Today was an extraordinary day. I was sitting at the Indian Road Cafe near Inwood Park when one of my roommates called and said, "There's a fire in our building! I've got to go." I tried to ask him a question but he had already hung up. Immediately, I dialed my sister, who lives in another apartment in my building. On my second try, I reached her. "Everyone's fine and everyone's out of our apartments. There's a LOT of smoke but it seems like there's less than there was a few minutes ago," she said. Firefighters were already on the scene.
I hopped on the subway and saw fire engines lining the streets when I came out at my stop. When I turned the corner onto my block, here's what I saw:
My roommates told me that the smoke had been so thick that people couldn't get down the stairs. Instead, they had to climb to the roof and climb down the fire engine ladders.
The good news is that my sister's and my apartments were not damaged, and most of our building is fine. The terrible news is that the family standing on the sidewalk in that last photo is now homeless. The fire started in their apartment, apparently because one of the kids knocked a candle over. Almost none of their possessions survived the fire. The American Red Cross and our landlords are making sure that they'll have a place to sleep until they can find a new permanent home.
What kinds of leadership are required in an emergency like this? What does a leader do when a fire is discovered? Who are the leaders when the fire is being put out? What leadership is needed after the fire is extinguished? Is there anything I can still do to be a good leader in the days after the fire?