Lesson #102: Preparing for the Worst, Hoping for the Best

by Rachel on September 12, 2011

I think everyone feels differently about the best way to spend 9/11, especially the 10-year anniversary.

The thing that I’ve found is that the events from 9/11 have affected me more and more as I’ve gotten older. When I was 16, I understood that something bad had happened, but I couldn’t really relate to it. It didn’t scare me because it felt so far away. I didn’t know what it would be like to live in a big city and I couldn’t even fathom what it would feel like to have someone you love just not come home from work one day. I don’t think I was too young to understand, but I think I just chose to let the distance keep me feeling safe. I didn’t want to relate.

Then I moved to New York City and I had my getting it moment. Within a few months of living in the city, I just got it. I understood why, of all the places they could attack, New York was the one that would hurt us. Once I lived there and got swept up in the culture that was just so fierce, so indestructible, so fuck-you-for-walking-so-slow, and I understood that the city both felt huge and felt small, that it was a place where people connected over a shared love of being awesome, diverse, and, well, the best at everything. I remember reading in 2001, after the attacks, that if DC is the brains of America, then New York is the gut. After living there, I got it. And then it got to me.

It continues to. I have struggled watching the coverage of the Ground Zero over the past few weeks because it makes me feel so incredibly sad. It’s scary to know that life can change so suddenly. I still can’t relate to what people went through on that day, but something about how I feel has changed.

I think I’m the type of person who wants to feel prepared for the worst, which is probably why I like watching Law & Order: SVU and planning how I won’t get stalked and murdered. So while watching the footage from the attacks yesterday, I was compelled to put together my disaster kit.

Inspired by 9/11, Bonnie Bucqueroux, and the October issue of Women’s Health Magazine, I hit the Web to figure out which items I’d want to have ready and waiting if wildfires, hurricanes, or anything else disastrous comes my way.

Here are some things I did:

  1. Printed out maps to the nearest Red Cross locations (from home and work).
  2. Added the Red Cross shelter finder app to my phone.
  3. Printed off hurricane evacuation maps.
  4. Signed up for weather alert texts from the local news station.
  5. Collected pictures of Eric, the dogs, and me and made copies for home and both of our offices to have handy in case we were separated.
  6. Printed off a financial first aid kit from Operation Hope.

Once that was taken care of, I printed out an emergency kit shopping list from ready.gov. Then Eric and I hit up Wal-mart to stock up on supplies. We got everything on the shopping list and then some. At home, I put all the “Things you’d want if you need to PTFO in five minutes” items into a large rolling suitcase and organized folders with “Things you’d want printed and ready if you had to evacuate your office” to take to work. (Hint: If you wear heels to work, your work kit should contain flats!) I’m still finishing my financial first aid kit, to go into the new fireproof box (which feels kinda badass), but on the whole, I feel a lot more prepared.

I also read about a fellow blogger, Ashley, who had a horrible fall from her bike. Reading about her lack of ID and emergency room trip made me go and order Road ID bracelets for both Eric and me.

I know no one wants to think about this stuff, so I figured I’d do it on a day when I’d probably be thinking about sad and terrible things anyway. The reality is, though, that thinking about it is surprisingly empowering. No, I don’t feel 100 percent prepared, but I don’t have that nagging feeling when watching the news that I had before, the feeling that I’m avoiding something. So put on your big-girl panties and add this to your to-do list! (Unless, of course, you already have, and I’m the one who is late to the party.)

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 deva September 12, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I think this is a great idea and great advice for anyone, anywhere. Preparedness is ALWAYS a good thing.


2 Joey September 12, 2011 at 1:01 pm

I agree with you – 9/11 gets to me a lot more today than it did when it actually happened. I was too immature to see the big picture when it happened & I remember questioning why they would cancel our sporting events that evening for something that happened in NYC. It was definitely a defining moment, though.


3 Alli September 12, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I had this exact same reaction when we were preparing to get hit by Hurricane Irene a week ago – I may have even gone overboard, because we still have 9 gallons of water shoved in various closets around our apt! But aside from putting important documents into a firebox, I haven’t given much thought to emergency planning. I’ll definitely be taking a look at what else I should be doing to prepare for a worst-case scenario.


4 phd September 12, 2011 at 5:23 pm

ditto, Hurricane Irene taught me a lot about myself as well. I didn’t go into fear mode, but I did spring into action — doing all I could to protect my home, my family, my loved ones. I’m a native NYer, but I was still a kid when 9/11 happened so it hasn’t really influenced my thinking on Disaster preparedness.

There are some tools and appliances I’d like to have on hand, but I think you have some great advice. The worst case scenario isn’t really losing power and needing candles at home, etc— it’s suddenly getting separated from loved ones & possessions. It takes an entirely different set of tools to cope with that. Disaster prep is more than flashlights!


5 Christie F September 12, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Funny how preparedness keeps coming up lately, just in different forms. Maybe it’s because I am having a kid, but now my husband and I are trying to get our financial lives in order so we can get life insurance policies and be all cool and get out of debt.

It’s a great idea that you put all that stuff together, because it’s true- you never know what will happen but there is one thing guaranteed, and that is at some point in our lives, we die. I’ll have to get that financial first aid kit, and a fire proof safe, too.


6 Beth September 12, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Hey thanks for posting about this Rachel – I work in a congressional office and we’re always sending info to constituents about how to prepare for disasters. And considering where I live (DC), there’s been an earthquake AND a hurricane this year (not to mention 36 inches of snow in a day last year), people need to start realizing that emergency preparedness isn’t just for people living on a fault line, in tornado alley, or on a coast. We can’t always prevent disasters from striking, but if people take concrete action to be prepared, it can make a huge difference when they do.


7 Nicole @ Giraffelegs September 12, 2011 at 1:37 pm

I can definitely relate with no being able to understand the true impact of 9/11 when I was younger.
p.s. I don’t know if you happened to read the NBC twitter a couple days ago, but I was beyond mortified about the hacking situation. How awful…I hope they get slapped with a felony.


8 Britney September 12, 2011 at 1:40 pm

I researched quotes for renter’s insurance today. Between Hurricane Irene two weeks ago and the remnants of Hurricane Lee that destroyed homes in PA next week I clearly need to have some sort of safety net just in case I’m hit next.


9 Kaytee September 12, 2011 at 1:45 pm

I have never read a reaction to 9/11 that describes my own so well. I was just about 15 when it happened, but it never really hit me until I got older. I knew I wasn’t too young to understand, so I never could get why I felt so disconnected from it.

I love this post and definitely plan on getting a kit like this together, especially as the winter brings tsunami season to my part of Hawaii. After a recent car accident, I realized how unprepared Kyle & I are to deal with ANY emergency right now. There were definitely a lot of conversations that needed to be had (re: DNR, organ donation, etc.) and with our parents so far away, we had a lot of things to figure out. Cohabitation can be so complicated sometimes.


10 [SMASH] at Sweat. Style. Swoon. September 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Wow, this is a really great idea.


11 cindylu September 13, 2011 at 1:26 am

I went shopping for flashlights and some other basics I should have considering LA is overdue for a big earthquake. I’ve lived through a few big quakes, but they haven’t been disastrous, at least not to my family (thankfully). I know I need to add more to the kit, but I’m better off than I was in March.


12 Sarah September 13, 2011 at 9:17 am

Thanks for this post Rachel! Yeah, I struggled with the 10th anniversary as well…I remember being in 8th grade and exactly where I was when it happened, but it was hard to sympathize with the distance of being in MN and being that age and relating to it. Then that same day at the same moment, my twin sister was diagnosed with both viral and bacterial pneumonia in both lungs at the hospital right when the towers hit – sort of a coincidental/ironic “ok, this is a really bad day and we’ll never forget it”-moment. I liked your Road ID idea too – it’s always great to be prepared. I’ll have to get one of those!


13 Julia September 16, 2011 at 8:10 pm

After DC’s earthquake and hurricane, my work sent out this disaster readiness quiz from the Red Cross so I thought I would share it: http://american.redcross.org/site/PageNavigator/preparedness_quiz_correct.html


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