I’m ending a quiet first day of my Churchill Fellowship sitting in Kate & Danny’s delightful Airbnb apartment in New York’s West Village drinking peppermint tea. I plan to do some research on the 9/11 Tribute Center, as I’m visiting tomorrow, then watch some mindless TV that has nothing to do with disasters or disaster memorials.
I’m highlighting the quietness of my first day for two reasons. Firstly, as based on pointers from Churchill Fellows before me, a Churchill Fellowship trip is anything but quiet and relaxing. But I’m mostly so I can point out the eventful trip I had getting to New York.
My flight from Sydney to Los Angeles had a brief detour to Honolulu after a man in the row behind me collapsed and had to be given CPR. It is unclear what caused him to collapse but what is definitely clear is that the Virgin Australia crew and some helpful and qualified passengers saved his life. He was still in pretty bad shape when paramedics got him off the plane in Honolulu, so hopefully he is doing better now.
I was so impressed by the Virgin Australia crew with how they handled the situation. They were prepared, knew how to use all the resources they had available, gave clear roles and instructions to helpers, moved passengers seated where he fell to other seats and made sure to check in with passengers (like me) who were sitting nearby.
While not a large scale disaster like the ones I’ll be learning about throughout my Fellowship, the experience did make me think about all the medical emergencies that must have happened on airlines in the past. These would have led to laws and policies being introduced, training for airline crew and numerous other things that were the difference between life and death for my fellow passenger yesterday.
It was an interesting and somewhat ironic experience while travelling do a research project on disasters. I’m currently in New York and will be visiting Boston, Paris, Berlin, London and Oslo over the next 9 weeks. Throughout my Fellowship I’ll be meeting survivors and people who advocated to have their wishes met by the memorial process, people who have been involved in the planning and management of permanent memorials and those who collated and cared for items from spontaneous memorials.