NO CANDLES! is the lesson we all learned in RA training -- and then again very early this morning, when my friends' house burned very comprehensively. with time, we're told, everyone will be ok, but oh. my God. the things that can happen to people, their poor lungs, their work, their property and their lives when a little tiny flame doesn't go out all the way.
as far as i'm concerned, the good thing about disasters (cf. grand forks 1997, duh) is that they have logistics attached to them. calls need to be made, supplies gotten, appointments kept, items salvaged, things repaired, things demolished, transport arranged...and so on. all this keeps you from thinking about, say, death, or fate, or chance, or existential terror of various other sorts.
this, i suspect, is why i was a good RA. i can call the ambulance while i make sure you barf in a bag instead of in your bed/shoe/wound while i arrange for you to see psych services Yesterday and make nine phone calls to set up nine meetings with nine deans about your situation. (please to note: this is all made up.) (also, don't get me wrong: i am as empathic and caring as all hell. right, hall?)
however, and importantly, while i am thinking about these things i do not have to consider any of the broader implications of your pain, experience fear and uncertainty about the future, or fully imagine the pain you must be in. your barfing/bleeding/wailing is key, and it is what i am dealing with, and i know that it is deadly serious, but it is also...well, background noise. dealing with the logistics is the most welcome distraction in the world. this, i suspect, i why i needed to be an RA.
anyway, that was what i did with most of my worry and concern today: i guarded, called, carted, asked, planned, carried, arranged, cooked, and measured my worry (horror?) in appropriate doses. plus i think there's got to be a sociology dissertation in there somewhere about how people behave when they witness a disaster site. but more on that when i'm less...tired? gobsmacked? yeah.