Monday, August 06, 2007

The Many Forms of Infrastructure

It has been a difficult week here in Minnesota. The collapse of the 35W Bridge has left many people devastated and taken a number of lives. Pictures of this tragedy have dominated the news and touched many Americans. I know the people of Minnesota have pulled together not only during the crisis, but to show support to the families of the victims as well as to each other in the aftermath.

Now, in the wake of this tragedy we must learn what went wrong and understand how to apply the lessons to keep other lives from needlessly being lost. We must identify and share key lessons. We need to work on the underlying physical infrastructure of our country. This was known previously but until it became a crisis once again, we lived in denial. Actually this is only one type of lesson to be learned.

We must also recognize that we are human. As a society we have been traumatized by events such as 9/11. Seeing those events again and again on TV and the internet, feeling helplessness, fear and sorrow....all of this has left scars. The collapse of the bridge a few days ago was re-traumatizing as we again saw devastation and watched good people lose loved ones.

Our emotions are the infrastructure of our own lives just as the highways, pipelines and bridges are part of the infrastructure of our physical lives. We need to ensure our emotional infrastructure is sound and that we are giving it the time, the focus, the energy we need to continue to be strong and solid.

In Minnesota, when the bridge collapsed, I saw people with that same look in their eyes as I did when in the tri-state area near NY during 9/11. There is a glassy quality, a bit removed, dazed and almost vacant. The look of trauma and sadness so profound it is hard to express much less experience.

Let us not forget that we need to take time for each other, take care of our emotional selves and heal, just as we work to rebuild the 35W Bridge or the rest of our physical infrastructure. We need to look for signs of fatigue in our selves, as we do in the steel structures around us. And if we find them, we must not be afraid to take the time to heal, and to heal each other. We need each other, and we need to learn our lessons together, with kindness and compassion.

Let's learn together that we need to be allowed to be human, to feel what we feel in a healthy way, and to deal with each other in compassion. Take the time to repair the infrastructure around us now, so that if and when another crisis hits, we will be able to withstand it. I am thankful for the people of Minnesota who pulled together during this time and proud to be in their presence.

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