Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Fall 2011 - (Page 46)
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The tragedy of 9/11 motivated a focus on disaster logistics |
BY JOSE HOLGUIN-VERAS
THE EVENTS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, impacted the lives of many in significant and unanticipated ways. I remember the events very clearly. To me, as many others, the World Trade Center (WTC) towers were a familiar part of the skyline, where I went regularly to coordinate my research activities with the friends and colleagues who could implement them. Friends, associates, and former students worked there. The WTC was also the place were I developed a sense of appreciation for the caffeine jolt and sensual pleasure that a good cup of mocha could provide. This happened slowly as I grew into the habit of stopping at the coffee shop intervened to save my friends. A of personal recovery and forgiveat the ground floor of WTC 1 to student came up from the subway ness. These tormented souls saw get a mocha grande. Over time, the just at the moment at which the things that, in a better world, association between 9/11 and first plane hit the WTC. In a split nobody should have to. mocha grew so strong that, even moment, she decided to skip an There is the case of a former today, whenever I have a mocha, important meeting, and instead student who, after surviving the I think of the WTC. decided to return to her apartment. collapse of WTC 2, lost sense of The memories of 9/11 are strong Another good friend was late to a reality and made it to his home in and persistent. I do not want to meeting and, from his window on Queens—more than two days after write about the tragedy of the fama train from New Jersey he saw the the collapse—after wandering the ilies who lost loved ones, or the first plane hitting just two floors city completely covered in dust as silent heroism of volunteers, police, above his office in the 82nd floor a ghost searching for peace. Anothor firefighters who paid the ultimate of WTC 1. prize for helping others, or In all these cases, and the profound madness of “It is not lost on me that, in the very depths of many more, these friends those who believe that the such tragedies, there are hidden secrets that, if had to go on with their lives, death of innocent victims unlocked, could be the difference between life trying to recover from the could lead, somehow, to a and death for the individuals who will be impacttraumatic events of that better future for their lot. ed by the next disaster.” otherwise beautiful TuesInstead, I am going to write day of 10 years ago. Some about the impacts of the of them have changed jobs, moved er good friend walked miles in a tragedy on the lives of people that to other cities, tried to pick up the state of trance, coming back to his I know. pieces and move on with their lives. senses when he arrived—guided As probably any other individual I was also impacted, though in by a subconscious compass—at his who knew survivors of the WTC, a different way. The response that daughter’s school, to the great relief I tried to provide a sympathetic ear, followed attracted my interest, of his family and friends who had a relief to the guilt of some of them when a colleague made a passing given him up for dead. for having survived what many othcomment about the logistical chalThere were also cases where fate ers did not, an avenue to a process
lenge of moving critical supplies to the site. Intrigued by the statement, I decided to look into the matter. As my fascination grew, so did my involvement in disaster research. Over time, I have traveled to numerous disasters to identify and codify the lessons that ought to be learned to improve disaster response in future disasters, including those imprinted in tragic fonts on the minds of many—Katrina, Haiti, Japan… I have also seen things that, in an ideal world, nobody should see. It is not lost on me that, in the very depths of such tragedies, there are hidden secrets that, if unlocked, could be the difference between life and death for the individuals who, sooner or later, will be impacted by the next disaster. It is that tiny ray of hope— which started on 9/11—that provides the fundamental motivation for the work we do.
LARRY BRUCE KYLE GRACEY
Jose Holguin-Veras is professor of civil and environmental engineering. He is a global leader in the areas of freight demand modeling, transportation economics, and humanitarian logistics. As part of his research, Holguin-Veras led the multidisciplinary teams that investigated the cause of logistical failures in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the catastrophic 2010 Haiti earthquake. He is currently working to develop new theories and methods for expediting the flow of critical supplies to the site of extreme events.
64 RENSSELAER/FALL 2011
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Fall 2011
Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Fall 2011
Obesity: ScienceWeighs In
Technology and Society
Engineering in the Fast Lane
One Last Thing
Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Fall 2011