“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” – Mother Teresa
A week ago, my team and I left Sacramento for our first assignment in Everett, Wash. Despite having few details about the work we would be doing, we were prepared to serve in any way because we were aware of the suffering of those who were affected by the deadly slide in Oso, a small town about 40 minutes northeast of Everett.
In less than four days, we helped the FEMA logistics team transform a vacant two-story building into a joint field office (JFO) where nearly 300 people from FEMA and the state of Washington – including local and tribal affiliates – work together to support the communities in Snohomish County that were affected by the slide.
We unloaded several truckloads of supplies. We set up the tables as temporary desks, and equipped each workspace with everything from power surges and telephones to secretary chairs and trash cans. We learned how to wire RJ45 and Cat5 cables for communications purposes. We climbed ladders to replace lightbulbs and crawled on the floor to zip tie long electrical cords out of the way and cover them with caution cable tape to ensure safety.
Building out the joint field office gave me insight into the behind-the-scenes work that is forgotten about often. The tasks might seem simple, but they are important. I was an integral part of setting up a building in which federal, state, local and tribal affiliates can easily work together to support the communities that have been devastated by the slide in Snohomish County. They rely on the smooth operations at the joint field office, which wouldn’t be possible without a team of people to set up everything from cables to toilet paper.
There are many pieces to this puzzle, which is a concept that can be applied to life. Each person has a role in this world, and there isn’t one role that is more important than the other.