on September 11th, I stayed home sick from work. My wife woke me when the news of the first plane strike broke into the programming she'd been watching (she was a stay-at-home mom). My first comment was, "Hmm; terrorists."

A little background may be in order here. I spent eight years in the army military police and another eight in civilian law enforcement. In 2001, that career was eleven years behind me. When I left the military, it was after spending two-thirds of my enlistment in Germany during the height of that country's worst terrorist activity. To be certain, the paramilitary terrorism of the Red Brigade and Badder Meinhoff was quite different from the suicidal style of Middle East terrorist. But one thing remains constant... killing people who have nothing to do with the supposed subject of their anger; e.g., civilians and other noncombatants.

Upon join the civilian law enforcement community, my concerns for preparation against the inevitable terrorist attack in the US was always met with similar comments: "Yeah. Right. That'll never happen here." Even in 1993 when a bomb was exploded in the underground garage of the Trade Center and again in 1995 with the Oklahoma City bombing, people in positions to take preventive measures did the same thing... nothing. So in 2001 when four jetliners were hijacked and 3000 people lost their lives, my second thought (after "Hmm; terrorists.") was, "I told you so."

It saddens me that people have to die before what should have been done, is done. But we have only to look at the local example (on a much smaller scale) of the dangerous traffic intersection to see just how true it is. No matter how much a community complains the intersection needs traffic control, until someone dies, nothing is done. When the death occurs, men and women in suits gnash their teeth, wring their hands, and look sorrowful as they pat their respective backs and swear such a horrible thing will never happen again because they have now made the intersection safe. However, across town there are dozens of other intersection in the same condition which won't receive their due attention until someone dies.

Maybe it is the nature of the beast. Maybe blood has to be thrown in ones face before they understand how precious it is.

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Your reactions don't surprise me, William (by the way, thank you for taking not only the time to read but to also post your thoughts). People who are typically in demanding situations seem to be suited to their work because they are able to push back the human and emotional responses in deference to being level headed and clear thinking. These are the types of people needed in a calamity situation. They are the ones who appreciate what needs to be done and in what order. They are not given to histrionics and exaggerated recounts of what happened.

These are the types of people who see, register, and do some small thing to make the situation better for the future.They sublimate their feelings until after the emergency has been handled. For some of us, the emergency gets concatenated onto other similarly shocking Life events and there simply is no time to release the pressure valve until some small incident stops us in our tracks and forces us to "feel" the emotions.

It's so unfortunate that we have this philosophy of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Far too many things that create a dangerous situation go unchecked and an accident, sometimes of great severity, results. Concomitant with that are costly product liability and negligence law suits.

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Quote: "People who are typically in demanding situations seem to be suited to their work because they are able to push back the human and emotional responses in deference to being level headed and clear thinking."

Sadly, I think people of the type you describe (of which I am probably one) tend to suffer emotionally because of their nature. It took me being out of the field and associating with "regular" people for several years before I came to realize how irregular I was. At the same time, and even unto this day, I find it impossible to see a situation or problem and not take steps to address it. I know there are good people in the world. I have only to look at all the first responders when disasters strike to see evidence of it. However, it seems that for every one of them there are hundreds or thousands of others who care only when harm knocks at their door. Unfortunately, when that time comes, it's already too late.

In sixteen years of law enforcement, the worst feeling was always when I arrived at a scene "after the fact"; after an accident, after an assault, after a rape. I don't know what the answer might be. I do know that we need to find a way to make people open their eyes before bad things happen because there are just too many things for which arriving after the fact does nothing but allow for picking up the broken pieces.

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The thing of it is, we need the unique person with the leadership and organizing skills who is in the midst of the multitudes. It takes having those individuals to help bring order. The alternative is everyone is a leader, a chief, shouting out orders with no one certain of what should be done first nor who deserves deference. [aka, all chiefs and no indians]

There are those who pull things together after the disaster. There are also those who see the problem and endeavor to take steps to repair it before there is an accident. Unfortunately, those individuals have a huge job before them because if the task requires more than just their individual efforts, they then have the need to convince others to join them in the endeavor. Many times that also means gaining government (at some level) approval.

It's people who have the foresight to recognize the potential danger and also have the interest in being proactive who help us not have to pick up the broken pieces.

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After expressing interest, I was invited to join the board for the Women's Center of East Texas. My hope is, involvement with the organization will afford me an opportunity to take preventive measures with regard to abuse and violence issues. I have not provided a final response as, of late, my job situation changed rather unexpectedly and I don't know what will be my availability in the near future (Opportunities never present themselves at opportune times, do they?).

I think your last comment may well have pushed me forward where I was wavering. I've always believed the worst thing a person can do is nothing. Time to follow through on that belief.

Thank you.

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Raising awareness about the issues related to domestic abuse in the home and where it occurs in other places so that preventive measures can be taken to avoid and prevent it is my passion. The more we can help others diminish the terrorism from any source is a move toward building a better future.

I'm elated that you've chosen to move forward. I'm glad you decided not to allow personal circumstances deter you from acting. One thing I've noticed in my own life is that when I'm about to embark on something very important (or even giving advice to someone while subconsciously having even the slightest feeling of being better than the one I'm talking with), something happens to put me into a position where I'm essentially a servant, not a superior. I think it's my God's way of reminding me to be humble while executing on my path of stewardship. It's important to keep in mind that the humbling experience is merely a reminder and temporary. The greater step is following through on the mission and finding one's place in being an effective part of that.


Picture of William Butler

...with the knowledge and tools that allow them to take appropriate action will always be better than the reverse.

Thank you for your response to my email communication. Your comments on the reactions of law enforcement, sadly, echo my experiences. Too many officers view domestic violence in one of two ways; it's a civil matter that should not involve law enforcement or anyone who remains in an abusive relationship deserves what they get. Both are equally unreasonable and unacceptable. It doesn't necessarily reflect the beliefs of the entire law enforcement community but enough that it permeates the public perception and causes victims to believe they cannot rely upon officers when the need is greatest.

Again, thank you for your communication and I look forward to reporting the world has been saved and women need no longer fear for their safety.

Be well,


The Center for Health Journalism’s 2023 National Fellowship will provide $2,000 to $10,000 reporting grants, five months of mentoring from a veteran journalist, and a week of intensive training at USC Annenberg in Los Angeles from July 16-20. Click here for more information and the application form, due May 5.


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