Studying disasters in order to prepare for them

geography, also has an undergraduate degree in marine transportation and a Merchant Marine Master Mariner license.

It was a case of ordinary people springing into action, making good decisions in spite of the danger and uncertainty surrounding them.

We talked to 100 people who were involved in the evacuation,” says Kendra. “Many of them were mariners. They knew there was a terrible calamity at the World Trade Center, and they figured boats would be helpful in some way. That largely stems from what seafarers have to do ordinarily, which is to be creative, to be improvisational, to be ready for anything, even if you don’t know what the danger is going to be. They always have to be alert for surprises. That experience and that training carried over into their ability to take part in this evacuation.”

The release notes that along with a library containing 60,000 publications related to disasters, at DRC, there are also several display cases that contain items from both ancient and recent disasters. Wachtendorf showed some items from the 2008 China earthquake. These objects, she says, are powerful teaching tools.

A little bit from a teacup and a mah-jongg piece are very indicative of the daily life of what was going on when the earthquake happened. People were engaged in cooking and playing games and sometimes, it’s these very small items that we pick off the ground that helps resonate how much this impacted daily life,” she explains.

It’s one thing to read a paper about the disruption of a disaster on daily life; it’s another to actually take a piece of an item that was scattered on the ground and to bring that message home; to be able to touch it, to feel it and use that in our conversations about the impact of disaster events.”

One recurrent observation from DRC field studies is the kindness of strangers.

Kendra documented that compassion when analyzing some responses to the 9/11 attacks. “People will delay their own evacuation in an effort to help somebody else,” says Kendra. “That was reported to us over and over. The crowds were orderly and basically respectful even though they were obviously very shaken up.”

Wachtendorf also found a similar sense of community after the 2004 Asian tsunami, meeting with residents of devastated fishing villages in India and Sri Lanka.

In one village, we found over 50 fishermen who needed to get back to sea. They only had seven boats