If there’s going to be Panic, Let it be Organised

Mum was good in a crisis.

She was good when dealing with shock, when handling tantrums, when something unexpected happens, or just when things go to crap.

She knew that A Plan was needed – and that at the first sign of things going to crap, you first must stop and have a plan. Even if that plan was simply to make a cup of tea – it was still a plan.

Her motto: If there’s going to be panic, let it be organised…

The best example of this was when the Newcastle Earthquake hit in 1989. We first got the call over the radio (my father was a policeman back then). Both my parents were from that area – and my grandparents, aunts and uncles were still living around Newcastle when the earthquake happened. Within minutes, the word had spread and our phone was ringing off the hook. We weren’t the only people in our local town with family in Newcastle, and everyone assumed that we must know something because Dad was the local policeman. Soon people arrived at our house to wait for news. Our house had become Command Central.

With all these people, and everyone in a panic at this disaster, things could easily have gone to crap. But now on my Mum’s watch.

Mum immediately went into Action Mode. She did this without knowing if her parents were ok – or if her sister and their family were safe. She just starting organising people.

My older sister was in charge of our private phone. One of the local off duty constables manned the radio, and the other manned the police phone. Dad was sent next door to the police station with our address book to try and contact our family. My sister and I were in charge of the growing number of small children – we had to take them to the playroom and keep them quiet.

As people arrived – Mum gave them a quick update and then gave them a job. Someone made tea. Someone handed out the cups of tea. Another set up chairs in the lounge room near the radio. Someone else was in charge of making sure everyone had a biscuit to dunk in their tea. Someone was even in charge of handing out tissues.

I remember standing in the doorway – I had delegated the child minding to my younger sister and brother – and watching Mum. She was awesome. She gave directions, she consoled, she listened, she updated – but mainly she was calm and controlled.

It was only when Dad came in and said he had reached everyone in our family and they were all accounted for and safe – that she broke down momentarily. Dad held her and she had a cry for a moment, but then just as quickly, she wiped her eyes, lit a cigarette and said: “Right, who needs a coffee? I know I do.”

She was good in a crisis, my Mum.

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