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Learning from stories of NYC 9/11

(Abridged version)

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Book Review: Step into the shoes of World Trade Center survivors

11/08/2013 - 16:49     |    Written by  Larry Callais

Before I began From The Inside Out, my mind was set on making a comparison of the issues facing the individuals faced with the Twin Towers disaster on 9/11 and those faced by people in my own part of the world—the Louisiana Gulf region—when tragic events like Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Katrina embarked on our own doorsteps. 


However, a few paragraphs into the book I changed my thinking.


Hard as some of our times have been, what we have faced is nothing near what happened on 9/11 in New York, as recounted by author Erik Ronningen, the last person to make it out of the South Tower of the World Trade Center before it collapsed.


The severe weather situations we have been faced with as southern bankers and citizens don’t lack for impact and danger, but they provide us with ample warning and give us the discretion to either call our employees in for work or allow them to stay home and take safety measures.


The companies employing the thousands of workers in the Twin Towers—government agencies, financial firms, and more—thought they faced nothing more than an average day at work, until disaster struck.


Comparison to bank emergency preparedness


Business sense, regulatory requirements, and common sense all dictate that banks prepare for emergencies and for business resumption. As bankers, we’ve all taken part in such exercises and planning.


Having experienced multiple severe weather situations during hurricanes I know how the “well thought out plans” and all of the “emergency drills and procedures” still left us short of how we had planned to react. And I know how an unplanned-for situation during the disaster caused us to react outside of the planning models we had developed. 


Reading the stories of many individuals in Erik Ronningen’s book I was able to experience the workings of their minds as their day quickly escalated to something that all those well thought out plans could never have prepared anyone for, before 9/11.


Getting into their heads allowed me to see how individuals react to “uncontrollable situations” in varied manners—just as they do in the banking industry.


The author highlights those individuals who reacted on “automatic pilot” and continued on with their work as if it were a normal business day, even when all indications were that it was as far from normal as possible. 


Then there were those who turned their attention immediately to the well-being of others and did all in their power to make certain that they were taken care of instead of caring for themselves. 


Don’t fall into a mental pattern


Many may have forgotten it, but the Trade Center had faced an earlier terrorist attack, a bombing that failed to achieve the terrorists’ aims. Throughout the book comments from the participants continue to compare the current situation to that bombing. This seemed to be instilled in their minds and many of their reactions were based on the consequences that were present during that disaster. 


This brought to mind one of my concerns when planning with our Emergency Preparedness team—the concern being that no two emergency situations are alike and getting employees to realize this. 


The scale of the bombing of years past did not come close to what was happening on 9/11 and led to many people focusing on “making things right” instead of simply total evacuation in light of the severity of the situation. This fact also turned my memory to what happened in the New Orleans area when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.


Experiences to ponder


Watching the news stories as they unfolded on 9/11 were scary—we all saw those harrowing photos over and over again. But in spite of all that, seeing those pictures didn’t hit me at nearly the level that I experienced in reading the experiences of the people within this book. 


Reading From The Inside Out! helped me to experience a drive, a level of desire and survival, a taste of how the inner self takes over in situations like this. The natural instincts coupled with the concern for others far overshadowed the individual fear that should have existed. 


I recommend all bankers who are involved with Emergency Preparedness read this book.


Larry Callais

President and CEO

MC Bank & Trust

Morgan City, LA

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Larry Callais - Book reviewer

(Unbridged version)

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