Snow, Sleet nor Hail
- By Michael S. Dorn
- March 1st, 2005
I recently had opportunities to visit with advocates for our children. I first spent a week working with six school systems in North Carolina and Indiana. I enjoy working in these states because of their progressive school safety attitudes. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction puts on one of the best annual school safety conferences. This year, approximately 1,000 advocates for children will attend. Indiana’s exceptional School Safety Specialist Academy brings in only the most qualified and powerful speakers, people like Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and Marleen Wong to address their academy in-service conferences three times each year. Taking great pains to screen out unqualified presenters, Executive Director Clarissa Snapp ensures that attendees receive top-flight information at every session.
The next week, I had the good fortune to present in three cities for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), Massachusetts Department of Education and a host of state professional associations who banded together to create the first state school safety conferences held there. As fate would have it, a snowstorm of historical proportions hit as I was attempting to fly from Indiana to Boston, shutting down much of Massachusetts. By the closest of margins, I was finally able to get into Boston and make my way to the first conference site. I was surprised to see that they did not cancel the conferences in spite of two to three feet of snow in the conference cities. Though most schools and government offices were closed, MEMA pressed on and to my amazement, most of those registered still showed up.
The second day, another eight inches of snow fell, and I was certain that they would be forced to reschedule. The director of MEMA and her staff decided that the feedback from the first day’s attendees was so positive they could not possibly cancel, and again the hardy New Englanders astonished me as they made their way to the conference, and stayed while they watched heavy snow fall all day through a picture window behind the speaker’s platform. As we were preparing to leave for the day, an absolutely darling woman named Claire Appling approached me to tell me how much she enjoyed the day’s events. She asked me to keep doing what I do and mentioned that she had been an educator in Brockton, Mass., for 51 years and had recently started in a new position in the school system. I also learned that she had found it necessary to take a cab to the conference because of the road conditions.
This is the fabric of our great nation. Devoting one’s life to educating children for more than half a century and still having the tenacity to fight a blizzard to learn more about safety astounds and inspires me. This staunch advocate for our children left me in absolute awe that day. When I called to seek permission to use her name in this column, I learned that she not only earned a PhD, but is a certified emergency medical technician and serves on her local emergency planning committee (LEPC) to boot.
I am on a plane leaving Boston, very tired after two straight weeks of presentations. I will soon meet more than 1,000 Texans who are advocates for the children, followed immediately by another three-city conference tour for the state of Alabama, where I will be honored to meet many more. I am eagerly awaiting the chance to again dine on lobster and present at the next three MEMA conferences in September. Being on the road more than two hundred days this year is tough, and at times quite exhausting. With some of my international flights running as long as 20 hours, the travel can be nothing short of grueling. But meeting incredible people who make things happen for the good of our children despite rain, sleet or snow touches my heart and gives me the energy to get up and catch that occasional 5:00 A.M. flight to be inspired once again by those who are motivated by the noblest of motivations.
Michael S. Dorn has helped conduct security assessments for more than 6,000 K-12 schools, keynotes conferences internationally and has published 27 books including Staying Alive – How to Act Fast and Survive Deadly Encounters. He can be reached at www.safehavensinternational.org.