Article by Nikki Tackley | esPResso Committee Member
It’s 1 a.m. and after a long day getting lost in Venice and packing all night, your phone is going off like crazy. Your parents and friends are messaging you asking where you are, if you are safe. You open Twitter, and are bombarded with CNN updates; #PrayforParis is trending, death tolls are rising from 30, to 40, to 80 and then an earth-shattering 130.
After assuring your parents that you are safe in your apartment, you and your roommates go into shock. You were supposed to leave in a mere five hours to go on a school trip to Monte Carlo in the French Riviera. It is now approaching 2 a.m., and still have not received any emails about what to do. At this point the borders have closed, so you know your trip probably will not be happening—not that it even matters anymore.
This is where crisis communication becomes essential. Every parent’s worst nightmare had come to fruition; terrorist attacks were happening in countries that their child was in a week before and was headed off to again in a couple of hours. The emails sent to students and parents within the next 24 hours had to walk a fine line; how do you assuage everyone’s fears and attempt to keep them out of harm’s way while still instilling the importance of remaining vigilant?
The truth is, no one can guarantee your safety. That is what these terrorist groups are trying to prove- nowhere is safe. Luckily, Marist has been efficient in its communication with students and parents regarding this matter. Hours after the news unfolded, President Dennis Murray sent an email to both students and parents addressing what had happened, and informed everyone that all Marist students abroad were safe and accounted for; he stressed the importance of being aware of your surroundings while also not living in fear.
These instructions are echoed by media and government officials, but finding this balance is difficult. We are told to not wear university clothing or draw attention to ourselves. We are told to avoid crowds and Christmas festivals. We are told to stay away from major cities like Rome, Milan, Brussels and Paris. It is a paradox; do not live in fear, but avoid doing something or going somewhere that marks you as a target.
It is a fine line to walk, but those abroad are grateful to the Marist administration for their quick action and constant communication. It is reassuring to know that in high pressure situations the Marist administration remains calm and efficiently communicates with both students and frantic families. These horrific attacks are a wakeup call to us all, but as always, standing together and communication is the best retaliation.