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Luis Antonio Hernandez
Affirming Our Actions
I want to start with the roots behind the phrase affirm-
ing civility. To affirm is to assert or to dedicate oneself to
a position deemed important and valued. Civility is a
foundation of respect that prevails when one considers the circumstances
of others. By linking these terms, we define the behaviors and manners we
learned in our young years and strive to enact every day. We’ve also learned
social protocols—niceness, silence, passivity—that help us get along and, to
a degree, be a civilized and well-adjusted people. Our wonderful colleagues—
Janet, Holly, and Debra—have provided great stories and anecdotes from
their personal and professional experiences on those learned behaviors,
many directly related to our world of ECE. With affirming civility in mind,
real-life lessons can come from sources far from our professional experiences.
At this point, I want to extend that conversation by sharing the dynamics of
tragedy, resiliency, and tension from a recent natural disaster.
In the fall of 2012, Superstorm Sandy devastated towns and neighbor-
hoods along the coast of New Jersey and coastal areas of New York City.
People in this region were not used to or prepared for the consequences of
such a powerful storm that occurred as evening approached, right as the
seas reached high tide during a full moon. Over a hundred people died in
the region, seaside towns were destroyed, piers and boardwalks were ripped
away, tunnels were flooded, transportation systems were shut down, and
homes were destroyed by wind and water. Hundreds of thousands of people
were without power for weeks, making life miserable as cold weather set in.
A major disaster disrupts and upends society with incredible consequences
to the economy, the environment, and most importantly, the lives of people.
As it happens with many disasters, people responded with open hearts.
People donated money, collected food items and clothing, and volunteered
to help with whatever was needed. Right after such disasters there are extraor-
dinary acts of support and assistance with neighbors helping neighbors, with
promises for a quick recovery, and with the satisfaction that good is being
done. Full of the best intentions, a feel-good atmosphere prevails. For a short
time, gaps and divisions are put aside for the benefit of all. As the first hours
of recovery become days, weeks, and even months, the reality of the situa-
tion hits the people on the ground—the residents and volunteers. It is the
realization that the conditions in which people lived before the storm have
been deplorable for decades, that poverty is a reality to millions, and that it
can exist in our own backyard.
O U R WAY TO SIN CER ITY 13