"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” – President Thomas Jefferson.
(vig·i·lant/adjective - keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties)
"Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it". - Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
It is now 13 years post-9/11. Most teenagers might have some recollection, younger individuals probably no recollection at all; but what about the rest of us? Being Americans, we are blessed with freedom and prosperity which unfortunately lend themselves to traumatic experiences quickly fading into the past as we move on with our lives. We can all agree, as adults, it is our responsibility to simply remember and teach future generations lessons learned from the past.
Consider another perfect storm. A stagnant economy which has resulted in approximately 1/3 of emergency rooms across the county being shut down (Dajer), disheartened border patrol agents unable to do their job, and a growing Islamic State beheading Americans leaves many wondering if we are have falling back into a pre-9/11 mindset. All of that said, our “lethargic at best” economy has made it difficult to maintain the infrastructure needed to respond to mass casualty incidents (MCIs). We know “9/11 proved our hospitals are indispensable in disasters” (Dajer) and “across the country one-third of emergency departments have shut down” (Dajer) leaving an obvious problem regarding preparedness. We also know our borders are not secure. “Last year, the Border Patrol caught about 356,000 immigrants trying to cross illegally at the U.S.-Mexico border. That's believed to be about half of all attempts” (Plumer).
Healthcare professionals and medical communities in general are better prepared than ever before. MCIs such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings have all driven the creation of new educational entities and learning activities geared specifically toward better caring for patients under these types of circumstances. Organizations including the National Disaster Life Support Foundation, the Southern Medical Association, and various state agencies have implemented training programs, published information, provided resources, and developed processes to better prepare all healthcare professionals in this emerging area of medicine.
The primary role of our government is to protect our people. Climate change, gay rights, nutritional programs, campaigning, and fundraising are at the very least distractions. If there’s one thing the anniversary of 9/11 should do, it is to help us remember to stay focused on the big issues, the things that unite us as Americans -- the preservation of our liberties, our freedoms. In times like these it’s the larger, common-sense issues that are often overlooked…and can do the most damage if we neglect our responsibilities to remain vigilant.
Dajer AJ, Lopez FA, Baker T, et al. Disaster Preparedness 10 Years After 9/11--The Experts Weigh In. Emergency Medicine September 2011. Available at http://emergency.emory.edu/docs/Emergency_Medicine0911.pdf. Accessed September 17, 2014.
Plumer, B. Who’s crossing the Mexico border? A new survey tries to find out. The Washington Post. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/06/02/whos-crossing-the-mexico-border-a-new-survey-tries-to-find-out/. Published June 2, 2013. Accessed September 17, 2014.
-- By Randy Glick
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of the Southern Medical Association, the Southern Medical Journal, or any of its Council members, officers, partners, vendors, or subsidiaries. Furthermore, neither the Southern Medical Association nor any of its subsidiaries have approved, endorsed, or embraced anything associated with this post.